October 12, 2007

Melastoma racemosa - not! Conostegia - si!

Conostegia xalapensis, La Ceiba, HondurasConostegia xalapensis

Reader Gordo solved my plant identification dilemma within an hour of posting Melastoma racemosa or something like that. He said to check out Conostegia which also is of the Melastomataceae family. How great to have such brilliant readers. Yay, Gordo!

Gordo said that he found Conostegia in
Tropical Plants of Costa Rica. I looked up the book on Amazon and I think I'm going to have to add it to my library. The book gets rave reviews from readers.

After looking at photos of more than a dozen species of Conostegia on various sites, it looked to me like the species
xalapensis was most like my tree. Conostegia xalapensis is native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and Columbia. 'Xalapensis' refers to being from/discovered in Xalapa, Mexico.

Identifying plants from Honduras is not so easy as there aren't good resources on the internet. I usually have the most luck searching sites with listings of Costa Rican or Panamanian plants. I thought I would pass along some of the sites that I used for research.

A search of Field Museum Neotropical Live Plant Photos shows Conostegia xalapensis with a white flower in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. This is an excellent site for searching for tropical plants photos which I found through Mary's recommendation.

At the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Bocas del Toro (Panama) site, I found this description which gives the common name of 'dos caras' (two faces) among others. 'Dos caras' refers to the different coloration on the back of the leaf. This reference says that the flower is white.

The Smithsonian Center for Tropical Forest Science
Trees, Shrubs, and Palms of Panama also says that Conostegia xalapensis has white flowers.

Conostegia xalapensis, La Ceiba, HondurasPlantas de Viñales (Cuba) was the site that convinced me that I have Conostegia xalapensis. This photo looks exactly like my tree, and it has pink flowers. This site gives the common name in Cuba as 'cordobán'. Plantas de Viñales is available in Spanish or an English version of the website.

I also found Promabos with plants of El Salvador. This site shows a pink-flowering
Conostegia xalapensis.

scientific paper reported sighting 28 different species of birds feeding on the berries of Conostegia sp. over a total of 1-2 hours in western Columbia. Reason enough to keep these trees!

Now if I could only get a photo of the toucans eating those berries!

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