The tea mangrove is found from Nicaragua to Colombia and is most common on the pacific coast in mangals (Zuchowski & Forsyth 2007). Some isolated groups are found on the Atlantic coasts of Nicaragua, Panama, and Colombia, but are very rare (Smith 2004). Trees grow in the intertidal zone, mostly sheltered by protected beaches or estuarine banks (Tomlinson 1986). They prefer more elevated areas and are more sensitive to soil salinity than other mangrove species, inhabiting only soils with less than 37% salt concentrations (Smith 2004, Jimenez 1984).
These mangroves have swollen buttress roots that stand above the mud in low tide, and contain lenticels that aid in aeration (Simberloff 1983). These thick roots grow in succession, new roots growing above earlier roots (Tomlinson 1986). Trees can be up to 20 meters tall, and have thick, rounded, simple, alternate fibrous leaves (Zuchowski & Forsyth 2007). The leaves may contain three sets of glands along the margin and possibly on the surface of the sepals, but are not always present. The leaf glands may be used for salt excretion, and the sepal glands as extra floral nectaries that may attract insects (Smith 2004).
The white flowers are large and showy, with 5 petals up to 6 centimeters long, and have two large, pink-green bracts, which are located below the flower (Zuchowski & Forsyth 2007). Flowering occurs from winter to early spring and fruiting peaks in late fall (October) (Tomlinson 1986). Hummingbirds and insects sometimes visit flowers, but pollination is mostly unstudied and the actual pollinators might be nocturnal (Zuchowski & Forsyth 2007).
Fruits are heavy and bulb-shaped with a large point at the bottom (Simberloff 1983). They have a hard brown outer covering (exocarp) and a red/brown fleshy interior layer (mesocarp) (Tomlinson 1986). Embryos of this species are cryptoviviparous, meaning the embryo germinates inside the seed while it is still attached to the three. The embryo swells, breaking the seed coat but does not break out of the hard fruit until later (Tomlinson 1986). Fruits are dispersed by falling into the water, pointy side down, and can float before releasing seeds. The seeds germinate rapidly after they fall, swelling after a few hours, meaning the fruits cannot float for very long or for long distances (Smith 2004). The embryos quickly produce roots out of the hard exocarp, extending into the mud of shallow water (Tomlinson, 1986).
Azteca ants have a nonobligatory association with Pelliciera. These ants protect the plant from herbivorous insects and the plant provides the ants with shelter, crevices to forage, and nectar from extra floral nectaries. The association, however, does not occur through the entire geographic range of the plant (Tomlinson 1986). These ants tend to select trees that have been damaged by storms or other insects (Smith 2004).
The area of occupancy for this species is estimated to be between 500 km and 2,000 km.
Rio Negro-Rio San Sun Mangroves Habitat
This taxon occurs in the Rio Negro-Rio San Sun mangroves, which consists of a disjunctive coastal ecoregion in parts of Costa Rica, extending to the north slightly into Nicaragua and south marginally into Panama. Furthermore, this species is not necessarily restricted to this ecoregion. Mangroves are sparse in this ecoregion, and are chiefly found in estuarine lagoons and small patches at river mouths growing in association with certain freshwater palm species such as the Yolillo Palm (Raphia taedigera), which taxon has some saline soil tolerance, and is deemed a basic element of the mangrove forest here. These mangrove communities are also part of a mosaic of several habitats that include mixed rainforest, wooded swamps, coastal wetlands, estuarine lagoons, sand backshores and beaches, sea-grasses, and coral reefs.
The paucity of mangroves here is a result of the robust influx of freshwater to the coastline ocean zone of this ecoregion. Among the highest rates of rainfall in the world, this ecoregion receives over six metres (m) a year at the Nicaragua/ Costa Rica national border. Peak rainfall occurs in the warmest months, usually between May and September. A relatively dry season occurs from January to April, which months coincides with stronger tradewinds. Tides are semi-diurnal and have a range of less than one half metre.
