|from the January 2, 2011 Newsletter issued from Hacienda
Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO
Twining unobtrusively with other vines cascading over a stone wall in Pisté was the delicate species shown above.
You can see why one of the many English names used for the vine is Mouse's Pineapple. The pineapple is formed by the close clustering of numerous maturing inferior flower ovaries. Inferior ovaries are those from which the calyx's sepals, the corolla and the stamens arise above the ovary, not at the ovary's base, in which case it would be a superior ovary. The two conditions are diagrammed at http://www.backyardnature.net/inf_sup.gif.
In the picture at the top of the page, at the left all but two corollas have fallen off the cluster of ovaries, while at the right a cluster's first two corollas have opened, the other ovaries still bearing unopened corollas. A close-up showing better how the corollas arise atop the ovaries is below:
The last picture also shows a low, sharp-pointed, triangular stipule connecting the base of a leaf petiole and the flower cluster. When you see the combination of inferior ovary with conspicuous stipules, automatically you should think "the Coffee or Gardenia Family, the Rubiaceae." In the New World tropics the Coffee Family is a big one, but also one of the easiest to identify families because those two field marks are so determinative.
Mouse's Pineapple, also called Redgal, Yellowroot and other names, is MORINDA ROYOC. It's distributed from southern Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean south through Central America to northern South America, especially on limestone. Though it's a native wild plant, I see it mostly in towns on stone walls, where it can grow 20 feet long (6m).
You might recognize that genus name, Morinda, as the same genus in which Nonis are found. Nonis are small trees much planted in the Yucatan because of the medicinal value of their fruits. Noni is described at http://www.backyardnature.net/yucatan/noni.htm.
Noni's flowers and fruits are very similar to Mouse's Pineapple's, but much larger. Mouse's Pineapple's fruits also are variously used medicinally, as well as an aphrodisiac, and as a source of yellow, orange, or red dyes. Martinez's Las Plantas Medicinales de México says that the plant is useful as a digestive tonic and against the jaundice.
At one time it was thought that plants from the Yucatán were a distinct species and were given the binomial Morinda yucatanensis. However, now Yucatán's plants are considered the same as Morinda royoc, and Morinda royoc is an old Linnaeus name, worthy of being preserved.