Chiranthodendron pentadactylon

…and yet another thank you to frequent BPotD contributor Jim in San Francisco (aka J.G. in S.F.@Flickr) for submitting today’s set of photographs (original image 1 | original image 2 | original image 3 | Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool). As always, I’m grateful.

I’ve been intrigued by this species both times I have visited the Montane Cloud Forest at UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley. Who wouldn’t be curious about something known as the devil’s hand tree or monkey’s hand tree? Unfortunately, I’ve only visited this garden in early April, too early to see the “handedness” of this native of wet mixed oak-pine and deciduous mountain forests of Guatemala and Oaxaca, Mexico. All I was able to observe were last year’s aging seed pods on the ground (for photograph, see the last image on this page).

Chiranthodendron literally means “hand-flowering tree”, while the epithet pentadactylon means “five-fingered” — referring to the five prominent stamens that can be seen in these photographs. Pollinators attracted to the flowers include both bats and perching birds, particularly orioles and their relatives. Chuck B. of San Francisco writes about the sweet taste of the nectar produced by the flowers at the conclusion of his weblog post on Friday Night Botanical Garden.

A French translation of the original 1805 Spanish-written description of Chiranthodendron pentadactylon is available online thanks to the Smithsonian Library’s Digital Library: Description Botanique du Chiranthodendron by José Dionisio Larreátegui Two illustrative plates are included, linked from the bottom right-hand of this page.

Ethnobotany resource link: The Gwich’in Ethnobotany Database was recently launched, containing information about 47 plants used for food, medicine, shelter and tools (with photographs, video and recipes). Thank you to Dr. David Brownstein for sending along the link.

Chiranthodendron pentadactylon
Chiranthodendron pentadactylon
Chiranthodendron pentadactylon

20 responses to “Chiranthodendron pentadactylon”

  1. Andrew

    One of my favourites. There are one or two scattered around the town (Palmerston North, New Zealand) including one by the museum if anyone is is the neighbourhood, but I’m yet to get a photo of the flowers.

  2. Meg Bernstein

    Yikes! Amazing looking flower..

  3. Island Jim

    Terrific photographs.

  4. Dana

    Is the pollen on the outside of the petals, or just a weird texture? Cool looking flower!

  5. digitaldunes

    Purported to be a heart stimulant. A tree growing in a small village in the Valley of Mexico was assiduously cared for, the trunk surrounded by whitewashed stones. The tree was a valuable asset of the village. We were doing anthropological fieldwork in the area in 1970.

  6. James Gaither

    Thanks for your comments…The roughness on the exterior of the flowers is simply the natural texture; the texture of the bright yellow pollen grains can be seen in the third (bottom) photo of the fused anthers forming the “hand”…

  7. phillip

    ….all i can say is…unbelievable….!!

  8. elizabeth a airhart

    as the saying goes the devil made me do it
    the photos are so good and i like the think
    of all the brds sitting on the cups and
    drinking and off they go to what i call
    another flowering airport
    the last photo looks like my hands after
    a really bad manicure thank you all

  9. kathy lange

    Past week and a half some pictures missing. Today top two are there, third missing. One day half a picture showed only.???

  10. Sheila

    Wow! If you scroll up and down repeatedly on the “hand” photo, the “fingers” wave back and forth!

  11. Gary

    Andrew, There are also some large trees in the Dunedin botanic gardens, about 5 in Queens Park in Nelson, and a smaller one (about 3m tall) in the Christchurch Botanic gardens.

  12. Dr R K S Rathore

    Your photo picture of Chirenthodendron is marvelous but I am afraid it does not belong to family Malvaceae because it does not have the type of Malvaceous stamens (which are in a monoadelphous staminal tube). The dictionary of Flowering plants and ferns by J. C. Willis of Cambridge University Press pp. 236 has assigned Sterculiaceae family to this genus. Please verify the facts and let me know the correct family of the plant in question.

  13. michael

    Incredible photos, thanks. And Jane’s scrolling discovery adds a bizarre dimension!

  14. Eric in SF

    Dr. R K S Rathore – Daniel and the team here use the Angiosperm Phylogeny groups’s taxonomic system. They classify this genus as Malvaceae:

  15. elizabeth a airhart

    google books has at least 3 books on devils hand
    one may read short articles -and images also
    one link i read puts devils hand in the
    chocolate family– tis true?

  16. Dr R K S Rathore

    Many thanks to Daniel & the team for updating the information on phylogeny of Cheirenthodendron

  17. Jacob Knecht

    Its nectar is a must-try! A sweet smoky taste, somewhat like kiawe honey.

  18. