Dysoxylum parasiticum

Today’s photo of a flowering Dysoxylum parasiticum was taken by a frequent contributor to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool, Andreas Lambrianides (aka andreas lambrianides@Flickr). Thank you Andreas!

Dysoxylum parasiticum is a poorly-named species, but I am sure those of us living in temperate climates will forgive Swedish naturalist Pehr Osbeck‘s error in mistaking this flowering species for a parasite. Osbeck was quite unfamiliar with cauliflory–a term that refers to the phenomenon of plant’s flowering and fruiting directly from their main stems. Osbeck instead assigned the name Melia parasiticum to this species. Like an unfortunate grade-school nickname, the name has stuck, despite the species being moved into the genus Dysoxylum, and despite the fact that we now know that it is not parasitic at all.

Dysoxylum parasiticum is also known as yellow mahogany. It is a tropical rainforest tree species that grows to 36 meters tall. Although little is known about Dysoxylum parasiticum‘s pollinators or seed dispersers, we can surmise that they do not like to climb or fly high into the tree canopy, but would instead rather flutter, slither, or crawl closer to the ground. Unlike most trees, yellow mahogany does not perch its flower buds at the tips of young stems. Rather, the white to cream-coloured flowers grow directly off the trunk or main branches near to the ground. Once pollinated, these flowers give way to roundish, red-brown fruits measuring about 4 cm in diameter.

Dysoxylum parasiticum

5 responses to “Dysoxylum parasiticum”

  1. celia candlin

    This is such a fascinating flower – and photograph of it!
    I’m very curious about where it was taken. ?? – Was it
    taken in situ in some tropical rainforest…?
    Thanks! Celia

  2. Toinette Lippe

    Wikipedia says: Dysoxylum parasiticum trees grow naturally in Taiwan and throughout Malesia, to New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Queensland.Their habitat is rain forest from sea-level to 2,100 metres (7,000 ft) altitude.In Queensland they are found from sea level to 1,400 metres (5,000 ft), in such areas in the northeast as Mount Bellenden Ker.The photo above was, I think, taken in Australia from what I infer from Andreas’ Flicker photo.

  3. Peony Fan

    Great photo and interesting write-up. Thank you. Now, how can I use the word ‘cauliflory’ in casual conversation?

  4. george briggs

    If you are talking about chocolate in casual conversation (as is often the case) you could use ‘cauliflory’ because Theobroma cacao is similarly inclined.

  5. Dana D

    I was told the term for flowering directly from the trunk several years ago in a plant ID class, I did not write the term down and have tried to recall it several times since then. I am so happy to finally have the word! I guess the Swedish naturalist also would not be familiar with Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud) which also does this.

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