This page is devoted to the comment forum (below), a place where visitors to this site can ask, read, and answer questions of one another.

As my personal realm of work/profession/interest revolves around the plant kingdom – botany, horticulture, ethnobotany, agroforestry, etc. – I welcome and encourage any related questions and will do my best to answer them. However, this forum is not limited to plant questions…

As I am just now initiating the ASK QUESTIONS page, there may not be much (if any) content at present, however don’t let that deter you.

Ask a question today.

45 thoughts on “ASK A QUESTION

    1. Kent,

      First of all, let me be the first to both thank and congratulate you for asking the initiatory question on this ASK A QUESTION forum… And an interesting question at that… However, answering your question presents somewhat of a conundrum. On one hand, I think its important that I not fully publicize the precise whereabouts of this fascinating and sought-after entheogen on the off chance that masses of people will find the directions here and pillage what is now a very healthy and happy plant. However, on the other hand, I am a strong believer in responsible propagation of plant material acquired at botanic gardens. Maybe you share that belief… feel free to contact me via email (for email address see ABOUT section).

  1. I was going to be the first but I guess i’m shy. I wanted to ask: In Summit (in Panama), did you ever venture into the surrounding forest or did you just collect within the park itself? I’m tempted to venture out to see what introduced trees are there, but don’t want to negotiate with sawgrass and lianas for hours for nothing.

    Also: There’s a tree in the eastern-most part of the park, near to where the perpetually-empty youth camp is (by the pine forest) that is (at present) covered in a strange pink fruit that’s sort of a cross between a coffee berry and a grape. It stands by itself, by the fringe of the jungle. No bark and bright green waxy leaves. Is this ringing a bell? I’ve shown the fruit to several people and nobody has any idea what it is.

    I’ve admired your collection at Santa Familia several times – is there a list or documentation on what everything in there is?

    1. David,

      Thanks for writing and contributing the second question to this forum.

      At Summit I did venture into the surrounding forests, both on and off of paths, for pretty much the same reason that you mention. As you have undoubtedly seen, the edges of the current garden are somewhat vague and overgrown. I wondered if slowly the forest has been encroaching/re-naturalizing over formerly managed areas of the Garden.

      For a while there were few areas with semi-managed trails you could walk along into the surrounding forest, not sure if they’re still there. I’ll try to give you directions to one of them: Enter the park and walk straight, keep going straight until, on your left, you see a concrete pond/pool that they used to keep turtles and a crocodile in… After you pass that enclosure you can take a left (no path) and walk over a stretch of grass towards the forest edge. As you walk across the grass, on your left is the turtle pond, on your right are some citrus trees, and beyond them a grove of rubber trees (H. brasilensis). Keep walking straight until you get to the edge of the forest, you will see a few Jacaranda trees and a large Pandanus. Somewhere around the Pandanusis/was a trail entrance.

      Have you found the huge Mabolo – Diospyros blancoi,look it up in this site’s search bar) trees near the very overgrown and abandoned back of the Garden? Also nearby are a few old Myrciaria floribundatrees and a grove of what I think is Etrog (Citrus medica).

      About the pink berry near the abandoned youth center… I might be able to ID the one you mentioned it if you send me a photo. Sounds interesting. Is it edible? I remember finding some weird Syzygium spp. around there, but that was very dark purple, oval fruit.

      Anyways, Summit Botanic Garden is a very interesting place. On one hand it is somewhat unfortunate that the botanic collection is so neglected and that what little funding they have gets spent on more soda machines, candy dispensers and trash cans. But in part its current dilapidated state is what makes it so interesting. I’ve probably been there 500 times, maybe more and the last time I visited I was still finding and identifying stuff I hadn’t yet seen. I used to go twice a week when I first moved to Panama City. There are a lot of interesting plants/trees growing there and one or two knowledgeable old employees left. Its a fantastic place to collect seed of things that you won’t find anywhere else in the country.

      All the best,

      On Mon, May 20, 2013 at 10:56 AM, anthropogen

      1. I’ve been averaging twice a week at Summit for a few months now. A mutual friend of ours told me you used to also and showed me your blog. Summit’s curse is probably that it’s part of the municipal government of the city (who couldn’t care less about it and its administration is generally seen as an undesirable post) instead of being its own separate entity. I kind of enjoy that nobody appreciates its botanical gardens, which for me are one of many undiscovered treasures in Panama. At least the animals are in better conditions now. If you think the cages are inadequate now, you should (not) have seen them 15 years ago.

        In a caged room at the STRI’s library in Ancon, they have some books and boxes documenting what they planted in Summit (or the Canal Zone Experimental Garden as it was called) – unfortunately, it’s part of their special collections and not open to the public. I hope to some day beg my way into it. There are some bits and bobs of the documentation online but nothing too fulfilling (some of them do show the absolutely staggering quantity and variety of things that were planted, though).

