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Overview

Brief Summary

Pseudobombax septenatum is a deciduous tree in the family Malvaceae and the subfamily Bombacoidae that grows to about 25 m. Green, vertical lines run up the stem of the tree. The mean DBH is 140 cm and has a bulging base (Croat, 1978). This bulging stem is 70 times more efficient at transferring water to the leaves that the leaf bearing stems. This allows it to have high transpiration rates and decreases the risk of embolism in the leaves and reproductive parts (Machado & Tyree, 1994). It is common in secondary forests from Nicaragua to Brazil (Croat, 1978; Condit et al., 2011). It has white flowers that are pollinated by bats and are eaten by monkeys and sloths (Croat, 1978; Happel, 1983; Ballesteros et al., 2009). It produces woody, dehiscent fruit that is filled with grayish kapok or cottony filaments and winged seeds that are dispersed by wind (Croat, 1983).

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Distribution

Pseudobombax septenatum is distributed from Nicaragua to Brazil and Peru (Croat, 1978). It is more prominent in drier areas such as on the pacific slope and in young, secondary forest (Condit et al., 2011). It is found in Barro Colorado Island, Panama and the pacific side of Isla del Caño, Costa Rica (Croat, 1978). However, there are few saplings and is not readily regenerating (Condit et al., 2011). 

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Physical Description

Morphology

The trunk is swollen at the base and lack buttresses and spines (Condit et al., 2011). The bark contains vertical green lines. The stalks are 10-60 cm long.  The leaves are alternate and palmately compound composed of elliptic leaflets with pointy tips and prominent secondary veins. The leaflets vary from 7-29 cm long and 4-14 cm wide. (Gargiullo et al., 2008).

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Type Information

Isolectotype; Type collection; Isoneotype for Pachira barrigon Seem.
Catalog Number: US 1406622
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Alleged type specimen status verified from secondary sources; Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): A. Fendler
Year Collected: 1850
Locality: Chagres, Isthmus of Panama, Panama, Central America - Neotropics
  • Isolectotype: Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 36.; Seemann, B. C. 1852-1857. Bot. Voy. Herald. 83.; Type collection: Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 36.; Seemann, B. C. 1852-1857. Bot. Voy. Herald. 83.; Isoneotype: Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 35.; Jacquin, N. J. von. 1760. Enum. Syst. Pl. 26.; : Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 35.; Jacquin, N. J. von. 1760. Enum. Syst. Pl. 26.
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Isolectotype; Type collection; Isoneotype for Pachira barrigon Seem.
Catalog Number: US 12943
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Alleged type specimen status verified from secondary sources; Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): A. Fendler
Year Collected: 1850
Locality: Chagres, Isthmus of Panama, Panama, Central America - Neotropics
  • Isolectotype: Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 36.; Seemann, B. C. 1852-1857. Bot. Voy. Herald. 83.; Type collection: Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 36.; Seemann, B. C. 1852-1857. Bot. Voy. Herald. 83.; Isoneotype: Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 35.; Jacquin, N. J. von. 1760. Enum. Syst. Pl. 26.; : Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 35.; Jacquin, N. J. von. 1760. Enum. Syst. Pl. 26.
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Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

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Isotype for Bombax carabobense Pittier
Catalog Number: US 987710
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Card file verified by examination of alleged type specimen
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): H. Pittier
Year Collected: 1917
Locality: Valencia., Carabobo, Venezuela, South America
  • Isotype: Pittier, H. F. 1923. Arb. Arbust. Venez. 2-3: 32.
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Isotype for Bombax carabobense Pittier
Catalog Number: US 987710
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Card file verified by examination of alleged type specimen
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): H. F. Pittier
Year Collected: 1917
Locality: Valencia., Carabobo, Venezuela, South America
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© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

