The Breadfruit (or is it Breadnut?) Tree Produces Flowers

Breadfruit flower

Update, 18 Aug. 2011: Someone from the Breadfruit Institute kindly left a comment below, suggesting that this tree might possibly be a breadnut rather than a breadfruit tree. I’ll update this post further as the fruit matures, but for now we should leave the identification open. I’ll call it an Artocarpus sp. until the species name is verified.

Update, 16 Nov. 2012: Alert reader Diane (see comments below) also agrees that this fruit is a breadnut rather than a breadfruit. Further, she knows how to cook it and eat it. With both botanists and interested naturalists agreeing that this is a breadnut, it is time to call it by its correct name. I’ll not rename the post, but we can agree now that the fruit shown is a breadnut,  Artocarpus camansi.


Our breadfruit tree is now five years old. I first saw this flower, inflorescence actually, two weeks ago. It is a female. The pale, yellowish structure to the right of the inflorescence is a stipule pair. The stipules will eventually fall off, leaving a scar – a horizontal line between leaves – that is typical of the family. In breadfruits this scar encircles the stem.

Breadfruit trees have male and female flowers on the same tree. This morning I spotted a male catkin even though typically the male flower appears first.

Breadfruit male flower

There may be 1500 or so tiny flowers in the female inflorescence. Zooming in, you can see the pistils pretty clearly and if you look at the outline against the green leaf, you can see some of the branched stigmas (the part that receives the pollen).

Female breadfruit flower

You can also see a few white drops of latex exuding from some of the pistils. This latex, like the stipule scar, is a characteristic of the Moraceae family, which includes the rubber plant, figs, mulberries, and the osage orange.

The pistils are attached to a spongy core and will eventually fuse together, forming the fruit, which is an aggregate like pineapple. Breadfruits are not native to Panama but are cultivated now throughout the tropics, despite the famous Mutiny on the Bounty.

Posted in Moraceae | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Blue Berries, Not

Our once-a-week, high-school aged gardener took the weedeater to a grove of Miconia rubiginosa for the first time this past weekend and uncovered this.

Blue on the ground

I thought they were a particularly bright blue berry of some kind.

They look like berries

Took a few back to the front porch and sliced a couple open.

Fruit split open, with seeds

Hmm. Well, if “berry” means “… any fruit that has its seeds enclosed in a fleshy pulp, for example, a banana or tomato” [my computer’s built-in dictionary definition], then I guess it’s not a berry. No fleshy pulp.

This is going to be fun to sort out.

Posted in Melastomataceae, To Be Identified | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Macro, Lovely Macro

Here’s a camera that went to Africa and recorded fine details in the environment that the retinas of early humans had to distinguish. A friend and retina expert most generously lent it to me while he and his wife are in the US.

It’s an honor to use this camera.

It’s a Nikon D70 and I’ve been a little shy about getting started with it, have mostly been shooting in autofocus and with the standard lens. Getting acquainted with the heft of the instrument.

Today I decided to go for it and try the macro* lens. Still using autofocus, still adjusting to the heft, but trying, just to see what happens.

Solanum sp.
Starting at the time of last year’s bloom, I have been trying to get a decent shot of this species of Solanum. Here’s the best I’ve been able to do with my Canon point and shoot so far.

This morning, with all the wrong conditions – sun bright in the sky, a breeze blowing – after very few shots, here’s what I got.

TBI Solanum

I don’t know if you can see why I’m excited about the difference, but I am, and I’m encouraged that I’ll be able to get a really good one of this flower before the blooming season is over this year.

Cuphea sp.
These little firecrackers, as I call them, have eluded me for at least five years. I’ve tried on an off over that time, but they dangle in the breeze all the time, they’re small, and, well, here’s the best I could do before today.

Even today, my Cuphea wouldn’t quite stay in focus. This lovely Nikon has several focus areas, and I’m still trying to get a grip on how to tell it which one I want. For now, Nikon is making these decisions, and today it decided the bugs on the Cuphea were far more interesting than the flower itself.

So here’s my best Cuphea today:
Cuphea appendiculata, maybe

And here’s Nikon’s favorite:
Cuphea with bugs

With another view, on another Cuphea, of the same king of bug:
Cuphea and bug

So, while waiting for some delectable photos to come here at Accidental Botanist, feast on the current Berry Go Round at the irrepressible Plants are the Strangest People. It reminds me of a four-hour lunch I had in Italy way back when, and I’ll certainly be spending much of the rest of the month devouring all those intriguing posts.

Update, July 6, 2011: Ted MacRae of Beetles in the Bush has provided a likely identification for this bug. Here’s what he says:

The insects look like leaf-footed bugs (family Coreidae) in the genus Hypselonotus. The only species in nearby Costa Rica with entirely black legs is H. concinnus, so this could be that species.

You’ll see the comment below.


*Nikon calls this lens micro. Its full name is AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker

Portrait of Joseph Dalton Hooker, Darwin's fri...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve just finished reading On the Vegetation of the Galapagos Archipelago, as compared with that of some other Tropical Islands and of the Continent of America by Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, who was born 194 years ago today.

In 1844, Darwin asked Hooker to work up his botanical samples from the Galapagos and thus began their life-long friendship. In working them up, Hooker included specimens collected by others, although Darwin’s collection was by far the largest. He read his findings to the Linnean Society in 1846 and the paper was published in 1851.

In this study, you can see how Hooker gravitated toward establishing biogeography as a science. He noted that all flora from any country can be separated into two classes: indigenous and introduced. In the Galapagos, the introduced species were most closely related to plants in the West Indies and Panama whereas the indigenous species were most closely related to mountainous and other “extra-tropical” parts of the Americas.

But the part of the work that most caught my eye was his description of the Compositae (now Asteraceae).

The Compositae are in every respect the most remarkable family in the Galapagos, both as regards number of new species and new genera, and from their forming much of the wood of the islands.

“Their forming most of the wood of the islands.” – I have been astonished to find Asteraceae trees here in Panama, and now I learn that they accounted, in Darwin’s time anyway, for most of the wood in the Galapagos!

He continues:

They also are the most instructive, as the species are very clearly defined: the peculiar genera have representatives in the different islets; and whilst the new species are almost wholly allied to plants from the Andes or extra-tropical parts of America, the old are almost universally the weeds of the low coast of the same continent.

Just the opposite of other families! As noted above, in the other families the introduced species were most closely related to plants in the West Indies whereas the indigenous species were most closely related to continental parts of the Americas. He attributes this distinction to the methods of dispersal – that the seeds of the Compositae are wind-blown whereas many of the other seeds can be carried on ocean currents.

Hooker was a highly respected botanist and, like his father, became director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. We’ll probably be seeing more mention of him toward the end of the year, when the 200th 100th anniversary of his death will be marked on December 10.

Posted in Darwin, History of Botany | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments