Moraceae

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Mulberry Family

Trophis involucrata W.C. Burger, an understory tree in the Moraceae. Note the strongly looping secondary veins and the net-like pattern of tertiary veins. Un árbol del subdosel. Note que las venas grandes se unen cerca de los margenes, y que las venas pequeñas tienen un patron reticulado.


Description: A large and important tropical family, with simple alternate leaves, stipules, and often with white latex or colored sap. One genus here (Dorstenia) is an herb; the rest are trees or strangling hemiepiphytes. Genera in the tribe Moraeae (Ficus, Brosimum, and Naucleopsis) have stipule scars that encircle the twig (note that this family is undergoing revision, though, and the eventual assignment of these genera may put them in different tribes; N. Zamora, pers. comm). Almost all Moraceae have pale veins which stick out from the underside of the leaf (prominulous). Ficus is the largest genus in this region, and it can be easily identified from the unusual form of its fruit (i.e., a fig, technically known as a syconium). The flower heads of Dorstenia look like figs cut open and spread flat.

Economic uses: A number of Ficus species are cultivated for their fruit, mainly in the Old World. Artocarpus altilis, the breadfruit, is a Polynesian native that is widely grown in the Neotropics. In the temperate zone, mulberries (Morus species) are commonly eaten. Castilla elastica was investigated for its potential as a source of rubber during World War II, but it was not found effective.


Descripción: Una familia grande y con gran importancia en las zonas tropicales, con hojas simples y alternas, con estípulas, y muchas veces con savia opaca y blanca o clara y de colores. Un género en La Selva (Dorstenia) es una hierba; los demás son árboles o hemiepífitas (matapalos). Géneros de la tribu Moraeae (Ficus, Brosimum, y Naucleopsis) tienen cicatrices de las estípulas que rodean las ramitas (es de notar que se está revisando esta familia, y la posición de estos géneros puede cambiarse; N. Zamora, comm. pers). Casi todas las Moraceas tienen las venas pálidas y promínulas (es decir, que sobresalen del envés de la hoja). Ficus es el genero más grande en esta área, y se puede identificar muy fácilmente por sus frutos señeros (higos, o técnicamente siconos). Las flores de Dorstenia parecen higos disecados.

Usos económicos: Algunas especies de Ficus se cultiva por sus frutas; la mayoría son del viejo mundo. Artocarpus altilis, el frutapan, es nativo a Polinesia pero se cultiva ampliamente en el nuevo mundo. In las zonas templadas, se consumen los frutos dulces de varias especies de Morus. Durante la segunda Guerra Mundial, se investigó sin éxito el uso de la savia de Castilla elastica como un fuente de hule.


Genera/species at La Selva: 12/33: Artocarpus (1), Brosimum (3), Castilla (1), Clarisia (1), Dorstenia (2), Ficus (17), Maquira (1), Naucleopsis (1), Perebea (1), Pseudolmedia (1), Sorocea (1), Trophis (2).


FIELD MARKS – alternate, simple leaves, distichous or spirally arranged, stipules terminal or free, white latex.

Ficus “fig” – simple leaves, alternate or spirally arranged, secondary veins join near the leaf margin, terminal stipule leaves an annular scar at each node, white latex, fruit a syconium.

Ficus are distinguished by terminal conical stipules that cover the newly developing leaves. The stipule is shed as the new leaf expands. This image shows the dried up remains of stipules that have not completely fallen from the tree, as well as the distinctive annular scars left behind by the shed stipules.
Fig fruits, properly called syconia, are like hollow balls with an opening that leads to the flowers, or developing seeds, concealed within.
Ficus branch bearing unripe figs.
A strangler fig once grew over a small shed outisde “Casa Rafael.” The shed has since decayed, leaving behind a small room within the roots of the tree!
Ficus insipida, known locally as “Chilamate,” grows along river banks. Its fruits are readily consumed and seeds dispersed by machaca fish.
Ficus insipida, known locally as “Chilamate,” grows along river banks. Its fruits are readily consumed and seeds dispersed by machaca fish. The trees overhanging rivers have drooping tops due to the almost constant presence of iguanas sunning on the upper branches.
Figs (syconium) from Belize broken open to reveal larvae and a tiny wasp.


Castilla elastic

Castilla elastica showing zig-zag branch pattern and large alternate leaves with prominent secondary venation.
Castilla elastica, the Central American Rubber Tree, has a characteristic zig-zag pattern to its thin elongated branches. The self-pruning trees usually have branches strewn about the ground below them.
Castilla elastica, the Central American Rubber Tree, has a characteristic zig-zag pattern to its thin elongated branches. The self-pruning trees usually have branches strewn about the ground below them.
Castilla fruits posed upon a leaf.
Castilla fruits on a fallen branch.
Trunk of a large Castilla on the SAZ trail. Note the many raised reddish bumps.


Other Moraceae

Brosimum lactescens with eliptical leaves, looped veins (bronchidodromous) perpendicular to midvein, terminal stipules, and edible white latex.
Sorocea pubivena with white tertiary venation, slightly toothed leaf margins, and single-seeded berries (drupe).
Huge leaves and a huge fruit distinguish Artocarpus altilis (Breadfruit). One of the first tropical plants encountered as visitors cross over the suspension bridge. It too is a visitor - native to New Guinea!


Ecorefs:

  • Banack, S. A., Horn, M. H., Gawlicka, A. 2002. Disperser- vs. Establishment-Limited Distribution of a Riparian Fig Tree (Ficus insipida) in a Costa Rican Tropical Rain Forest. Biotropica. 34: 232-243
  • Janzen, D.H. 1979. How to be a Fig. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 10: 13-51.


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Next family: Myristicaceae > >
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