Excerpts from Jim
from the January 31, 2010 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO
Vegetation obscures all our Jacaratias' weird trunks but in 2006 near Telchac Pueblo at this time of year I photographed a tree with its trunk completely exposed and you can see it, with a Tropical Mockingbird singing his heart out in it, at the right.
Our trees are flowering now. You can see a hand-size panicle of flowers, mostly not yet
A cross section of one of those thumbnail-size flowers is shown below:
The unusual thing about that blossom is that its pollen-producing anthers -- the erect, slit-faced items in the flower's center, at its throat -- are very well developed, though they lack the stems, or filaments, of normal anthers. Also, down at the bottom of the corolla tube where you'd expect a plump ovary to reside, there's just a fingerlike thing looking like it could never develop into a fruit. Of course this is a unisexual male flower, for Jacaratias come in male and female trees (the trees are dioecious) and that fingerlike thing is just a sterile, vestigial ovary. This flower looks very much like a male Papaya flower, one of which you can see on the right at http://www.backyardnature.net/yucatan/papaya3.jpg.
Jacaratia's female flowers, in contrast, are much larger than the Papaya's female flower shown on the left in the above picture. You can see a female Jacaratia flower with its oversize, brown stigmas:
In the above picture notice how this female flower's ovary bears longitudinal ridges. Those ridges will develop into "fins" on a torpedo-like fruit, as shown below:
The fruit gets to about six inches long (15 cm) and may yellow. The local Maya eat it raw, saying that it's sweet enough as it is.
The tree's leaves, which will return with the rains but which now are completely absent, cluster toward the tips of branches and are "palmately compound" -- consist of five to seven slender leaflets arising from atop a stem, or petiole, like fingers from the palm of a hand. They look rather like a Schefflera's compound leaves, if you know that potted plant up North.
from the January 31, 2010 Newsletter
issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO
The fruit, still green outside but orangish like ripe papaya inside, remains on the tree while animals eat them in situ. Birds, certainly, but also I suspect fruit bats eat them and probably Kinkajous, who nightly ravish our mango trees without permitting me to photograph them.
My friend José confirms that the fruits don't fall by themselves. "Use a pole," he advises.