Grias cauliflora L.

  • Family

    Lecythidaceae (Magnoliophyta)

  • Scientific Name

    Grias cauliflora L.

  • Primary Citation

    Syst. Nat. (ed. 10) 1075. 1759

  • Common Names


  • Description

    Author: Scott A. Mori

    Type: Jamaica. Tabla 216 in Sloane, Hist. Jam. 2: 122-123, t. 216-217. 1725, which was cited in the protologue by Linnaeus. There is no specimen of a species of Grias in the Linnaean herbarium.

    Description: Pachycaul, usually understory to infrequently canopy trees, to 30 m x 45 cm, many branched, the trunk cylindrical, sometimes buttressed (in Jamaica). Bark smooth. Stems glabrous; leaf-bearing branches to 23 mm diam. Leaves: petioles lacking to 110 x 4-11 mm, semicircular in cross section, often canaliculate, glabrous; blades oblanceolate, often with margins somewhat laterally concave towards base, 35-110 x 7-28 cm, coriaceous, glabrous, with inconspicuous reddish papillae or punctations abaxially, the base tapering and sometimes auriculate, the margins entire, slightly revolute, the apex acuminate; venation brochidodromous, the secondary veins in 25-45 pairs, the tertiary veins weakly percurrent, the higher order venation plane and difficult to see. Inflorescences usually ramiflorous, sometimes cauline, fasciculate, with 2 to 4 flowers, the rachises glabrous, mostly much reduced, infrequently to 25 mm long; pedicels 3-20 mm long, subtended by a single ovate or triangular, cucullate bract, 1-5 x 1-5 mm; bracteoles inconspicuous. Flowers with buds ovoid; mature flowers 2.5-5 cm diam.; hypanthium glabrous; calyx enclosing bud except for apical pore, rim-like or splitting into 2-4 irregular lobes at anthesis; petals oblong or obovate, 10-23 x 6-15 mm, white or creamy-white, spreading and slightly cucullate at anthesis; androecium shortly-obovoid to shortly-ellipsoid, the staminal tube 1-5 mm high, arching from base to apex abaxially, divided into 2 chambers, the lower chamber slanted inward adaxially, the upper chamber slanting outward, with 85-150 stamens in 3 concentric rows, the filaments tapering at apex, the outermost 6-8 mm long, the connectives absent, the anthers suborbicular, 0.5-0.8 mm long, with lateral dehiscence; annular nectary disk at summit of ovary, red; ovary (3-)4-locular, with 2-4 ovules per locule, glabrous or puberulous and truncate at summit, the style slender, erect, red. Fruits fusiform (in Jamaican population), otherwise obovoid or pyriform, brown, 3.8-9 x 2.2-4 mm, the mesocarp 5-8 mm thick. Seeds one, 35-50 mm long. x = 17.

    Common names: Jamaica: anchovy pear. Belize: bombowood, genip, wild mammy. Guatemala: cayhilla. Honduras: irayol, jagüillo. Nicaragua: lengua de vaca (Spanish), papallon. Costa Rica: tabacón, tabaco, wild tobacco. Panama: haguey, jaguey, madre de cocoa, membrillo. Colombia: guasea, paco (indigenous).

    Distribution: This species ranges from Belize into Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and northwestern Colombia. In Costa Rica it is found on both the Atlantic and Pacific slopes and I have seen individuals growing from near sea level to nearly 1000 m alt. in Costa Rica. Broadway s.n. from Tobago is from a cultivated plant.

    Ecology: An understory species found in both well and poorly drained soils. In Jamaica, according to Guppy (1912), this species one of the most picturesque trees in the river scenery of Jamaica, and Adams (1972) reports that it is ...rather local and gregarious near streams and in Marsh forest. I (Mori)have seen G. cauliflora in wet areas in Costa Rica and Panama but also on well-drained soiils on the Osa Peninsula and other places in Costa Rica.

