: of, relating to, or resulting from the influence of human beings on nature

Bombacaceae, Pachira aquatica, Guinea chestnut, Apompo – Mexico

Pachira aquatica is a medium size tree native to tropical wetlands of Central and South America. Its native habitat tends to be seasonally flooded lowlands or swamps, however it is adaptable to a wide range of tropical environments. The large, oblong fruit is full of large seeds which taste reminiscent of peanuts, and can be eaten raw, cooked, or ground into flour to make bread. The leaves and flowers are also edible.

Pachira aquatica is closely related to Pachira glabra (saba nut). Here’s a number of previous posts related to the Bombacaceae family. 

Click individual photos below to enlarge

Bombacaceae, Pachira aquatica, tree

SCW_7205Bombacaceae, Pachira aquatica, leaf

Bombacaceae, Pachira aquatica,  fruit, seedpod

Bombacaceae, Pachira aquatica, fruit, cross section

Annonaceae, Rollinia deliciosa (mucosa), Biriba – Tropical S. America

Rollinia deliciosa, biriba

Here’s a photo of two immature Biriba fruit. When mature the fruit turns bright yellow.

Biriba can be found growing in the wild in the islands of the Caribbean and in northern South America. Although still relatively unknown, it becoming increasingly common in cultivation. It is most widely cultivated in the Brazilian state of Para.

The fruit is consumed raw. It’s sweet pulp has a very agreeable flavor; a somewhat mucilaginous, custard-like texture. Many Brazilians consider the Biriba to be the best tasting fruit of the Anonaceae family. I would consider that possibility myself, although there the quality of the fruit can vary from tree to tree depending on where / how it is grown, etc. The fruit is eaten fresh, out of hand, or in smoothies, sorbets and ice creams.

Reportedly, the seeds of Biriba can/are used for their insecticidal properties. Macerated seeds, soaked in water and strained, might hold potential for a good organic foliar insecticide and fungicide.

Don’t eat seeds from Biriba or any other Anonaceous seeds, they may poison and possibly kill you.

Biriba is a species form the hot, humid tropics and grows best in areas with more than 1,250 mm of annual rainfall. The tree and fruit develop best in clay soils, deep, well drained and rich in organic matter.

The seedling Biriba tree begins to produce fruit around the third year of growth reaching maximum production in the eighth year. A single tree can produce around eighty fruits a year weighing between .4 and 1 kilo. Here in Panama it is one of the most productive fruit trees I have seen, however it is also very uncommon. Virtually unknown. I cannot recall when I have seen it in this area of Central America outside of private botanical collections.

When collecting seed for propagation, collect only the largest seeds from the largest fruits harvested from the most healthy and disease resistant trees.


Brassica rapa, rapini, broccoli rabe, flower and buds

Actually more closely related to the turnip (Brassica rapa var. rapa) then broccoli, Rapini is likely the semi-domesticated descent of a wild herb originating either in China or the Mediterranean region.

Rapini is a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium, calcium, and iron. The leaves, stems, buds, and flowers are edible. Photos of the flowers and buds below.

Brassica rapa flower

Brassica rapa flower

New book from the World Agroforestry Centre – Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice

The World Agroforestry Centre is pleased to formally launch the book: Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice

This book brings together a range of work around landscape approaches specifically looking at the pathways, methods and tools needed for achieving sustainable multifunctional landscapes within the context of climate change.  It draws strongly on field experiences and case studies from across the developing world to concretely demonstrate how the concept of taking a landscape approach can be applied both in policy and practice. It presents scientific evidence in a way that is accessible and applicable by mid-career practitioners and policymakers in a bid to bridge science, policy and practice. This includes a section specifically identifying opportunities for private sector involvement in landscape approaches.

Here’s a link to download a PDF of the book: Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice


Psathyrellaceae, Coprinopsis nivea, Snowy ink cap – W. Sonoma, CA

I’m pretty sure this is Coprinopsis nivea, but I could be wrong. If you have an ID correction please let me know via the comment forum.

In the photo below you will observe the bright white mushroom growing in its typical horse dung habitat.

Here are some previous posts / photos of mushrooms from this site…

Click photo to enlarge.

Coprinus latisporus

Lactarius fragilis, candy cap mushroom – W. Sonoma, CA

Two photos of Lactarius fragilis mushrooms from W. Sonoma County. As they dry out these intriguing mushrooms smell increasingly like maple syrup and are best cooked into deserts due to their unique aroma / flavor.

Here’s a previous post from two years ago with more info and photos on the Candy Cap mushroom.

Click photos to enlarge.

