Saturday, May 28, 2011

White, Black, Yellow: the Sapotes of Mexico

These three subtropical fruits are delicious, sweet, juicy, rare, genuinely Mexican and very little known, three fruits that in time will surely come to be marketed worldwide to become ever faster communications, as one of the limitations for transport is the lack of consistency of ripe fruit. Belong to three different botanical families. The black sapote, Diospyros digyna, belongs to the Ebenaceae family. The Yellow Sapote, Pouteria campechiana is a Sapotaceae. And the White Zapote, Casimiroa edulis, is part of the Rutaceae family.


The fruits of black sapote have the typical form and structure of Ebenaceae. At a distance could be confused with the Asian persimmon fruits. The surprise comes from the middle to one of its fruits. The pulp in the optimal stage of maturity is nearly black, shining like jet and creamy. Remember the chocolate mousse.

 Its maturation is very fast as a few hours hard and white pulp of immature fruit softens and darkens. His little consistency is precisely one of the obstacles to their market outside of Mexico. Come to recognize the right time to harvest the fruits ripen on the very day they arrive at the consumer market is one of the challenges to overcome.

In this image of three ripe fruit cut in half in various stages of maturation can be seen as the flesh darkens, the most mature on the right.

Enlarging the picture with a double click is better appreciated the creamy texture of the flesh of a shiny jet black color very similar to chocolate mousse. Its flavor is very sweet and reminiscent of burnt sugar fund an egg custard with a touch of honey. We can eat a teaspoon. In the center is three to five seeds. When a tree is dioecious there are male and female feet. As with the persimmons grown trees which are all female, without pollinating the fruits of black sapote mature parthenocarpicaly, presenting in its interior several empty seeds aborted.

The fruits that have been pollinated produce bright brown seeds should be sown immediately because they quickly lose their ability to germinate.

Planted about 20 to 25 ° C germinate within a few days.

Some 14 months later the black sapote previous photo measures approximately 70 cms. The Mediterranean climate without frost is very suitable for cultivation. Can thrive without problems in all areas where citrus and persimmons.


The yellow sapote lives up to its name. For me it is one of the most delicious fruits of Mexico. No need to peel. His skin is very thin and can eat by biting. The center has several elongated seeds dark brown, which quickly lose their ability to germinate, so it should be sown immediately. Its scientific name Pouteria campechiana refers to the Campeche region of Mexico where the fruit originates.

Young yellow sapote of three years old grown on a citrus orchard in Majorca. Tube is drip irrigation. To be able to withstand the hot and dry summer of Mallorca needs irrigation weekly. It also appreciates the contribution of well rotted manure of horse, cow or sheep.

The leaves are light green lanceolate with the distal part wider than the proximal. Yellow sapote is more chilly than black Zapote. If the winter temperature drops to -1 or -2 degrees C, the leaves will burn slightly more exposed. Then at the end of spring regrowth without problems.


The white sapote is perhaps one of the most cultivated sapotes outside Mexico. It is not difficult to find for sale in Spanish nurseries, especially in Andalusia, across the Levant region and the Balearic Islands. A Santander´s farmer told me that in Cantabria coast grows well and gives high yields. Is perhaps the least chilly of three Mexican sapotes. His strategy to withstand winter frosts is to behave as deciduous. Thus in the colder months it loses its leaves and wait until temperatures rise in spring. On the coast of Mallorca, if no frost, white sapote behaves like evergreen and keeps its leaves in winter.

White sapote fine specimen 12 years old and about 5 feet grown in a citrus orchard in Majorca. Each year produces a large crop of fruit that will mature over several months. It is a seedless variety.

If winter is mild with temperatures above 5 º C in late January emerges forcefully with beautiful leaves of a deep red color.

 A month later, in February, blooms profusely. The flowers are small and grouped in clusters.

Detail of a flower of white sapote the typical structure of the Rutaceae, much like the flowers of citrus and rue plant.

White sapote trunk bark covered with typical white spots. The specimen has been grafted. It follows by the narrowing in the upper trunk that corresponds to the point of the graft.