    Phenology: Flowers with leaves present. Grias cauliflora flowers from March to June and fruits in March and September on the Osa Peninsula (Quesada Quesada et al., 1997). Flowering collections represented by herbarium sheets have been made in Guatemala in April; Belize in March; Honduras in February and July; Nicaragua in March; Costa Rica in March, April, May, and June; Panama in March, April, and June; and Colombia in January and February. Adams (1972) says that this species flowers from February to May and in September and fruits in July in Jamaica.

    Pollination: There are no published pollination studies of Grias cauliflora. However, Knudsen and Mori (1996) have reported that the floral aroma of Grias peruviana is dominated by a fatty acid derived ester which is often found in species pollinated by beetles. This, on top of the fleshy nature of the flowers of the genus, suggests the possibility of beetle pollination. We interpret the red ring surrounding the outer part of the apex of the ovary as a nectary suggesting that nectar is at least a partial reward for pollinators.

    Dispersal: The fleshy, edible, large-sized fruits of this and other species of Grias suggests dispersal by mammals. However, individuals that grow along river banks may drop into the water where the pulp may be eaten by mammals and then the endocarp, containing the single seed, may be dispersed by water. The endocarps of this species have been collected on the beaches of Florida and San José Island, Costa Rica---both places where the species does not occur (Gunn & Dennis, 1976; Johnston, 1949; Ridley, 1930).

    Predation: Reinaldo Aguilar has noted that larvae of metalmark butterflys eat the petals and androecia of this species (Aguilar 13557) on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.

    Field characters: Grias cauliflora is characterized by very large leaves tufted at the branch ends (only found otherwise in all other species of Grias and some species of Gustavia); tertiary veins weakly percurrent and higher order veins plane and difficult to see; cauline and ramiflorous, fasiculate inflorescences; calyx enclosed by all but a terminal pore in bud; white or pale yellow (Jamaican population) flowers; a red, annular disk surrounding the summit of the ovary; a single-seeded fruit; and cotyledons absent.

    Taxonomic notes: Grias megacarpa Dwyer is a synonym of Pouteria fossicola Cronquist. Richard Moyraud has pointed out that the fruits of the Jamaica population are much longer than wide (fusiform) in comparison to the more ellipsoid or pyriform fruits of individuals found in Central America (see attached images). The Jamaica population also has a yellow androecium whereas the Central American population is white. These differences are currently considered as infraspecific variation of a single, relatively wide-spread species. Note that Sloane's description of the species indicates that the petals are pale yellow but the image by Lauren Raz (attached below) shows that at least some the plants have white petals. In addition, the drawing that serves as the lectotype in Sloane (1725) shows the petal apices to be more tapered than those shown in the Raz image. The red annular disk that we currently interpret as a nectary needs to be confirmed as such. We now consider Grias colombiana Cuatrec. to be a synonym of G. cauliflora and not a distinct species as recognized by Mori in Prance & Mori (1979).

    Conservation: This widespread species is represented by healthy populations even in secondary forests and disturbed areas is regarded as of Least Concern (LC).

    Uses: The Spanish inhabitants of Jamaica have been reported to eat the pickled fruits as a substitute for mangos and this may account for the Jamaican name of anchovy pear. Sloane (1725) states its fruits are "sent from the Spanish West Indies to old Spain, as the greatest rarity."

    Etymology: The specific epithet refers to cauliflorous infloresnces.

    Source: Mori in Prance, G.T. & S. A. Mori. 1979. Fl. Neotrop. 21, Lecythidaceae-Part I: 199-201.

    Acknowledgements: We are grateful to R. Aguilar, R. Moyroud., and L. Raz for allowing us to use their images to illustrate the characters of this species.

  • Floras and Monographs

    Grias cauliflora L.: [Article] Prance, Ghillean T. & Mori, S. A. 1979. Lecythidaceae - Part I. The actinomorphic-flowered New World Lecythidaceae (Asteranthos, Gustavia, Grias, Allantoma & Cariniana). Fl. Neotrop. Monogr. 21: 1-270.

  • Narratives

    SEM of a pollen grain of Grias cauliflora. Photo by J. Muller.

    Inflorescence and flower morphology and anatomy of Grias cauliflora.

    Pollination and predation of Grias cauliflora. By R. Aguilar & S. A. Mori.