Since delimitation of this genus has been the focal point of much discussion
for the past century, it seems appropriate at this time, before treating the species
involved in the area here under consideration, to mention briefly two of the most
controversial species complexes concerned. The first centers about Nectandra
cuspidata and N. pichurim; the second about Nectandra globosa and N. pisi. At
present, only tentative suggestions can be made which we can only hope to have
clarified when conscientious effort has been made to obtain collections of fruiting
material from the areas where these species grow profusely and from which
collections have so far been made almost entirely in the flowering stage.
First, the cuspidata-pichurim complex. After examination of as much of the
type material and collections from the type localities as are available, with close
attention to field notes and published comments, the following suggestions are
offered. Except for the fact that there are a few scattered fruiting specimens
extant, even a distribution pattern and separation as tentative as the following
could scarcely be presented. It goes without saying that further collections from
the critical areas under consideration will undoubtedly necessitate a change
in the present interpretation of the distribution of the species, as well as of the
current delimitations of species and genus.
There appear to be two species, at least, similar in branching and leaf habit,
which share a common flower structure, namely, having stamens of the first and
second series with anthers broader than long, their cells in the arcuate arrangement
usual for Nectandra and occupying almost entirely the anther structure,
with little or no connective tissue apparent. Also, specimens with seemingly
identical branching and foliage habits are known to mature two types of fruit,
not distinctive in shape, but in their relation to the cupule subtending them,
and in the shape of the cupule itself. These, from study of available fruiting
material, are represented by N. cuspidata and N. pichurim, both occurring in
the Guayana area; these are discussed below.
Brief mention only should be made here of two additional species closely
related to the above-mentioned critical taxa: Nectandra membranacea Grisebach
from the West Indies exclusive of Trinidad and Tobago, which bears globose,
totally exserted fruits subtended by a very shallow, disklike cupule, seated on
a much more coarsely enlarged obconical pedicel than that found in the cuspidatapichurim
species; and Necta,ndra gentlei Lundell chiefly of Central America,
more closely allied with the current concept of N. cuspidata than any of the
plants under discussion. Nectandra gentlei bears ellipsoid fruits, larger than
those found in the three taxa last mentioned, and borne totally exserted on
shallow cupules. Leaf characteristics of all four species m a y vary, but the flower
structures remain more or less consistent with only minor deviations apparent.
Apparently associated with the Nectandra cuspidata-pichurim complex
through leaf and branching habit, specimens have been collected from regions
of tropical South America other than the Guayana area that show a second type
of flower considered to be representative of the Nectandra globosa-pisi complex.
The typical, more or less triangular, exceedingly fleshy, usually papillose anthers
have a protruding connective of varying length. These specimens are mentioned
in this connection merely to bring attention to a second type of floral characteristic
which in other features has an affinity to the complex discussed above.
The second critical group indicated, the Nectandra globosa-pisi complex, will be taken up only briefly in proper sequence, no attempt being made at present to resolve it. Until a thorough monographic study is under way, neither of these areas of the genus can be satisfactorily clarified. Needless to say, such a treatment will necessarily involve a concerted effort on the part of field workers to re-collect in critical type localities both flowering and fruiting materials, preferably from marked trees. This work has already been outlined and it is hoped may be continued. It goes without saying that since intermediate stages of floral structure occur, a study of Nectandra must involve a concomitant treatment of the genus Ocotea as well and the "fringe" genus, Pleurothyrium, the latter heretofore thought to be restricted to the Amazonian area, but which perhaps may be far more widely distributed. Then and only then can a re-evaluation of generic delimitation be undertaken with hope of a satisfactory and acceptable conclusion. The following discussions and descriptions must rest on the study of the inadequate materials currently available in herbaria.