Mangroves play an important role in trapping sediments from land that are detrimental to the development of both coral reefs and sea grasses that are associated with them. Mangrove species including Rhizopora mangle, Avicennia germinans, Laguncularia racemosa, Conocarpus erecta and R. harrisonii grow alone the salinity gradient in appropriate areas. Uncommon occurrences of Pelliciera rhizophorae and other plant species associated with mangroves include Leather ferns Acrostichum spp., which also invade cut-over mangrove stands and provide some protection against erosion. In this particular ecoregion, the mangroves are associated with the indicator species, freshwater palm, Raphia taedigera. Other mangrove associated species are Guiana-chestnut ( Pachira aquatica) and Dragonsblood Tree (Pterocarpus officinalis).
Reptiles include the Basilisk Lizard (Basiliscus basiliscus), Caiman (Caiman crocodilus), Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas), Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and Green Iguana (Iguana iguana). The beaches along the coast within this ecoregion near Tortuguero are some of the most important for nesting green turtles. The offshore seagrass beds, which are among the most extensive in the world, are a source of food and refuge for the endangered Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). Several species of frogs of the family Dendrobatidae are found in this mangrove ecoregion as well other anuran species and some endemic salamander taxa.
Mammal species found in this highly diverse ecoregion include: Lowland Paca (Agouti paca), primates such as Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), Geoffrey's Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), White-faced Capuchin (Cebus capucinus), Brown-throated Sloth (Bradypus variegatus), Silky Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus) and Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcintus). Also found in this ecoregion are carnivores such as Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Central American Otter (Lutra annectens), Jaguar (Panthera onca), Northern Racooon (Procyoon lotor), and Crab-eating Racoon (P. cancrivorus).
Moist Pacific Coast Mangroves Habitat
This taxon occurs in the Moist Pacific Coast mangroves, an ecoregion along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica with a considerable number of embayments that provide shelter from wind and waves, thus favouring mangrove establishment. Tidal fluctuations also directly influence the mangrove ecosystem health in this zone. The Moist Pacific Coast mangroves ecoregion has a mean tidal amplitude of three and one half metres,
Many of the streams and rivers, which help create this mangrove ecoregion, flow down from the Talamanca Mountain Range. Because of the resulting high mountain sediment loading, coral reefs are sparse along the Pacific coastal zone of Central America, and thus reef zones are chiefly found offshore near islands. In this region, coral reefs are associated with the mangroves at the Isla del Caño Biological Reserve, seventeen kilometres from the mainland coast near the Térraba-Sierpe Mangrove Reserve. The Térraba-Sierpe, found at the mouths of the Térraba and Sierpe Rivers, is considered a wetland of international importance.
Because of high moisture availability, the salinity gradient is more moderate than in the more northern ecoregion such as the Southern dry Pacific Coast ecoregion. Resulting mangrove vegetation is mixed with that of marshland species such as Dragonsblood Tree (Pterocarpus officinalis), Campnosperma panamensis, Guinea Bactris (Bactris guineensis), and is adjacent to Yolillo Palm (Raphia taedigera) swamp forest, which provides shelter for White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and Mantled Howler Monkeys (Alouatta palliata). Mangrove tree and shrub taxa include Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), Mangle Caballero (R. harrisonii) R. racemosa (up to 45 metres in canopy height), Black Mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and Mangle Salado (A. bicolor), a mangrove tree restricted to the Pacific coastline of Mesoamerica.
Two endemic birds listed by IUCN as threatened in conservation status are found in the mangroves of this ecoregion, one being the Mangrove Hummingbird (Amazilia boucardi EN), whose favourite flower is the Tea Mangrove (Pelliciera rhizophorae), the sole mangrove plant pollinated by a vertebrate. Another endemic avain species to the ecoregion is the Yellow-billed Cotinga (Carpodectes antoniae EN). Other birds clearly associated with the mangrove habitat include Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja), Gray-necked Wood Rail (Aramides cajanea), Rufous-necked Wood Rail (A. axillaris), Mangrove Black-hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus subtilis),Striated Heron (Butorides striata), Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata), Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius), American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus), Amazon Kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona), Mangrove Cuckoo (Coccyzus minor), Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia), and Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus VU) among other avian taxa.
