Trees, Shrubs, and Palms of Panama

Trees, Shrubs, and Palms of Panama

Sterculia apetala (Jacq.) H. Karst.

Family: Malvaceae

Common names: the Panamá tree

Photo: R. Pérez

Description: A tall tree with a large, straight trunk and plant buttresses. Bark is smooth, yellowish. Leaves are large, with five pointed lobes, alternate; juvenile leaves are especially very large.

photos: fruit... trunk... root... leaf-fruit... leaf-fruit... fruit... tree form... flower... leaf-flower... tree form... fruit... leaf-flower... seedling...

drawings: all parts...

Drawing: R. Pérez

Flowers and fruits: Flowers are produced ___, are whitish with purple spots. Although they technically do not have petals, the sepals look like petals. Fruits____

Distribution: Widespread on the Pacific half of the Canal area, not the Caribbean slope. Occurs widely in secondary forest, old-growth forest, and in residential areas. There are many large trees in Panama City, often near the ocean, and it occurs in all forests from Panama City to Barro Colorado and Soberania. But it's never particularly abundant anywhere, and juveniles are restricted to forest clearings, not seen often in open areas.

How to recognize: Juvenile leaves are clearly lobed, and very large, can be mistaken for Cecropia, or especially Pourouma bicolor. Leaves of Pourouma and Sterculia have essentially the same shape, but the venation and color of the underside are quite different. Check also leaves of ochrpy balsa and cavapl cuipo, both of which are large and slightly lobed or pointed.

Uses: The wood has good quality, and is used for ___. The Panamá is sometimes planted as an ornamental, or in plantation.