Naturalist Newsletter of February 18, 2008
written in the community of 28 de Junio, in the Central Valley,
8 kms east of Pujiltic, Chiapas, MÉXICO
about 800 meters in elevation, ± LAT. 16° 18'N, LONG. -92° 28'W.
Above, the spiny, yellow-flowered tree sheltering the Inca Dove nest is known locally as Brasil. It's a native species adapted to an arid climate and calcareous soil, which is exactly what we have. Brasil is HAEMATOXYLUM BRASILETTO, a member of the Bean Family. That's Brasil's flowers and leaves at the right.
Brasil's flowers are a little tricky to interpret because their calyx lobes, or sepals, are large and yellow like the petals, or "petaloid." Brasil's leaves are pinnately compound -- once-divided, featherlike, and usually composed of only two or three pairs of oval leaflets whose tips are typically blunt or even notched. When such leaves are matched with the unusual trunk, typically bearing vertical depressions looking like old wounds, you know you have a Brasil. The trunk is at the left.
Brasil belongs to the same genus as the famous Logwood, HAEMATOXYLUM CAMPECHIANUM, found on the coasts of the Yucatan, Belize and elsewhere. Belize owes its nationhood to Logwood, for the British set up settlements there, largely of Black slaves, to harvest Logwood for the production of blue dye. The color "navy blue" has its roots in Belizean Logwood, and so does the Creole-English spoken in Belize.
Below you can see Brasil's dye resulting from soaking a few chips in water for a couple of days: