Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Cauliflory, how we love you

Theobroma Cacao is a cauliflorous tree, one of a family of mostly tropical flowering trees whose flowers and fruit spring directly from the trunk or branch, rather than the usual shoots, branching points or new growth. Cauliflorous trees tend to flower profusely, and periodically one tree in a Cacao orchard will get stuck in a period of "wild flower", in which it continuously flowers without producing fruit. Here's one we saw recently in this condition:

Strange, huh? So just how did this evolutionary pathway get started, anyway? Well, in T. Cacao's case, the tree is dependent on fruit-eating animals (frugivores) to distribute its seed, as Cacao pods will not drop on their own when ripe. That being the case, it's in the tree's interest to make sure that fruit is readily accessible from low elevations, and cauliflory is a good strategy for achieving that goal.

There are a few other cauliflorous trees that you might know as well, including: Jackfruit, Papaya, Breadfruit, and Carob.

Check here for some additional really strange cauliflorous trees and other intriguing info on the subject.


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