Help identifying caribbean plants

Bruce M. Marshall bmm1 at
Thu Oct 2 11:37:39 EST 1997

I have been collecting plants, mainly from the Caribbean, for a number
of years and there are three that I have not been able to positively
identify. If anyone has any ideas or corroborating information I would
appreciate it.

1.) I suspect this may be a member of the genus Calliandra 
although the photos of Calliandras I have found appear to show four
leaflets per leaf-stalk and this invariably has two. Each leaflet is
about 6 cm long. They are asymmetrical, curving toward each other like
the hoof-print of a dear. I grew it from seed 
and when I found the seed pod I couldn't identify which tree it came
from. The pods are chestnut brown colored, about 14 cm long and about
.5 cm thick requiring a saw to open them. They are very hard. My
seedling is now 2.5 cm at the base and 1 m tall. It 
arches way off to one side. I have since seen others about 5 m high on
the island of St. John with the same arching habit. I have never seen
one bloom.

2.)The closest photo to this that I have found is Oreopanax peltatus
although the resemblance may be superficial. It has the most deeply
lobed compoundly palmate leaf I have ever seen. It is an herbaceous
plant and seems Aralia like to me. I grew this fr
om seed about ten years ago. The parent plant was about 2 m tall and
had a red panicle type inflorescence at the highest tip. The were
three nutlike seeds in a 3 cm pod reminiscent of a buckeye. All three
germinated. Is this seed form consistent with Aral
ias? Now here is the oddest part. When a leaf or stalk is torn apart,
long spider web type threads are formed stretching out from the break.
These threads are many times longer than the section of plant they
come out of. There is a sticky latex so I origi
nally assumed this to be the source of the threads. Later I discovered
that a thoroughly dry leaf also produced threads. Under 20x
magnification one can see that these threads are tightly wound
helixes. As they are pulled out straight they become many tim
es the length of the leaf section they are pulled from. Unlike
anything I have seen before. This plant is not indigenous to VI, It
was planted.

3.) This one I have no guess about however the common name on St. John
is Yellow Cedar. It is not a conifer. Again I grew it from seed
without knowing from which plant the seed originated. The seed is a
bilaterally symmetric pair, about 6 cm long, paper 
white and feathery at the ends. It is wind dispersed. My seedling,
which is now seven years old, has compound leaves very much like
Brassia actinophylla in structure except they are clearly opposite on
the stem, and they are dull gray-green with yellow le
af stalks and veins. The new leaves are gray as they emerge. I
described it to a local this summer and he took me and showed me the
tree. It is perhaps 30 cm at the base and 6 m high.
He told me it blooms yellow and drops many seeds, hence the common
name. It is the only other one I have seen. 

Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks, Bruce

Bruce M. Marshall bmm1 at voice 423 927 0990 fax 423 927 8039

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