Typical white sapote bark of a gray-green cover of white spots.

White sapote ripe fruit that crack when they reach full maturity. To find out if they are mature should be tightened with fingers, because its green color remains unchanged. One of the problems of these fruits are falling from the tree as they mature. It is best to collect them when the pulp is still hard. They tend to mature a few days.

The pulp has a delicious bright white. It is very juicy and overly sweet. The fruit is a seedless cultivar. We will see the aborted seeds in the fruit of the top of the photo. Viable seeds of wild trees are large and elongated. They are much more perishable than those of yellow and black sapote. If we are not allowed to dry after removing them from the fruits and planted immediately to a temperature above 20 º C in less than a week germinate. It is a very fast growing tree.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tajinaste rojo, the blood of Teide

Plants seem otherworldly, primitive, antediluvian, aliens, strange, fingers of blood coming out of the lava and pointing toward the sun. Excited and impressed to see them for the first time in full bloom. The memory left is indelible in the mind, never to be forgotten. They are a great spectacle of nature, lush plants like giants compared to other plants that grow in the huge crater, almost all at ground level. They are not afraid of anything, not the wind, or drought, or the hot midday sun, or cold alpine night. Proud to stand up to the sky sometimes exceed three meters in height. They are the red Tajinastes of Teide, the blood of Teide, the pride of Tenerife. 

Its scientific name, Echium wildpretii subsp. wildpretii, was given by British botanists Pearson and Hook in honor of Hermann Wildpret Swiss horticulturist who lived in La Orotava in the nineteenth century. Belongs to the family Boraginaceae. It grows on the slopes of the crater of Mount Teide in full sun, on the gravel and volcanic rocks at 2,000 feet. (I recommend to enlarge the pictures with a double click to appreciate its spectacular beauty.) 

The first time I saw five years ago and struck me. They came to me as a great gift of nature, an explosion of beauty in its purest form. My heart pounded and my eyes watered at the sight great. I do not practice any religion, but I could not help me to come to mind the first phrase of a religious oration in Latin that in my childhood I learned to be an altar boy: GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO, ie, Glory to God in the highest. Thank you creative force, god almighty, cosmic energy, supreme being, what are you, thank you for allowing me to see this wonder of nature. My long journey from the distant Mediterranean has been worthwhile. 

Seeing these impressive herbs we can imagine what must have felt the first generations of Guanches when newcomers from the African coast with its original Berber culture, first saw the red tajinastes. It is possible they worshiped them as gods, the gods of Teide that, when were angry, they roaring and spitting fire and, when they were happy, they poked his red fingers through the lava for men to worship them and offer them blood sacrifices. 

Always starts flowering around May 10 and reaches its peak a week later and lasted until early June. Some years, early or delayed a few days as did more or less cold in winter. Other crater plants flower at the same time as Descurainia bourgaeana with its magnificent yellow flowers. Both are endemic to the subalpine zone of the Cañadas del Teide.

Its seeds carried by wind and water germinate on the volcanic soil rich in mineral nutrients and lead to a small plant in a rosette of leaves linear-lanceolate, very hairy, adapted to cold alpine scorching heat and drought . For several years the rosette grows larger and accumulating nutrients and water in their roots.

When the red tajinaste reaches maturity its central bud grows up and produces a long inflorescence with flower buds covered by leaves more and more smaller.

The red Tajinastes were nearly extinct by the intense pressure of livestock grazing by the Cañadas del Teide and eat the rosettes of tender leaves. The Canary Islands Government had to ban livestock grazing around the Teide National Park and since then the species has recovered to the point that it is not included in the Catalogue of Species of Canarian Endangered Flora. 

Echium wildpretii species has two subspecies, the intensely red flowers of Tenerife, Echium wildpretii subsp. wildpretii and subspecies endemic to the island of La Palma of pink flowers, Echium wildpretii subsp. trichosiphon called Pink Tajinaste, very scarce and protected by law, included in the Catalog of Canarian Protected Species. 

This photograph was taken on May 6. Here are the flower buds about to open. Like leaves, the buds are covered by trichomes as small needles that are stuck into the skin when touched. The trichomes of the leaves are less sharp. 

