C is for Cauliflory


As a part of the A-Z Photographic Glossary of Biological Terms challenge, today it is C for Cauliflory, as illustrated by Cacao (Theobroma cacao), Sittee River Wildlife Reserve, Stann Creek District.

The botanical term which refers to plants which flower and fruit from their main stems or woody trunks rather than from new growth and shoots is called cauliflory. In tropical rainforests, the insect fauna are distributed in horizontal layers at various heights above the ground and many cauliflorous species are pollinated by those that live near the ground level. Accessibility seems to be one reason pollinators and frugivores (fruit-eating animals) are attracted to the flowers and seed-bearing fruits on the trunks. There are many different animal species including birds, bats, climbing mammals and insects that visit the flowers, but there don’t seem to be any groups that specialize in cauliflorous plants. Making the fruit more accessible to a variety of animals is a good strategy for ensuring survival of the species.
This is the case with Cacao, a cauliflorous understory tree in the rainforest from which chocolate is made. It produces tiny 5mm wide flowers that grow directly from the trunk of the tree and the flowers are pollinated by similarly tiny flies, Forcipomyia midges in the order Diptera, although other small moths and beetles may be involved. The pod will eventually ripen to a yellow, red, purple, or sometimes white, mature fruit containing up to 50 or 60 beans, these large seeds being dispersed by small mammals and monkeys when they chew into the pods to eat the sugary pulp.
redbud c
Another cauliferous tree, the Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), native to the eastern US.
white cercis
White for of the Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis f. alba)

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