Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Tulipán or Turk's Turban, MALVAVISCUS ARBOREUS

from the November 29, 2009 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICOfrom the

At the end of the rainy season the forest is lush, green and shadowy. It smells of mould. I assume that lack of sunlight on the forest floor is responsible for the paucity of flowering plants there, as well as this being the beginning of the dry season. Orchids and bromeliads are easy to find, but very rarely are they flowering.  One head-high bush is flowering, however, as shown above.

Tulipán or Turk's Turban, MALVAVISCUS ARBOREUS, flowerThough this is a native Mexican plant very much at home in our reserve here, the English speaking world has long admired and propagated the species, bestowing it with several English names: Turk's Turban, Ladies' Eardrops, Scotchman's Purse, and Wild Fuchsia among them. People here use the name Tulipán. It's MALVAVISCUS ARBOREUS, a member of the Hibiscus Family, the Malvaceae.

You can see how similar the blossom is to hibiscus flowers, the main differences being that the Tulipán's corolla doesn't open much more than is shown in the picture, plus there's that tall, slender item projecting upward from the flower's center. You can see better what's going on there in the close-up below:

That slender thing is composed of numerous male stamens arising from a cylinder surrounding the threadlike style of the female pistil. The fuzzy, spherical thing at the top is the stigma where pollen grains land and germinate. The pale purple, granular items are anthers shedding pollen. I dissect a blossom and show how all this hangs together in hibiscus flowers at http://www.backyardnature.net/fl_hibsc.htm.

In the US this species is planted outdoors in the Deep South, in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10. One website says of it, "It is an old fashioned, 'pass-along' southern plant, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds."

from the February 28, 2016 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

A slender, shoulder-high, woody-stemmed bush leaned across the trail with late-season, bug-eaten leaves and a grape-sized, orangish fruit looking like a little a pumpkin at the tip of its stem, as shown below:

Tulipán or Turk's Turban, MALVAVISCUS ARBOREUS, fruit & leaves

A close-up of the "pumpkin" shows that it's divided into five sections separated by shallow grooves, as seen below:

Tulipán or Turk's Turban, MALVAVISCUS ARBOREUS, fruit top view

Below, a view from the side shows that the fruit is subtended by a bowl-like calyx and several slender bracts:

Tulipán or Turk's Turban, MALVAVISCUS ARBOREUS, fruit side view

One branch bears an old, drying-up, shriveling flower displaying a red corolla and a long, slender "staminal column" curving from the corolla, with exhausted, brown anthers clustered at its tip, reminding us that we know this plant. It's common here and, when in flower, very conspicuous at forest edges and along trails. It's the Tulipán, sometimes called Turk's Turban, Malvaviscus arboreus, in the Hibiscus Family.

Everyone admires the Tulipán's bright flowers. Now we know to look for its pumpkiny fruits as well.