And finally the miracle of flowering. First open the buds facing the East. This photograph was taken on May 11. 

Also on 11 May, on a hillside sheltered from cold north wind, I found this magnificent and completely blossomed, surrounded by several endemic plants of the crucifer, Erysimum scoparium, called Alheli of Teide.

The first flowers of Red Tajinaste are extraordinary. Her blue stamens deep red highlights on the petals. 

Honeybees foraging on the abundant nectar as crazed, intoxicated. His flight from flower to flower produces a strong buzz that breaks the silence of the crater. 

If you look at the inflorescence is observed that the flowers are opening drawing an upward spiral. After flowering in summer mature seeds are dispersed by the slopes of the crater and wait patiently for the first autumn rains to germinate.

And like all living things reach the end, death. The proud inflorescence of about three meters dries and the wind falls down the corpse to the ground. It is a sad reminder of what once was one of the most beautiful plants of Tenerife. 

Even dead, red tajinaste is showing us the beauty of the structure of its inflorescence. Each flower leaves a mark on the dry bark. 

A close up allows us to appreciate the design in the form of crocodile skin. Nature never ceases to amaze. 

A new generation of red Tajinastes grows at the foot of the corpse of its mother. I gotta go. Other Tenerife wonderful plants waiting for me. I take a great treasure photo on my camera, the best of memories. Before getting into the car I turn around and I promise this little plant that one day back to admire the beauty of their children or their grandsons. And back emotion my heart will accelerate as the massacred Guanches were thrilled at what they believed gods emerged from the lava. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Slug-Snail and Hymenophyllum tunbrigense, two links in evolution

I woke up early to go walking along the Pijaral Trail in the Parque Rural de Anaga, in the far north of the island of Tenerife, which leads to the impressive Roque de Anambro. My greatest motivation to tour it was to find and see for the first time in my life one of the most primitive ferns Planet, Hymenophyllum tunbrigense. This tiny and transparent fern, halfway between a moss and fern, was for me an unresolved for many years.

The trail was wet, slippery and gloom, completely covered by the thick canopy of endemic tree heather, Erica platycodon, which let in only a small ray of light. I had the feeling of walking through a tunnel plant. It was cold and the air was saturated with moisture, because the entire park was covered by a thick fog in continuous movement that rose rapidly from the sea, collided with the tops of the trees and shrubs of laurel forest that covers the entire Massif Anaga, was entering through the leaves and branches and their passage was spray impregnated with everything he touched. And condensed into fresh water from a high purity, falling drop by drop upon the volcanic soil to form small ponds and a creek. I was fully immersed in Macaronesian horizontal rain phenomenon.

Not to slip and dodge the puddles was looking under his feet, which prevented me from noticing the stems of heather, Hymenophyllum preferred habitat. Soon afterwards I felt slightly dizzy as my eyes went from my feet to the trunks of each side and again to my feet, hundreds of times, all spiced by high humidity, low light and the cold wind that I was in the left side of the face. In one of my steps I had to give a little jump to avoid stepping on a black critters. I bent down to see them better and my surprise was great. Hybrids appeared to slug and snail, ie slugs with a snail shell under the skin of his abdomen. Uauuuu, interesting little creatures, I thought. And of course I took my camera to take them as souvenirs.

In the Visitor Center Parque Rural de Anaga I told one of the technicians on this slug-snail and immediately he knew I was talking about the endemic Plutonia lamarckii. They even have a large poster of endemic invertebrates where it leaves a picture of this little animal. Double click on the photo for appreciate better the details.

 The Plutonia lamarckii is a link in evolution, an intermediate step between a slug and a snail, which has been left half way and continues unchanged for millions of years. You may need a few million more years to take the next step and become a spiral outer shell. Certainly remains unchanged simply because it feels very comfortable as it is, is perfectly adapted to the laurel forests and has no need to change your body. Any environmental circumstance forces him at all. Living things evolve only forced by changes in their habitat. This is the famous Darwinian principle: Either you adapt or you die and disappear from the face of the Earth. The habitat of the snail-shell Canary has not changed in millions of years. No need to evolve. And is perfectly adapted to its environment.

