Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

CHLOROLEUCON MANGANSE, trunk with flaky bark

from the December 18, 2011 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

In the Yucatán the farther northwest you go the more arid it becomes, the lower and more scrubby the vegetation is, and the more species of feathery-leafed trees belonging to the Bean Family you find. Newcomers are overwhelmed trying to sort out all the acacia-like trees. One of those trees is easy to distinguish, though, merely from its bark and leaves. Basically, it's the one with frilly, acacia-like leaves but a patchy, scaly, sycamore-like trunk. You can see a typically mottled, very actively flaking-off trunk above. Often around the base of such trees the ground will be completely covered with dry, curled-up flakes shed from the trunk. Now look at its twice-compound leaf below:


The whole picture shows just one "bipinnate," or twice divided, leaf with half-inch-long leaflets (12mm). The blade atop the petiole is divided into six primary divisions, and each primary division is subdivided into ten or so leaflets arising opposite one another.

This interesting tree, common here, especially where limestone bedrock juts from the soil, is a member of the Bean Family like the acacia, as well as a member of the Mimosa Subfamily, also like the acacia, but it belongs to a genus I'd never heard of before arriving here. It's CHLOROLEUCON MANGANSE, and there's not much about it on the Internet. My impression is that it's endemic just to the Yucatán.

from the May 31, 2015 Newsletter issued from Río Lagartos, on the north-central coast of Yucatán, MÉXICO

Though most afternoons around five o'clock the sky toward the south darkens and it's clearly raining there, so far here in Río Lagartos we haven't had a single rain this month. The landscape is crispy-dry. Still, in the scrubby thorn forest south of town several woody species now are flowering and sometimes even leafing out, apparently in anticipation of eventual rains. You wonder just how they do it.

One such tree caught my eye this week because it was clearly an acacia or something close to it whose powder-puff-like flower clusters were different from any I'd noticed before. New leaves and stems were emerging along with the flowers. The tree's slender branches grew intermingled with neighboring trees and shrubs, so a portrait of it would just show a jumble but, below, you can see one of its flowering and leafing-out branches, its smallish flowering head fuzzy with long stamen filaments and perched atop a long stem, or peduncle:

Whiteseed Manga, CHLOROLEUCON MANGANSE, flowers & emerging leaves

The flowering head is very much like an Acacia or Albizia, and its emerging leaves were twice-compound, also like species in those genera, as shown below:

Whiteseed Manga, CHLOROLEUCON MANGANSE young leaf

Also its legume-time fruits were typical of those species, as shown below:

Whiteseed Manga, CHLOROLEUCON MANGANSE, legume

I'd about convinced myself that this was an Acacia or Albizia species when I noticed that the tree's trunk was smooth and blotchy, with peeling-off, curling flakes of bark, which wasn't like those species in those genera at all, as shown below:

Whiteseed Manga, CHLOROLEUCON MANGANSE, trunk

This kind of trunk I'd seen before, in the woods around Chichén Itzá ruins south of here. Back then I'd found that the trunk had been so distinctive that just it and its twice-pinnate leaves had enabled me to identify it as an Albizia close relative, CHLOROLEUCON MANGENSE. It's a widely distributed but often overlooked species occurring in dryish forests throughout most of Mexico south through Central America into the northern half of South America. An English name sometimes used for it is Whiteseed Manga. Here the Maya call it Yax-ek.

The Maya recognize Whiteseed Manga as a general source of wood, as producing young leaves and stems that livestock can browse, and as a good source of nectar for honeybees.