Ulmaceae

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Elm Family

Celtis iguanaea (Jacq.) Sarg., a canopy liana in the Ulmaceae. Note the asymmetrical leaf bases and the toothed margins. Un bejuco que crece en el dosel. Note las margenes dentadas y las bases asimétricas de las hojas.


Description: This is one of the few families that are more diverse and important in the temperate zones than in the tropics. Ulmaceae are characterized by simple, alternate leaves with asymmetric bases and stipules. Most species have strong bark, though not as strong as Annonaceae. Almost all Ulmaceae have toothed leaf margins; Celtis schippii is the only exception at La Selva. Two of the five species here are lianas: Celtis iguanaea has toothed, non-asperous leaves and spines, while Celtis schippii has entire, asperous leaves and no spines. Ampelocera macrocarpa, an understory tree of old-growth forest, has large, glossy leaves with very obscure teeth and conspicuously asymmetrical leaf bases. The two Trema species are understory trees, common in secondary forest or disturbed areas.

Economic uses: In the tropics, Trema wood was traditionally used to make yokes for oxen, due to its resistance to torsion (J. Gonzáles, pers. comm). In the temperate zone, elms are widely planted as shade trees and one (Ulmus fulva; slippery elm) is used as a cough remedy.


Descripción: Ulmaceae es una de las pocas familias que son más diversas e importantes en las zonas templadas que en los trópicos. Las Ulmaceas tienen hojas simples y alternas, con estípulas, y con la base asimétrica. La mayoría tienen la corteza fuerte, aunque no tan fuerte como las Annonaceas. Casi todas las Ulmaceas tienen las márgenes dentadas; en este zona la única excepción es Celtis schippii. Dos de los cinco especies aquí son bejucos: Celtis iguanaea tiene hojas dentadas y lisas, y tallos espinosos, y Celtis schippii tiene hojas enteras y ásperas, y carece de espinas. Ampelocera macrocarpa, un árbol del subdosel en bosque maduro, tiene hojas grandes y lustrosas con la margen muy sutilmente dentada y la base claramente asimétrica. Las dos especies de Trema son árboles del subdosel, comunes en áreas perturbadas o en bosque secundario.

Usos económicos: En las zonas tropicales, tradicionalmente se usaba la madera de Trema para hacer yugos para bueyes, porque es muy resistente a la torsión. En las zonas templadas, se siembran árboles de Ulmaceas para sombra, y una especie (Ulmus fulva) se usa como remedio para la tos.


Genera/species at La Selva: 3/5. Ampelocera (1), Celtis (2), Trema (2).


FIELD MARKS – alternate, simple leaves with serrate margins, scabrous in one direction (sandpaper-like) due to hairs, distichous (leaves in two ranks), uneven leaf bases, bark peels in long strings.


Trema integerrima showing alternate leaves with uneven leaf bases. Photo by N. Zamora courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.


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