As it grows, the shell that protects your digestive system and other vital organs, the skin of the abdomen begins to crumble, revealing part of the calcium carbonate shell.

 In this other Plutonia lamarckii is best seen spiraling shell. Its tentacles and eyes are typically snail. View and photograph this evolutionary link I am delighted, as much as the tiny ferns that I expected a few meters above the moss that covered an old heather.

 Several fronds of about 3 or 4 inches of Hymenophyllum tunbrigense. Is striking transparency. It seems that the fern and moss have evolved together, as all copies of Hymenophyllum moss growing on it, which is not what is left but a more sparse, that lives attached to the bark of Erica platycodon. This fern can live on dripping rocks and bleak with the condition that it be lined with moss symbiont.

His name is composed of two Greek words together: Hymen = hymen membrane and phyllon = leaf, or plant with thin leaves as hymen membrane and a Latinized English word, tunbrigense, ie, Tunbridge Wells, City Kent, southeast England, for being the place where it was first described.

Hymenophyllum tunbrigense colony, sometimes consisting of hundreds of fronds, all united by a long, branched rhizome that grows very thin layer embedded in moss, glued to turn on the cracked bark of tree heather. The condensed water on the tops of the trees down the bark, moisten the moss layer which acts like a sponge and so the rhizome of Hymenophyllum obtained permanent moisture it needs.

Some sori crowded fronds produce spores. This photo shows the moisture soaks the frond. The ferns, like the slug, snail, is another intermediate link in evolution. His appearance, size and transparency in him little different from a moss, such as Fissidens asplenioides, with which is very similar. They live in very damp and gloomy.

Several fronds of the moss Fissidens asplenioides photographed in a very dark dripping rock on the island of Faial in the Azores Archipelago. It is surprising resemblance to the Hymenophyllum tunbrigense.

When Hymenophyllum spores are mature, the leaflets of the sori are opened and the wind helped disperse. If they are lucky and fall on the moss symbiont, whether covering the bark of a dripping rock heather, germinate and re-start their life cycle.

 Striking and majestic Roque de Anambro of 815 m. high at the top of the trail along the Pijaral. One has the impression of looking at a giant. His vision is not suitable for rapid, since at this point the trail is very narrow, to the left is a deep vertical cliff that ends in the sea, all of it covered by trees of laurel and right a thick forest with a steep slope. It's like balancing on a knife edge of rock, whose tip is the Roque. His image is an unforgetable memory.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Viola anagae, sky drops Anaga Rural Parc

So I call her, because that was my first impression upon seeing their flowers on a vivid and brilliant blue sky covering the floor of the great laurel forest of Anaga Rural Park, jealously preserved by Tenerife as a relic of primeval rainforest subtropical million years ago covered all the islands of Macaronesia, the Mediterranean and Atlantic coast of Africa over Ecuador, the whole Iberian Peninsula, the southernmost half of France, the south coast of Britain and western Mediterranean islands . It is endemic to Tenerife and only grows in the laurel of Anaga.

Viola anagae in the underbrush of the forest road that climbs from the Mirador del Cabezo del Tejo to the impressive Roque de Anambro. This small botanical treasure is protected by law. Included in the list of plants susceptible to habitat disturbance of the Endangered Species List as the Canary Islands and vulnerable plant on the Red List of Spanish Vascular Flora.

Enlarging the picture with a double click will appreciate better the details of this beautiful Anaga violet a bright blue color with violet tints.

Some flowers are clearer with the ends of the petals almost white.

A characteristic feature of this endemic species toTenerife is the spur of a pure white color on the back of the flower. If you look the flowers seem to satellite dishes directed toward the light.

Anaga violet is a perennial plant with long stoloniferous shoots that take root as they touch the ground. Thus a single plant will cover a large area of ​​underbrush.

And to finish the detail of the leaves are suborbicular like little green hearts with jagged edge and the rear with two atria close together, sometimes overlapping. The fruits are glabrous capsules.