|from the December 27, 2009 Newsletter issued from
Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO
ALVARADOA'S LONG, SLENDER "WORMS"
Just when I began thinking that for the rest of the dry season the woods might not serve up more trees doing interesting flowering or fruiting -- during the dry season many things go into "suspended animation" because of lack of water -- this week a certain tree species suddenly came online putting on a real show with its abundant "dangling worms," as shown above.
We called it Alvaradoa in Chiapas because I couldn't find a good English name, and I still can't. It's ALVARADOA AMORPHOIDES of the same family, the Simarubaceae, as the Ailanthus or Tree-of-heaven, which is a native of China gone wild in much of North America.
The "worms" dangling so conspicuously on the trees now are 10-inch-long (24 cm) racemes of male flowers, for Alvaradoa trees are unisexual, or "dioecious." You can see some male flowers consisting of only a green calyx on a pedicel from which arise five hairy-filamented stamens and some slender, hair-like staminodia below:
If boy trees are flowering there must be girl ones in the vicinity, and such was the case, as shown below:
As with the Ailanthus or Tree-of-heaven, Alvaradoa fruits are samaras, which means that they are dry, winged fruits that don't split open when mature. Thus the flattish, scale-like items stacked atop one another in the last picture are ovaries on their ways to becoming winged samaras. A close-up showing them is below:
Each of those green pod-like things is an ovary. To the left each ovary arises from a brown, drying-out calyx, and each calyx arises from an enlarging pedicle, or stem. At the ovary's top -- right in the picture -- the purplish lines are the ovaries' stigmatic zones where pollen lands and germinates.
Maximino Martinez's Las Plantas Medicinales de México reports that here in the Yucatan people brew a tea of Alvaradoa's bark to treat the itch, and a similar brew of the interior bark is used as a stomach tonic.
Alvaradoas are fairly common in much of Mexico and their production of drooping samaras is prolific. I've watched seed-eating birds such as finches eat a lot of these fruits at the end of the dry season other foods are scarce, so this is a very important species ecologically.
From the March 24, 2008 Newsletter issued from Mexico's Southernmost State, CHIAPAS
With its pinnately compound, Black-Locust-like leaves at first glance it looks like a member of the Bean Family. However, its fruits, instead of being legumes containing beans, are dry samaras like ash fruits. A samara is a winged fruit that doesn't split open -- it's "indehiscent." Alvaradoa's male and female flowers grow on separate trees, so the trees are "dioecious."
Plantas Medicinales de México reports the use of a tea brewed from the bark to cure the itch, and a tea of its interior wood used as a stomach tonic.