Flora of Barro Colorado Island

Herrania purpurea

(Pitt.) R. E. Schult., Caldasia 2:333.1944

Theobroma purpurea Pitt.

Cacao cimarrón, Chocolatillo, Wild cacao

Shrub or small tree, to 5.5 (10) m tall; young stems and petioles densely stellate-pubescent. Leaves digitately compound, deciduous, to 80 cm long; stipules linear, to 5 cm long, caducous; petioles stout, to 40 cm long; petio­lules densely pubescent, 3-5 mm long; leaflets 5, narrowly obovate, acuminate, cuneate at base, stellate-pubescent on veins above and below and sparsely on surface below, entire or obscurely crenate, the terminal leaflet to 53 cm long and 19 cm wide, the lateral leaflets somewhat smaller; lateral veins in 10-15 pairs, usually ending in minute teeth on margins. Flowers borne on trunk, globu­lar in bud, all parts violet-purple to maroon, to 1.5 cm wide; calyx deeply trilobate, densely stellate-pubescent, the lobes broadly ovate, longer than petals or staminodia; petals 5, thick and deeply cucullate, papillate, the apex recurved, bearing a slender appendage ca 1 cm long, the inner surface with stout ridges; stamens (10) 15, in 5 groups of (2) 3 each, the staminal tube short, subtended by a densely pubescent disk; filaments short and stout, (2) 3 held within the cucullate petal; style ca 1.5 mm long, tubular, the upper edge sharply 5-lobed, glabrous; ovary 10-ribbed, densely stellate-pubescent with stinging tri­chomes; staminodia papillate, obovate, recurved over and obscuring petals (except for the erect appendage). Fruits orange at maturity, to 7.5 cm long and 4 cm wide, the ribs and pubescence of ovary persisting; seeds many, to about 1.5 cm long, each surrounded by a pulpy, white, sweet mesocarp. Croat 6791, 9281.

Occasional in both the young and old forests, locally common. Flowers mostly from December to February. The fruits mature mostly in the early rainy season (April to May), but have been seen in August and September.

The flower structure is strange. While the style is sunken between the staminodia, it is quite accessible. The anthers are concealed so well, however, that it would be interesting to see what organism effects pollination.

Costa Rica and Panama. In Panama, a characteristic tree species of tropical moist forest (Holdridge & Budow­ski, 1956); known from tropical moist forest in the Canal Zone, Bocas del Toro, San Blas, and Darien, from pre­montane wet forest in Chiriqui, and from tropical wet forest in Colón and Darien.

See Fig. 378.

Photos from STRI Digital Archive

  • Herrania purpurea fruit
  • Herrania purpurea seed-dry
  • Herrania purpurea seed-wet
  • Herrania purpurea seed-wet
  • Herrania purpurea seed-wet cluster
  • Herrania purpurea
  • Herrania purpurea
  • Herrania purpurea
  • Herrania purpurea
  • Herrania purpurea Leaf