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Borage Family

Tournefourtia angustiflora Ruiz & Pav., a shrub in the Boraginaceae. Note the characteristic shape of the infructescence, a scorpioid cyme. Un arbusto; note la forma característica de la inflorescencia, una cima escorpioide.

Description: A family of herbs, shrubs, and trees. In flower, the Boraginaceae are easy to recognize by their inflorescence shape: a “scorpioid cyme” (see illustration). Unfortunately, the Boraginaceae are very difficult to identify vegetatively. One good character is their strongly sympodial growth form. Rather than one main stem, Boraginaceae have a succession of main branches that diverge from the nodes. Many species also have rather asperous (i.e., rough-textured) leaves. The large tree Cordia alliodora is fairly easy to recognize, due to its swollen nodes inhabited by ants and its unusual habit of dropping its leaves in the wet season.

Economic uses: Many Cordia species are timber trees. Cordia alliodora (or laurel) is the most important one in this area of Costa Rica. In the Peruvian Amazon, a Tournefortia species is used (among other plants) in preparing the hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca.

Descripción: Una familia de hierbas, arbustos, y árboles. Las flores de las Boraginaceas son fáciles de reconocer por su forma: una “cima escorpioide,” que asemeja la forma de la cola de un escorpión. Desafortunadamente, es muy difícil reconocer las Boraginaceas sin flores. Una característica útil es su arquitectura simpodial. En vez de un tallo principal, las Boraginaceas tienen una sucesión de ramas que divergen de los nudos. Muchas especies tienen hojas ásperas. El árbol Cordia alliodora (laurel) es muy distintivo, porque tiene formicarios en los nudos engrosados, y su inusual característica de deja caer las hojas durante la estación de lluvia.

Usos económicos: Muchas especies de Cordia son maderables. El laurel (C. alliodora) es el más importante en esta zona. En la zona amazónica de Peru, hay una especie de Tournefortia que se usa junto con otras plantas en la elaboración del brebaje halucinógeno ayahuasca.

Genera/species at La Selva: 3/14: Herbs/ hierbas: Heliotropium (1) Shrubs/ arbustos: Tournefortia (3) Trees/ árboles: Cordia (10).

FIELD MARKS – alternate, simple leaves, stellate hairs make leaves scabrous (rough), characteristic branching at nodes with two horizontal branches and a third, often shorter branch, oriented vertically.

Cordia alliodora “laurel” – characteristic branching, nodes are swollen and house ants, grows tall with whitish bark due to lichens, canopy is sparse, laminated live bark, important timber tree.

Cordia alliodora
Cordia alliodora stem with leaves stripped to show characteristic 3-way branching.
Laminated live bark of Cordia alliodora.
Cordia sheds its leaves during the wet season. The swollen nodes are clearly visible even up in the canopy.
The swollen branch nodes of Cordia stems house symbiotic ants.
Cordia lucidula with characteristic branch node with two branches with a leaf originating at the branch split. Planted in the lab clearing.
Fruits of Cordia lucidula look reminiscent of cherry tomatoes and are popular food for Crested Guans.

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Next family: Bromeliaceae > >
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