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Panama's "Dynamite trees" explode onto the scene

While I was visiting a family of indigenous Naso people in Panama's Bocas Del Toro district several new species of trees were found that reached over 180 feet or even over 190 feet. Hura crepitans , the "Dynamite" or "no monkey climb" tree reached consistently great heights and impressive diameters. These trees, as I mentioned in a previous posting, have toxic sap that can cause blindness if it gets in the eyes, toxic thorns and exploding seed pods that can injure livestock or shatter glass if they explode under the right, or should I say wrong, circumstances. I have devoted this entire post to this species, however a later post will deal with the other worthy species documented on this trip:

These trees range from Mexico down through Central and much of the South American Amazon basin where I have recorded much smaller trees in flood plain forests. I am told that "much larger ones" occur deeper into the mountains and have a Naso guide, Max, willing to lead a group, hopefully some from NTS, into the mountains on a 3 or 4 day expedition. Considering that this area has an immense old growth forest, and what I have already recorded here, the potential is real for incredible discoveries of new and greater heights for several species. Interestingly, I have not been disappointed yet by species showing less size potential than was advertised. I do want to leave people with one link which tells of the hydroelectric project threat to Naso land in this area. Virginia who I met at the Naso family farm made me aware of this and narrates the video that this link is to.
by Bart Bouricius
Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:20 pm
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Coata Rica - Wet and Wetter(Cloud) Forest Species

This part of our January 2016 trip was spent near the towns of Santa Elena and Monteverde in Puntavenas Province. They are in the Tilaran mountains at an elevation of 4400'. It appears to me the towns are located at the boundary between a wet montane forest and a cloud forest. The well known Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (10,000 acres) is nearby. There are several other reserves in the area which brings the total open to the public(for a fee) to about 150,000 acres.

The largest of several species measured are listed below:

Tree Fern ( Cyathea spp. ) 1.8' x 21.4'
Achiotillo ( Alchornea latifolia ) 2.4' x 32.6' in the Euphorbiaceae family
Viburnum ( Viburnum costariccanum ) ### x 32.7' in the Adoxaceae family, formerly in Caprifoliaceae
Cacho de Venado ( Xylasma chlorantha ) 1.7' x34.8 in the salicaceae family, formerly in Flacourtiaceae
Aquacatillo ( Beilschmieda brenesii ) 3.8' x 69.3' in the Lauraceae family
Sigua ( Cinnamamum triplinerve ) 6.3' x 69.4' in the Lauraceae family
Mata Hombro ( Cornus disciflora ) 8.5' x 73.5+ in the Cornaceae family
Trompito ( Hieronyma olonga ) 3.8' x 98.8' in the Phyllanthaceae family
Sweet Cedar ( Cedrela tonduzii[/i ]) ### x 118.9'+ in the in the [i]Meliacae family.

I originally called the Spanish Cedar a Mahoghany ( Swiettenia macrophylla ). This species was known in the lumber trade as Honduras Mahogany regardless of its origin. There is probably more board footage residing in palaces of Spain then in the forests of Costa Rica. My species identification was corrected by a guide my wife had hired to find a Resplendent Quetzal. This single bird is worth multi-millions of dollars to the Costa Rica ecotourism industry. We did get to see one. However it did not fly and was in a very shaded area so the "resplendant" part of its name was not evident.

Trunk of Sweet Cedar
Sorry - no circumference taken. It was to steep and slippery on the back side.

Bark of Sweet Cedar
Monkey Tails of a tree fern or Rabo de Mico

Along the main roads i observed several plantations of conifers. I do not believe any conifers are native to Costa Rica.

Pino ( Pinus psudostrobus ## x 101.9', 6.3' x 99.8'
Mexican Cypress Cupressus luistanica 4.7' x 79.2'
Neither of these species is native to Costa Rica.

Trunk of P. psudostrobus ?

Needles and cone of P. psudostrobus ?

My identification of these two species is tentative. Especially so the P. psuedostrobus . Any correction or enlightenment will be much appreciated.
Its name indicates that it is not related to the Strobus section of soft pines. My only experience with a 5-needle pine not in the Strobus section is with P. arizonica which is more closely related to the Ponderosae section.
by tsharp
Mon Jun 06, 2016 6:08 am
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Costa Rica - Some dry and not so dry forest species

We flew into Liberia, Costa Rica towards the end of January of 2016. the town is towards the northwest coast. The first tree measured was appropriately named the Guanacaste Tree ( Enterolobium cydocarpum ) in the Fabacae family. It is also known as the Elephant-ear tree after the size and shape oft its fruit. I used the term "appropriately" because the province is also named Guancaste and the tree is the national tree of Costa Rica. Guanacaste Province used to be part of Nicaragua but voted to become part of Costa Rica in 1824. Most of lowlands in Guanacaste Province support tropical dry forests. I should have said "used to support" dry forests since the forests are highly degraded from subsistence farming , grazing , and development. The dry period is from December -April and many of the trees drop their leaves. As one gains elevation away from the lowlands the forest transitions into a tropical rainforest. We spent most of our trip in various areas of this province.
Guanacaste 21.2' x 73.1' x 145.1' (acs-2 axis)
The crown spread of this species is impressive. Many of them are in open pasture country and they present an awesome sillouette at a distance.

