Cochlospermum vitifolium is a pioneer tree species often found in disturbed and early successional tropical dry forests (Bawa and Frankie 1983). They are found from Mexico to northern South America (Bawa and Frankie 1983). The common name in Central America is “poro-poro” (Weber 2002). Trees typically reach around 10 m in height, but can grow up to 20 m tall (Bawa and Frankie 1983, Zuchowski 2005). The wood has yellow-orange sap that has been used to dye cloth (Zuchowski 2005). Leaves are alternately arranged, simple, and 3-7 lobed with serrate margins (Zuchowski 2005). C. vitifolium generally drops its leaves in December and January when in a deciduous forest, but has been known to retain them in semi-deciduous Panamanian forests (Bawa and Frankie 1983). Trees refoliate after fruiting has finished and before the beginning of the rainy season, typically in May (Bawa and Frankie 1983).
Flowering begins shortly after leaf drop, with a peak in January and February (Roubik et al. 1982). Trees typically flower for 6 weeks, with each individual flower remaining receptive to pollen for a single day (Bawa and Frankie 1983). The inflorescence is a terminal panicle 10-25 cm long (Weber 2002). Flowers are yellow and bowl shaped, with five petals (Zuchowski 2005). Stamens are numerous, from 150-200 per flower; short filamented stamens surround the ovary and are ringed by long filamented stamen (Roubik et al. 1982). The ovary contains 1000-2500 ovules (Roubik et al. 1982). C. vitifolium does not produce nectar. Its only reward is the pollen that is collected by buzz-pollinators, meaning insects that vibrate the anthers to induce pollen dehiscence (Roubik et al. 1982). Pollinators are vital to fruit production because C. vitifolium flowers are genetically self-incompatible (Bawa and Frankie 1983). Studies in both Costa Rica and Panama have shown that while many bees visit the flowers to forage for pollen, the primary pollinators are medium to large Anthophoridae bees (Bawa and Frankie 1983, Roubik et al. 1982). Smaller bees, such as Trigona spp., collect the pollen but are not large enough to reach from the relatively distant anthers to the stigma (Bawa and Frankie 1983, Roubik et al. 1982). Successful pollination is also highly time dependent, as pollen is primarily shed in the morning and most pollinators visit between 8 AM and 1 PM (Bawa and Frankie 1983, Roubik et al. 1982).
Fruits mature 6-8 weeks after pollination (Bawa and Frankie 1983). They are 5-valved, obvate capsules that are slightly tomentose and velvety to the touch (Weber 2002). Capsules dehisce when mature, revealing numerous seeds with white, downy pappi to aid in wind dispersion (Bawa and Frankie 1983). An unidentified bruchid beetle species oviposits its predatory larvae on the seeds exposed after capsule dehiscence and before dispersal (Bawa and Frankie 1983, Zuchowski 2005). Liomys salvini mice also prey on the seeds after dispersal (Zuchowski, 2005).
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