Mammals although not as numerous as birds, include species such as the Lowland Paca (Agouti paca), Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), White-throated Capuchin (Cebus capucinus), Silky Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus), Central American Otter (Lontra longicaudis annectens), White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), feeds on leaves within A. bicolor and L. racemosa forests. Two raccoons: Northern Raccoon (Procyon lotor) and Crab-eating Raccoon (P. cancrivorus) can be found, both on the ground and in the canopy consuming crabs and mollusks. The Mexican Collared Anteater (Tamandua mexicana) is also found in the Moist Pacific Coast mangroves.
There are a number of amphibians in the ecoregion, including the anuran taxa: Almirante Robber Frog (Craugastor talamancae); Chiriqui Glass Frog (Cochranella pulverata); Forrer's Grass Frog (Lithobates forreri), who is found along the Pacific versant, and is at the southern limit of its range in this ecoregion. Example salamanders found in the ecoregion are the Colombian Worm Salamander (Oedipina parvipes) and the Gamboa Worm Salamander (Oedipina complex), a lowland organism that is found in the northern end of its range in the ecoregion. Reptiles including the Common Basilisk Lizard (Basiliscus basiliscus), Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor), American Crocodile (Crocodilus acutus), Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus), Black Spiny-tailed Iguana (Ctenosaura similis) and Common Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) thrive in this mangrove ecoregion.
Habitat and Ecology
Pelliciera provides the primary habitat for the mangrove hummingbird (Amazonina boucardi), which is listed as Endangered (EN) on the Red List of Threatened Species.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Pelliciera rhizophorae
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Pelliciera rhizophorae
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
There are also less than ten patchy, relict populations remaining on the Pacific coasts of Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador (reviews in Jimenez 1984, Fuchs 1970). On the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, this species is only found at Tamarindo and Puntarenas, within an estimated distribution of two hectares (Ellison and Farnsworth pers. comm.).
Recent genetic work suggests that populations of Pelliciera are highly differentiated (high variation among populations): Castillo-Cardenas et al. (2005). N. Duke (unpublished, cited in Duke and Watkinson 2002) has reported albino propagules of P. rhizophorae, a phenomenon often associated with pollution and leading to low viability.
All mangrove ecosystems occur within mean sea level and high tidal elevations, and have distinct species zonations that are controlled by the elevation of the substrate relative to mean sea level. This is because of associated variation in frequency of elevation, salinity and wave action (Duke et al. 1998). With rise in sea-level, the habitat requirements of each species will be disrupted, and species zones will suffer mortality at their present locations and re-establish at higher elevations in areas that were previously landward zones (Ellison 2005). If sea-level rise is a continued trend over this century, then there will be continued mortality and re-establishment of species zones. However, species that are easily dispersed and fast growing/fast producing will cope better than those which are slower growing and slower to reproduce.
In addition, mangrove area is declining globally due to a number of localized threats. The main threat is habitat destruction and removal of mangrove areas. Reasons for removal include cleared for shrimp farms, agriculture, fish ponds, rice production and salt pans, and for the development of urban and industrial areas, road construction, coconut plantations, ports, airports, and tourist resorts. Other threats include pollution from sewage effluents, solid wastes, siltation, oil, and agricultural and urban runoff. Climate change is also thought to be a threat, particularly at the edges of a species range. Natural threats include cyclones, hurricane and tsunamis.
Recommended research for this species would be to search for additional populations on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Central America. Continued monitoring and research is recommended, as well as the inclusion of mangrove areas in marine and coastal protected areas.
Pelliciera rhizophorae, known as the tea mangrove, is a less-common species of mangroves found along the Pacific coast from the Gulf of Nicoya in Costa Rica to the Esmeraldas River in Ecuador, as well as within stands located in Nicaragua, Panama, and Colombia. During eras such as the Cenozoic, the species was prevalent. The mangrove hummingbirds of Costa Rica live off the relatively large quantity of pollen produced by its prolific blooms. P. rhizophorae is the only species in the genus Pelliciera which was recognized as the only genus in the family Pellicieraceae.
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