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Isolectotype; Type collection; Isoneotype for Pachira barrigon Seem.
Catalog Number: US 1406622
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Alleged type specimen status verified from secondary sources; Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): A. Fendler
Year Collected: 1850
Locality: Chagres, Isthmus of Panama, Panama, Central America
  • Isolectotype: Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 36.; Seemann, B. C. 1852-1857. Bot. Voy. Herald. 83.; Type collection: Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 36.; Seemann, B. C. 1852-1857. Bot. Voy. Herald. 83.; Isoneotype: Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 35.; Jacquin, N. J. von. 1760. Enum. Syst. Pl. 26.; : Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 35.; Jacquin, N. J. von. 1760. Enum. Syst. Pl. 26.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

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Isolectotype; Type collection; Isoneotype for Pachira barrigon Seem.
Catalog Number: US 12943
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Alleged type specimen status verified from secondary sources; Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): A. Fendler
Year Collected: 1850
Locality: Chagres, Isthmus of Panama, Panama, Central America
  • Isolectotype: Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 36.; Seemann, B. C. 1852-1857. Bot. Voy. Herald. 83.; Type collection: Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 36.; Seemann, B. C. 1852-1857. Bot. Voy. Herald. 83.; Isoneotype: Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 35.; Jacquin, N. J. von. 1760. Enum. Syst. Pl. 26.; : Robyns, A. 1963. Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat. Brux. 33: 35.; Jacquin, N. J. von. 1760. Enum. Syst. Pl. 26.
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Ecology

Habitat

Pseudobombax septenatum is more commonly associated with the Holdridge life zone of tropical dry forest, but also is in tropical moist forest, premontane moist forest, and even tropical rainforest in Brazil (Croat, 1978).  It is more commonly found in open areas because while it is shade tolerant for short periods of time, it grows significantly faster in the sun. When there is sun, it is a fast growing tree with low wood density (Augsburger, 1984), given that, it is rare in mature forest and only found in large clearings (Condit et al., 2011). 

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Dispersal

It has winged seeds that are dispersed by wind. It releases its seeds when wind is strongest from March to May (Croat, 1978). Seed dry weight is 570 mg (Augsburger, 1984). The kapok that covers the seeds allows them to survive in water (Croat, 1978).

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Associations

Besides its bat pollinators P. septenatum is an important resource for many animals. It is a dominant source of pollen for Megalopta. They fly hundreds of meters for these even when there are closer sources of pollen (Smith et al., 2012). It is also a host tree for the beetle Brentus anchorago (Johnson, 1983).

It also acts as a source of food for mammals. The endangered squirrel monkey (Saimiri oerstedii), consume its nectar and petals, destroying its flowers (Happel, 1983).

A study in Córdoba, Colombia found that P. septenatum was the main source of food for sloths possibly because the fragmented, dry forest in the area was dominated by P. septenatum.  The sloths eat their flowers, leaves, and shoots, therefore, it acts as a constant food source throughout the year for the sloths (Ballesteros et al., 2009). 

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General Ecology

Leaf phenology

At the beginning of the dry season (January-February) P. septenatum drops its leaves (Croat, 1978).  Precipitation is the main limiting factor that drives leaf phenology (Devall et al., 2005). Phenology might be a result of a high risk of embolism in leaf bearing stems and petioles, due to water stress.  Machado and Tyree (1994) study predicted leaf area would decrease by 5-30% a result of embolism if the species would keep its leaves in the dry season. However, this is not a big enough difference to be the main reason for phenology. Populations in different locations dropped their leaves around the same time, indicating that senescence is not based solely on climatic factors (Lobo et al., 2003). Leaves regrow at the beginning of the wet season in May (Croat, 1978).

Flowering

Flowers at the beginning of the dry season in February, two weeks after it drops its leaves (Croat, 1978). However, one study found that it begins in December and is the first Bombacoidae to flower and has the longest flowering period. Few flowers are produced at the beginning and end of the dry season to have this extended flowering period. Flowering increases in March (Lobo et al., 2003). Pseudobombax septenatum produces a white to light pink inflorescence. There are 5 linear petals that are 7-9 cm long and 2 cm wide. The central filament is surrounded by more than 1000 stamen that curl backward creating a dense pufflike cluster that is 9 cm wide and 6 cm long  (Gargiullo et al., 2008).