We paid a visit to Rincon de la Vieja National Park.The park features everything volcanic: old and recent lava flows. ash deposits, fumaroles, bubbling mud pots, and a pervasive sulphur smell in some areas. A nearby geothermal power plant nearby does not have a small footprint. Costa Rica has a goal of producing 20% of its national power needs with geothermal. to meet this goal by 2035 at least three more of these "sustainable" power plants are in planning stages and at least one will affect the park.

Elevation ranges from 3000 - 6500 feet.
Two species measured included:
Nispero ( Manilkara chicle ) in the Saapotaceae family at 12.1' x 69.1'
There are other species also called Nispero with Manilkava zapota being the preferred one for the base of chewing gum.
Also measured a Guayabo de Monte ( Guettarda foliacea ) in the Rubiaceae family at 3.7' x 36.5'

We stayed at a small lodge on a small tributary of the Rio Negros. It used to be a small subsistence farmstead and the grandson of last owner worked at the lodge. He was quite helpful in helping with plant ID.
Species measured included:
Autograph tree ( Clusia major )in the Clusiaceae family 3.8' x 30.1'
Arcabu( Zanthoxylum acuminata ) in the Rutaceae family at 3.4' x 40.2'
Coyol Palm ( Acrocomia aculenata ( in the family Arecaceae 4.0' x 51.2'
Nispero ( Marnilkara chicle ) in the Saapotaceae family at 6.2'' x 60.8
Guayabo ( Terminalia oblonga )in the Combretaceae family 6.6' x 80.8'
Terciopelo ( Sloanea terniflora ) in the Elaeocarpaaceae family at 16.9' x 91 1'

It should be noted that the Coyol palm is widespread in Central America and was apparently used by the Maya for food, building material and an alcoholic drink called now called Coyol Wine or Chicha de Coyol. The sap is fermented and is marketed throughout the province about the same way ramps are marketed in West Virginia - roadside cardboard signs with magic marker. I did not try any because it was usually sold in previously used bottles (many 2-liter plastic) of uncertain history. Bart B. - have you partook?
The Coyol Palm goes by many names throughout Central America - two of them are: Grugru Palm, Macaw Palm
Coyol Palm 4.0' x 51.2'
Nispero 6.2' x 60.8'

Some residual cultivated species measured included:
Nance ( Byraonima crossifolia ) in the Malpigiaceae family 2.4' x 28.6'
Guava ( Psidium guajava ) in the Myrtaceae family 3.6' x 29.3'
Clavelon( Hibiscus rosa ) in the Malvaceae family ## x 31.3
Pamarosa or Rose Apple ( Syzgium jambo ) 4.0' x 32.1' in the Myrtaceae family.
There were about 20 banana plants still cared for from a much larger derelict plantation.

We then spent part of day at Diria National Park . It is 12,000 aces on the Nicoya Peninsular west of the town of Nicoya. It was originally a wildlife refuge. The Howler Monkeys lived up to their reputation with a noisy greeting as soon as we sat foot on a trail. The park only had about 12 visitors that day which may be a result of poor road signage and miles of dirt roads. Being the dry season they offered no difficulty except time spent behind the wheel. Trees measure included:
Espave or Wild Cashew ( Anacardium excelsum ) in the Anacardiaceae family at 18.7' x 128.6'
Amarillo (Terminalia amazonia) in the Combretaceae family at ## x 90.1'
Wild Cashew 18.7' x 128.6'

We then spent 2 days and a night on the Pacific coast at a delightful beach near Samaria
On the backside of the beach were extensive pastures for cattle and horses and the tree pictured below were common. I first called them bottle trees because of their swollen lower trunk.
Barrigon ( Pseudobombax septenatum ) in the family Malvaceae/Bombacoideae at ## x 84.7
## x 84.7'
## x 67.6'
The green streaks on the trunk in the second photograph are chlorophyll.
It appears to me that older trees have more pronounced basal swelling. The ones observed showed swelling about 8-10 feet above ground level.
Sorry no circumference measurements on this species. I shot height over a fence along a public right of way onto private property. The herd of large Brahma cattle had nothing to with it.

I measured a Royal Palm. The various species in the genus Roystanea are commonly used in landscaping throughout tropical America and especially in South Florida. It is the national tree of Cuba.
Royal Palm ( Roystanea regia ) - maybe. 5.7' x 69.5'.
Sorry - no picture but it is easily recognized by its smooth grey trunk.
by tsharp
Mon May 02, 2016 4:51 am
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Panama, Big tree hunting and climbing

I have been back a few days from a trip with friends Richard Mumford and Judy Kerr to scope out new trees in the Bocas del Toro province of Panama. We stayed at the William's family farm where they put up guests at their "Soposo Adventure" guest house. Normally they treat tourists to a cultural experience, so our mission and my past visits have been a bit of a break from the norm for Max and his father Celestino, who were our main guides. In addition to measuring and climbing trees in the area, we measured a new species from my list. This is an endangered tree species in the Lecythidaceae family known as the Jícaro, Olla de Mono, or Caoba tree.






by Bart Bouricius
Mon Apr 18, 2016 8:01 pm
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