Simaroubaceae

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Tree-of-Heaven Family

Simarouba amara Aubl., a canopy tree in the Simaroubaceae (and the only representative of this family at La Selva). Note the rounded tips on the leaflets. The veins are very indistinct, and the leaflets are glossy green above and whitish below. Un árbol del dosel (y la única Simaroubaceae en la Estación Biológica La Selva). Note los ápices redondeadas de los foliolos. Las venas son indistintas, y los foliolos tienen el haz verde lustroso y el envés blancuzco.


Description: There is only one species of Simaroubaceae at La Selva, Simarouba amara, but it is common enough and distinctive enough to bear mentioning. It has alternate, pinnately compound leaves with a terminal leaflet. The leaflets are oblong, with a glossy green surface and a white underside, and the secondary and tertiary veins are very indistinct. A character often noted in this species is the extremely bitter bark; the Spanish name hombre grande may allude to the bravery it takes to sample the bark. Simarouba amara is the host plant for the famous peanut-headed lanternfly or machaca (Fulgora laternaria; see Janzen 1983).

Simaroubaceae traditionally included Picramnia, but molecular phylogenies have placed Picramnia with the basal Rosids. It is not a very common genus at La Selva, anyway.

Economic uses: Simarouba amara is used in traditional remedies for dysentery and malaria, and it is under investigation as a potential source for new drugs.


Descripción: Sólo hay una especie de Simaroubaceas en La Selva, pero es tan distintiva y común que debe ser mencionada. Tiene hojas alternas y pinnaticompuestas, con un foliolo terminal. Los foliolos son oblongos, con el haz de verde lustroso y el envés blancuzco, y las venas poco conspicuas. Esta especie tiene una corteza muy amarga; el nombre común de “hombre grande” quizás refiere al valor que se necesita para probar la corteza. Simarouba amara es la planta preferida de la famosa machaca (Fulgora laternaria; vea Janzen 1983).

Tradicionalmente, la familia Simaroubaceae incluía el genero Picramnia, pero análisis moleculares han demostrado que Picramnia está mas relacionado con las rósidas básales. De todos modos, el género no es muy común en esta área.

Usos económicos: Tradicionalmente se usaba Simarouba amara en remedios para disentería y malaria. Algunas compañías investigan la posibilidad de obtener nuevas drogas a partir esta especie.


Genera/species at La Selva: 1/1 Simarouba amara.


FIELD MARKS – alternate, imparipinnate leaves with leaflets alternately arranged, bitter taste.


Simarouba amara sapling displaying large alternate imparipinnate leaves with alternately arranged leaflets.
The lower leaf surface of Simarouba amara is whitish-green. Aside from the midrib, veins are difficult to see (immersed venation).
Distinctive contrast in colors between upper and lower leaf surfaces.
Simarouba trunk.
Trunk of a large Simarouba amara, marked as part of a long-term study of canopy trees.


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