Cecropia

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About 25, see text

Cecropia is a genus of about 25 species of trees in the nettle family (Urticaceae). They are native to the tropical Americas, where they form one of the most recognisable components of the rainforest. The genus is named after Cecrops I, the mythical first king of Athens. A common local name is yarumo or yagrumo, or more specifically yagrumo hembra ("female yagrumo") to distinguish them from the similar-looking but unrelated Schefflera (which are called yagrumo macho, "male yagrumo"). In English, these trees are occasionally called pumpwoods (though this may also refer to C. schreberiana specifically) or simply cecropias.

In the past, they were commonly placed in a distinct family Cecropiaceae or in the mulberry family (Moraceae), but the modern Angiosperm Phylogeny Group system places the "cecropiacean" group in the Urticaceae.

The genus is easily identified by the large, circular, palmately lobed leaves, about 30–40 cm in diameter and deeply divided into 7-11 lobes.

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Ecology and uses

These tree are a characteristic feature of many American tropical rainforest ecosystems and may be among the dominant tree species in some places. Being aggressive, rapid growth trees, whose succulent fruits are readily sought by various animals, they tend to be among the first pioneer species to occupy former forest areas cleared for pasture or altered by human activity.[1] Cecropia hololeuca, known in Brazil as "silver cecropia", has broad, silver-hue leaves that make it to be used as an ornamental plant for landscaping projects, as is the case also with the similar species C. pachystachya.[2]

Cecropia species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including the arctiid moth Hypercompe icasia; the Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) is a North American species however, and thus allopatric with the plant genus. The leaves and buds are also eaten by sloths.[3] as their main source of food. But many herbivores avoid these plants: most Cecropia are myrmecophytes, housing dolichoderine ants of the genus Azteca, which will vigorously defend their hostplant against getting eaten. This symbiosis has been studied extensively by biologists such as Daniel Janzen.

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