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Flacourtia Family

Casearia commersoniana Cambess, a tree in the Flacourtiaceae. Note the dentate margens of the leaves. This species has a strong odor like epoxy resin. Un árbol. Note las márgenes dentadas. Esta especie tiene un olor fuerte a resina epoxy.

Description: The other “garbage pail” family of tropical botany, but fortunately a slightly more navigable garbage pail than the Euphorbiaceae. In this region, all the flacourts have simple, alternate leaves with more or less dentate margins. Some have translucent punctations in irregular shapes. The genera Carpotroche, Casearia, Laetia, Ryania, and Xylosma have pinnate venation, while Hasseltia and Pleuranthodendron have three main palmate veins at the base. Xylosma has abundant, branched spines on the trunk and branches.

Recent molecular work suggests that the Flacourtiaceae belong in the Salicaceae (willow family; Stevens 2005), a largely temperate and montane family. They have been kept separate here because of the long tradition in tropical botany of treating them at the family level.

Economic uses: Some species in the Flacourtiaceae are used as pain relievers by natives in the Amazon. This is not surprising, considering that the bark of temperate species of Salicaceae (the same family, according to Stevens 2005) was the original source of aspirin.

Descripción: La otra familia “basurero” en la botánica tropical. Afortunadamente este grupo es un “basurero” más asequible que las Euphorbiaceas. Todas las Flacourtiaceas de esta zona tienen hojas simples y alternas, con las márgenes usualmente dentadas. Unas tienen puntos translúcidos de formas variables. Los géneros Carpotroche, Casearia, Laetia, Ryania, y Xylosma tienen las venas pinnadas, y Hasseltia y Pleuranthodendron tienen tres venas palmadas en las base de la hoja. Xylosma tiene espinas abundantes y ramificadas en el tronco y las ramas.

Análisis recientes sugieren que las Flacourtiaceas pertenecen a la familia Salicaceas (los sauces; Stevens 2005), un grupo más común en las montañas o en las zonas templadas. Debido a que la botánica tropical tradicionalmente ha considerado Flacourtiaceas como un grupo, he mantenido la familia separada de Salicaceas.

Usos económicos: Los indios del Amazonas usan algunas Flacourtiaceas como analgésico. No es sorprendente, dado que la aspirina originalmente se extraía de la corteza de unas especies de Salicaceas (según Stevens 2005, la misma familia).

Genera/species at La Selva: Selva: (7/12): Shrubs/arbustos: Carpotroche (1), Ryania (1) Trees/ árboles: Casearia (6), Hasseltia (1), Laetia (1), Pleuranthodendron (1), Xylosma (1)

FIELD MARKS – alternate, simple leaves with serrate or crenate leaf margins, tertiary veins perpendicular to primary vein. Three patterns are common: 1. Distichous leaf arrangement with pellucid dots and dashes (think Morse Code!), 2. Distichous without dots and dashes, 3. Spirally arranged leaves with nectaries at the base of the blade.

Laetia sp (from Guanacaste)
Close-up of leaf showing venation patterns.
Laetia procera is one of the most common trees in the primary forest of La Selva. Photo by R. Aguilar courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Trunk of Laetia procera. Photo by R. Aguilar courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Casearia arborea with distichous serrate leaves.
Flacourtiaceae with alternate toothed leaves in the same plane.
Casearia showing alternate simple leaves with finely serrated margins.
Alternate simple leaves with finely toothed margins. Close examination with a hand lens will reveal abundant dot-dash punctations in the leaves of Casearia.
Alternate serrate leaves with prominent stipules.

< < Previous family: Fabaceae: Papilionoideae
Next family: Gesneriaceae > >
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