Pollination

Like most bombacoidae trees, the flowers are pollinated by bats (Croat, 1978). These bats include Carollia perspicillata, Leptonycteris curasoae and Glossophaga soricina (Lobo et al., 2003).  

Fruiting

Fruit is produced from February to April.  The fruit is a green, dry capsule with purple vertical lines and is 18 cm long and 9 cm wide (Gargiullo et al. 2008). It contains gray fibers called kapok and tiny seeds (Croat 1978). The capsule opens to release the seeds that are covered in the kapok.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Its soft wood is used for plywood (Quesada-Quesada et al., 1997). But, it is not suitable for most construction (Devell et al., 1995). While it is a large tree, it is not recommended for regeneration because it has low stability except in soils with high organic matter and low aluminium (Butterfield 1996). 

It has pharmaceutical potential for HIV and cancer chemoprevention (Calderon et al., 2000). 

  • Augspurger, C. K. (1984). Light requirements of neotropical tree seedlings: a comparative study of growth and survival. The Journal of Ecology, 777-795.
  • Ballesteros, J., Reyes, K., & Racero, J. (2009). Estructura poblacional y etología de Bradypus variegatus en fragmento de bosque seco tropical, Córdoba-Colombia. Revista MV Córdoba, 14(3), 1812-1819.]
  • Butterfield, R. P. (1996). Early species selection for tropical reforestation: a consideration of stability. Forest Ecology and Management, 81(1), 161-168.
  • Calderon, A. I., Angerhofer, C. K., Pezzuto, J. M., Farnsworth, N. R., Foster, R., Condit, R., Mahabir P. Gupta, and & Soejarto, D. D. (2000). Forest plot as a tool to demonstrate the pharmaceutical potential of plants in a tropical forest of Panama. Economic botany, 54(3), 278-294.
  • Condit, R, Perez, and Daguerre N. (2011) Trees of Panama and Costa Rica; Princeton field guides;
  • Croat, T. B. (1978). Flora of Barro Colorado Island. Stanford University Press.
  • Devall, M. S., Parresol, B. R., & Wright, S. J. (1995). Dendroecological analysis of Cordia alliodora, Pseudobombax septenatum and Annona spraguei in central Panama. Iawa Journal, 16(4), 411-424.
  • Gargiullo M.B., Magnuson B., Kimball L. (2008). A Field Guide to Plants of Costa Rica. A zona tropical publication.
  • Happel, R. (1983). Saimiri as a probable pollinator of Passiflora. Saimiri como un probable polinizador de Passiflora. Brenesia., (21), 455-464.
  • Johnson, L.K. (1983). Brentus anchorago. In: Janzen, D. H. Costa Rican natural history. University of Chicago Press.
  • Lobo, J. A., Quesada, M., Stoner, K. E., Fuchs, E. J., Herrerías-Diego, Y., Rojas, J., & Saborío, G. (2003). Factors affecting phenological patterns of bombacaceous trees in seasonal forests in Costa Rica and Mexico. American Journal of Botany, 90(7), 1054-1063.
  • Machado, J. L., & Tyree, M. T. (1994). Patterns of hydraulic architecture and water relations of two tropical canopy trees with contrasting leaf phenologies: Ochroma pyramidale and Pseudobombax septenatum. Tree physiology, 14(3), 219-240.
  • Quesada-Quesada F.J., Jimenez-Madrigal Q. Zamora-Villalobos N., Aguilar-Fernandez R., Gonzalez-Ramirez J. (1997). Arboles de la Península de Osa.
  • Smith, A. R., Lope Quintero, I. J., Moreno Patino, J. E., Roubik, D. W., & Wcislo, W. T. (2012). Pollen use by Megalopta sweat bees in relation to resource availability in a tropical forest. Ecological Entomology, 37(4), 309-317.
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