Images of dry tropical
Mexico is one of
the most diverse countries on earth. Most of tropical Mexico is seasonally
dry, and the wildly rugged and varied topography has led to a fantastically
colorful and striking biota. Click on a thumbnail for a larger image:
Plants (and a fungus)
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
8. 9. 10. For more images of Mexico, head on
to the Mexico 2 Page. Images from Mexico are
also on the Beaucarnea Page, the
Cactus Family Page , the Legume Family Page, and the Pineapple Family Page.
1. The bark of the Cuachalalà
Tree (Amphipterygium adstringens ) in the family Julianiaceae is
used for a variety of medicinal purposses. The corky, thorn-like projections
on the tree trunk are made into small carvings. This tree was photographed
on the Puebla- Oaxaca border.
- 2. This Giant Barrel Cactus
(Echinocactus platyacanthus) is about 2 meters tall! The range
of this species straddles the Tropic of Cancer. More images of cacti are
on the Cactus Page.
- 3. Epiphytes (plants that
grow on other plants without parasitizing them) are not restricted to
the rainforest. This tank bromeliad in the genus Tillandsia (Bromeliaceae
) is growing on the trunk of a cactus, Cephalocereus tetetzo (
Cactaceae) in southern Puebla. The Bromeliaceae and the
Cactaceae are the two largest families that are restricted to the New
World. To see more images of bromeliads from Mexican tropical dry habitats,
see the Bromeliad Page.
- 4. This Clathrus
fungus was growing on the forest floor in the northern Yucatàn
- 5. The genus Bursera (Burseraceae)
reaches its peak of diversity in the tropical dry forests of
central Mexico. The genus consists of about 100 species and ranges from
southern California to northwestern South America, but over 60 of
these species are concentrated in the Balsas River basin of central Mexico!
They are often wonderfully aromatic and one section of the genus is characterized
by metallic, peeling bark.
- 6. The cactus in this picture
from southern Puebla is Cephalocereus columna-trajani. Like the
Column of Trajan in Rome, Cephalocereus columna-trajani is tall,
white, and has no branches. It's surreal and almost eerie to see hillsides
covered with these huge plants, each one with its tip pointed slightly
southward like ranks of giant, ghostly people all looking in the same
direction. The shrub with magenta flowers is Morkillia in the
- 7. Cycads are very old plants
that were around during the time of the dinosaurs, long before flowering
plants existed. Mexico has one of the highest concentrations of cycads
of any country on earth. This cycad, Dioon edule, growing on
sharp, fluted limestone was photographed close to the Tropic of Cancer
in the state of Tamaulipas.
- 8. The weird bottle tree
Fouquieria purpusii (Fouquieriaceae) is only found in few
localities in central Mexican dry forest. It is a relative of the ocotillo
of the southwestern US.
- 9. The orange structures
covered with a checkerboard pattern in this photo are the flowering and
fruiting structures of an underground parasite Bdallophyton in
the family Rafflesiaceae. Most of the year, the plant is entirely underground,
where it gets all of its nutrients by stealing them from the roots of
other plants. Bdallophytonare usually only seen when they poke their
flowers above ground. Most members of Rafflesiaceae have solitary flowers,
but in Bdallophyton they are in dense spikes.
- 10. Many plants in tropical
dry forest flower during the dry season, such as this Ceiba parvifolia (Bombacaceae)
in southern Puebla.
1. 2. 3. 4.
more images... lakes, and some uses
for the good soils of tropical dry forest.
- 1. and 2. In contrast to
tropical wet forests, which experience more or less even precipitation
throughout the year, tropical dry habitats have pronounced dry seasons,
usually one but sometimes two. Photo 1. shows the Tule River Gorge in
Hidalgo in the wet season. Photo 2. shows the same gorge in the dry season.
- 3. Part of the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan
Valley in southern Puebla in the dry season.
- 4. The Tehuacan-Cuicatlan
Valley in southern Puebla in the wet season. The Frangipani plant in the
genus Plumeria of the Oleander Family (Apocynaceae) is often associated
with Hawaiian floral necklaces. However, Plumeria
is native to Mexican and Central America dry forests. A PlumeriaCephalocereus
columna-trajani. plant can be seen in this photo from northern
Oaxaca just to the right of center in front of the stems of the cactus
- 5. Many dry tropical areas
are wild, strange- looking places. To me, one of the strangest combinations
is the unbranched columnar cactus Cephalocereus columna-trajani
(the cactus in the left foreground) occurring with a member of the Century
Plant Family (Agavaceae) Beaucarnea gracilis , the fat-trunked
tree with shaving brush-like tufts of leaves on skinny stems that
can be seen in the middle of the photo. Other plants in this photo are
Century Plants (Agave ), and Barrel Cacti (Echinocactus
). To see more, visit the Beaucarnea
- 6. The tropical dry forest
scenery of southern Puebla is hard to beat. The sinuous tree on the left
is the very aromatic species Bursera morelensis (Burseraceae).
From the heat of the dry forest, the ever-snowy peak of Popocatépetl
can be seen in the distance on the right.
- 7. The Valley of Jaumave
in the state of Tamaulipas is spectacular for the proximity of very different
habitata. This photo was taken from the floor of the valley, which is
tropical or subtropical dry scrub. The top of the mountains that separate
the valley from the Gulf of Mexico, seen here shrouded in clouds, support
dripping cloud forest, with tree ferns, moss, and abundant epiphytes.
For more images of
Mexico, head on to the Mexico 2 Page. Images
from Mexico are also on the Beaucarnea Page,
the Cactus Family Page , the Legume Family Page, and the
Pineapple Family Page
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de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de
Circuito Exterior s/n, Ciudad Universitaria
Copilco, Coyoacán A. P. 70-367
C. P. 04510, México, D. F.
55 5622-9127 fon (52) 55 5555-1760 fax
material © 2002 Mark E Olson except Ifaty baobas and Delonix
which are © 1999 Sylvain G Razafimandimbison
and Itremo region which is ©1999 Simon T Malcomber