Flora of Barro Colorado Island

Gustavia superba

(H.B.K.) Berg, Linnaea 27:444.1856

Membrillo, Membrillo hembra

Trees, mostly 6-10 (15) m tall; trunks usually less than 20 cm dbh, branching infrequently; wood moderately hard. Leaves alternate, crowded at ends of stout branches; petioles very short or to 11 cm long on juveniles; blades elliptic-oblanceolate, abruptly acuminate, narrowly cune­ate and more or less decurrent onto petiole, mostly to 1 m or more long and 25 cm wide, glabrous, coarsely toothed. Corymb short, beneath leaves; pedicels stout, to ca 8 cm long, minutely puberulent; flowers mostly to 12 cm diam; hypanthium turbinate, to 2.5 cm wide; calyx obscure; petals 6-12, unequal, ± spatulate, oblong, to 7 cm long and 3.5 cm wide, white to cream or spotted with lavender, especially on outside; stamens many, ca 4 cm long, fused one-third their length into a yellowish ring; filaments fleshy, arched inward, often tinged with laven­der above, constricted just below anther; stigma short-­conical. Pyxidia     depressed-globose, 7-10 cm broad, to ca 8 cm long, indehiscent, baccate, with a prominent raised ring at apex, green or pale yellow to orange at maturity with irregular brown lenticels and minute longi­tudinal ribs, often with a foul odor at maturity; seeds few, fleshy, irregularly shaped, to ca 6 cm long. Croat 5095, 8812.

Abundant in the forest, most abundant in the younger forest. Flowers from March to June (sometimes from January). The fruits mature from June to August, some­times from April and especially in July; they are eaten by white-faced monkeys as early as April (Hladik & Hladik, 1969).

At anthesis the flowers have a sweet aroma, but they become foul-smelling like the fruit in age. Euglossine-­like bees have been observed making rapid and repeated visits to the flower. Either the bee enters the staminal tube or it ruffles rapidly through the stamens as if to shake pollen loose. Usually the bee enters the staminal tube and in every case entry was from the lower edge, which is V-shaped, owing to the inflexed stamens. The upper edge of the V-shaped opening through which the bee enters is directly over the stigma. Mori & Kallunki (1976) re­ported Gustavia superba to be self-compatible and ob­served the species being visited by various bees, including a species of Melipona (Apidae), various species of Trigona (Apidae), a species of Xylocopa (Xylocopidae), and a species of Halictidae. R. Foster (pers. comm.) suggests that bats may be more important in pollination of Gustavia and bees may be only incidental pollinators.

The species is easily confused with G. grandibracteata Croat & Mori, which is to be expected on the island. The key for this family gives the distinguishing characteristics. Woodson and Schery in the Flora of Panama (1958a) reported the range of G. superba to be as far south as Ecuador; they were confusing the species with G. angus­tifolia Benth., which occurs there.

Costa Rica to Colombia. In Panama, known from tropical moist forest in the Canal Zone (Atlantic slope), Panama, and Darién, from tropical dry forest in Panama (Taboga Island), from premontane moist forest in the Canal Zone and Panama, and from premontane wet forest in Coclé.

See Figs. 414 and 415.

Photos from STRI Digital Archive

  • Gustavia superba flower-bud
  • Gustavia superba flower
  • Gustavia superba flower
  • Gustavia superba fruit
  • Gustavia superba immature-fruit
  • Gustavia superba seed-dry
  • Gustavia superba seed-wet
  • Gustavia superba seed-wet