Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the January 17, 2016 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

On the highway into Pisté a vine bearing conspicuous clusters of something greenish yellow dangled in front of the red-dirt face of a roadcut. It was something I hadn't noticed before, so I circled the bike back and saw what's shown below:


In our area, if you see a vine with compound leaves and bladdery fruits, you need to think "Soapberry Family, Sapindaceae," and we have that here. However, in the American tropics this is a fair-sized family and several genera and species are listed for the Yucatan.

With seeds suspended inside the winged bladders, we can guess that the fruit is designed for wind dissemination. A closer look at some fruits is provided below:


The main leaves, which are somewhat wilted nowadays because of the dry season's arrival, consist of three leaflets, as shown here:


The leaflets must have reminded Carl Sigismud Kunth of members of the Elm Family, the Ulmaceae, for he named this vine URVILLEA ULMACEA, and it just doesn't have a good English name, so "Urvillea Vine" is about the best we can do.

Though the species is widely distributed from southern Texas throughout Mexico and Central America into South America, and the Caribbean region as well, not much documentation is available about it. It seems to be one of those quiet little species that seldom draws attention to itself until one day one of its stems falls across the face of a red roadcut, presenting its yellowish fruits as if on a platter awaiting recognition.