Lactarius fragilis Lactarius fragilis

Sterculiaceae, Cola nitida, Cola nut, Abata cola, gbanja cola, goro cola, labozhi kola – West Africa

I’m reposting some articles and photos from this site’s early archives. In my recent transfer to a self hosted site I lost a number of photos on random posts throughout some 1,300 archives, I am slowly finding out where photos are lacking and uploading them. Its just as easy to just repost them as to update so hopefully you’ll see something interesting you haven’t seen before.

The seeds, or nuts, of Cola have been chewed since ancient times in West Africa for their stimulant properties.

C. acuminata is indigenous to Congo, Nigeria, and Gabon, while C. nitida (photographed above) occurs naturally in Ashanti, the Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone. Cola nuts make up a very important product in regional West African markets. Historically, cola nut was also used to flavor cola soft drinks but are now largely supplanted by synthetic products. The embryo, seed, or “nut”, varies considerably in size and weight. A nut will typically contain 2 – 3 percent caffeine, to which the nuts stimulating effects are ascribed. Theobromine is also present in the nut in significant quantities.

As far as nutritional value, the cola nut is unimportant, as only small amounts are consumed. The nuts do, however, have some health benefits when used in moderation. Seed extracts are used to treat mental and physical fatigue, and are considered useful as a tonic (mild diuretic, secretion of gastric juices is stimulated). People suffering from ulcers or hypertension should restrict their intake of caffeine.

When cultivated, the tree is typically managed below 10 m high, with long lateral branches, like cacao. Cola acuminata is considered secondary in masticatory quality to C. nitida.

I took these photos at Summit Botanic garden outside of Panama City, Panama.

Click here for previous posts on Sterculiaceae family.

Previous posts on other Cola. spp. 

Two lesser known species are bamenda cola (C. anomala), and owé cola (C. verticilla)

.sterculiaceae, cola nitida, flower Cola spp. sterculiaceae, cola nitida Sterculiaceae, Cola nitida, flowers, closer Sterculiaceae, Cola nitida flowers, close Sterculiaaceae, cola nitida, cola nut, young trees in nursery

Euphorbiaceae, Jatropha sympetala – Jalisco, Mexico

I’m pretty sure this is Jatropha sympetala. The trunk texture and bark are like a yellow version of many of the Bursera spp. in this region. Locally the tree is called “Papelillo”, which is the name ascribed to the Bursera as well. The tree grows up to 10 m high with a round(ish) branching canopy. As can be observed in the photo below, the bark peels off the trunk in large, very thin sheets. Deciduous and very drought tolerant.

For those interested, here are some previous posts from this site related to the Euphorbiaceae family.

Euphorbia tanquahuete SCW_7141 SCW_7142

Plants make their own sunscreen to block damaging rays

Here’s an interesting article from New Scientist referencing recent research published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society about how plant’s protect themselves from UV rays while sitting out in the sun all day…

They bask in the sun for hours, but just like us, plants need to protect themselves from damaging ultraviolet rays. Now we know how they do it.

Many plants use a group of chemicals called sinapate esters to defend against the sun, while they absorb light for photosynthesis. These aromatic compounds sit in the upper cell layers of these plants’ leaves and one type – sinapoyl malate – provides the bulk of this UV protection.

A team led by Timothy Zwier of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, has probed how sinapoyl malate works, finding that it filters out the entire spectrum of ultraviolet-B radiation, which is known to damage plant and human DNA.

“It can absorb all wavelengths of UV-B radiation, with no ‘gaps’ in coverage,” says Zwier.

Close to zero

Zwier and his colleagues identified the wavelengths that sinapoyl malate intercepts by cooling the substance to near absolute zero and trapping it in argon gas to stop it from evaporating before its ability to block UV-B could be measured.

Gareth Jenkins, who studies UV-B absorption by plants at the University of Glasgow, UK, says that the work shows how effective the sinapate esters are at cutting out radiation. “Plants do not usually show signs of UV damage in sunlight, so the mechanisms they’ve evolved for UV protection, which include sunscreen production, evidently work pretty well,” he says.

The range of UV wavelengths blocked by sinapoyl malate is the same as those that damage human tissues, but Zwier has no plans to develop it as a sun cream ingredient. Closely related natural substances called cinnamates are equally as effective, and are already used widely in sunblocks.

Instead, Zwier says his finding could be useful for developing plants that are even more resistant to UV radiation – something that could come in handy as heatwaves, which have more UV, become more common with climate change.

Journal reference: Journal of the American Chemical Society, DOI: 10.1021/ja5059026

Read full article at New