        Not sure if the fruits are edible on the tree in question, though they look and feel and smell like it. I’m hesitant about sticking unfamiliar fruit in my mouth. I’ll get a photo on my next excursion. I’ve walked on some of the paths around the park, but they were in terrible shape.

        Thanks for your timely response.

        1. Very interesting. I’d love to see a list of what was originally planted at Summit. I’m sure they had a spectacular well-managed collection. I was always curious to know more about the history of the Gardens. Along similar lines, years ago, while exploring the library at Parque Omar, I found and photocopied maps of some of the former American Military neighborhoods, such as Diablo and Ancon, that detailed the locations of interesting plant/tree species. It seems that these areas were also home to an interesting botanic array at one point, some of which still remain.

          Send photos of the Summit tree / fruit in question when you have a chance and I’ll see if I can ID it.

          Regards, Spencer

          On Tue, May 21, 2013 at 11:50 AM, anthropogen

    1. Is that the same as Syzygium cumini (aka. Jamblang)? I’ve collected and propagated seed from that tree. Its in the Myrtaceae family, but not a Myrciaria. You can eat the fruit out of hand but I remember them being somewhat astringent…

      Have you found the small grove of Artocarpus lakoocha? There are a few trees that bear large fruit. Great tree, very interesting tasting fruit (Moraceae).

  2. Yes, same thing as jamblang. Astringent and dyes your mouth purple, but I like em anyways.

    Haven’t seen the artocarpus lakoocha. Is it in the back of the park too? That seems to be where a lot of strange fruit are.

    1. The Artocarpus lakoocha are near the Lecythis elliptica trees near the back old entrance… L. elliptica, along with L. zabucajo (both at Summit) are two of the best tasting nuts I have ever tried. There is also a grove of big, very productive Pilinut (Canarium ovatum) near the Taipir enclosure.

  3. Thanks for the great info on this site. I am gathering info on how to build and manage the ecosystem of chinampas. Do you have any resources I could turn to?

    1. Rob,

      Thanks for visiting the site. I would be more then happy to help answer any questions you may have regarding chinampas.. I have spent a lot of time over the past years researching the history of chinampas and similar systems and have built, planted and managed chinamapa systems in the humid tropics. Feel free to contact me by email or we can correspond via this comment forum.


  4. I just had a quick question. I recently read you writeup on chinampas in the Xochimilco area and was wondering if you knew of any places where a traveller could go to spend some time in that area. I am in Mexico at the moment and want to make a trip there to get a first hand look at these amazing setups. Please let me know if you know anywhere or have heard of any place where I could spend a few weeks learning about chinampa farming.


    1. Jonathan,

      Thanks for visiting the site and for the question. Last time I visited Mexico City I went to an area called San Gregorio, which is about 20 minutes by bus from Xochimilco (depending on traffic). As far as I know, it is the only area left in the area where people actually still farm and manage Chinamapas according to traditional methods. Xochimilco can be visited but it has turned into this odd, kitsch tourist trap where they sell you beer and float you around in a colorful boat through the defunct canals that are no longer farmed. Interesting on some level, but probably not what you’re looking for.

      Here are some photos I posted of the canals in San Gregorio. you can basically wander freely around the farming plots. I encountered a few local farmers who were happy to talk about the fields and interested that i was so interested in them. this post I describe more or less how to get there…)

      What I would suggest is this: figure out how to take the metro to Xochimilco from the city (its pretty easy from downtown… from Xochimilco simply ask someone where to get the bus to San Gregorio… when you get to San Gregorio wander around and it should become apparent where the fields are. If you can’t locate them ask someone and I’m sure they’ll be happy to help you. Let me know if you’d like to see more images of San Gregorio and I can post them or email them to you. And please let me know if you have any other questions…

      Regards, Spencer

      On Mon, Aug 12, 2013 at 11:35 AM, anthropogen

  5. Hi! I really enjoyed your post concerning Sibang Arboretum in Libreville. Could you tell me a bit more about how to visit? Is it possible to do so without a reservation? Where is the park located, approximately? I haven’t had much luck tracking down information online. Any information would be appreciated!

  6. Hi need ur help growing fruit in terrace in small container say 20 ltr just need some direction and some help is it possible for u to help me . Ur help would help me a lot in my small project

  7. I had a whole hedge of this plant until winter freeze hit it before I could harvest ripe berries. Thank goodness I had lots of clippings. Our soil is acidic, dry first 2′ or more, then moist.
    The Roselle’s grew over 6′ tall..4-5′ wide. Dark burgundy flowers / berries. I am babying the plants I have through the winter. Cant wait till spring. I have made tea with the green leaves and it is great. the berries make great tea also. I would like to know how to store them so that they do not mold. I have been drying the leaves on the stems in a brown bag.
    But some times mold is a problem. I did freeze some.

  8. Hi, Spender.

    My name is Tim Keating and I’m currently in Thailand. I’ve come across a seed that I can’t identify and it got me enthralled. I’ve been a rainforest activist for over 20 years but also do some beading from seeds I’ve found in my travels. So I tend to pick up a lot of seeds, both in the forest and also around the towns, wherever I find myself.

    So the seed I’m trying to I.D. is from an angiosperm but interestingly, looks exactly like a tagua nut, only about a third the size (the seed is as soft as a fresh tagua and I’m intrigued as to whether it might harden up the same way). The seeds occur in a pod that’s about 5″ long, looking kind of like a mahogany seed pot (except more generally-oval-shaped, rather than that inverted pear shape of mahogany).

    The leaves are palmately compound, with 5–7 leaflets. Unfortunately, the only flower I saw was withered, but it seemed that the flowers are small and in a cluster, toward the red or orange color. I believe the tree to be in the Bombax genus but can’t seem to find the species. The I can send along photos, if there’s a way to do that.

    Thanks for the forum!


    1. Tim,

      Thanks for visiting for the site and for the comment. The seed sounds interesting. I’m a huge fan of the bombacaceae / malvaceae / sterculiaceae family…. Can you email me photos of the seed and any leaf photos you may have? If so I can post them here with any feedback. If I don’t know what it is then its possible another visitor will…. You can send them to me at spencer (dot)woodard (at) gmail (dot) com


  9. Hi, do you remember the whereabouts of the double helical stair you photographed in Paris? I’m writing a paper on DNA stairs in science buildings and would love to use it as an illustration. Sandra Kaji-O’Grady

  10. I read in one of your articles that you grow Lecythis pinsonis, Lecythis elliptica, and Lecythis zabucajo. Do you know if all these Lecythis species (as well as Lecythis minor) are all monoecious?

  11. I need to send a picture of a plant for somebody to identify it for me. Can you send me an email address where I can send a pic please

  12. Hi, wondering if you can help us,we are wanting to plant the yellow bixa pod, where can we buy the seeds, we already have quite a no. of the reds but are having a very difficult time finding the seeds for the yellow pod.. Hope you can help. Regards Chris

    1. Thanks for the inquiry. I am happy to give you permission to use my iboga photos for iboga documentation. GITA sounds like a great initiative. All I ask is that you give me credit for the photo and send me me an email / link to let me know which photos you are using. Please let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to write me directly at spencer(dot)woodard(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Good question. I have only tasted small quantities of the berry juice from smashed berries. I don’t think they are edible in the sense that people use them as a food, however nothing about the immediate taste indicated toxicity to me, but that’s purely a subjective observation. However I do know that the fruit of other Psychotria species are considered toxic…

  13. Hey Spencer,
    James Collector here from Eco Heirlooms. I will be doing an ecological study of the species-abundance-distribution of clinopodium douglasii (yerba buena) for a course project at Berkeley. Using the online resource, I went looking for a study site off Ridgecrest Blvd between the Bolinas Lagoon and Alpine lake. I didn’t find any specimens despite knowing that clinopodium likes shade and moisture. Do you have any suggestions for locating specimens?

    1. James,

      Good to hear from you. Your study sounds interesting. This isn’t the best time of year to find Yerba Buena as it is somewhat sparse. I can suggest you look along the Palomarin trail that leads to Bass Lake in Bolinas. There are some patches of yerba buena under the Douglas firs all along the trail.

  14. I would like to use some of your research in a document I am currently drafting. If I could privately email you the details to obtain your permission, it would be greatly appreciated. Please send me a return email at the email address I am listing for you so we can discuss this in further detail. Thank you so much for your time.

  15. I don’t know if you still check this but I was wondering if you have any Lupinus pilosus seeds still? I would love to get some for the school seed library here in Denver co.

    1. Hello Tri, I replied to your question via the email you had posted along side your comment profile. But email got returned. I do have many Lupinus pilosus seed and would be happy to send you some. You can find my email in the about section I believe.

  16. Dear Spencer,

    my name is Bram van Overbeeke and I have plans to move to Greece, in specific an area near Athens. I am a Permaculture designer and one of the tasks of a good designer is to build a list for yourself with the widest spread of species available. I came upon your site whilst googling for different tree species in combination with the word greece. In this case it was Moringa. I landed on this article:

    May I ask how your experiments went? It is nearly 4 years since that post and I’d be curious to hear how the Moringa tree adapted to conditions that my research shows are not within its normal range.

    Perhaps you could do a new blog posts with your results? I will help spread the word if you do.

    Happy to have found your amazing blog!

    With regards,

  17. Hi, I’m looking for lupinus pilosus seeds. Do you still have some? Do you know where I can find some? I’m happy to pay for them. Thank you!

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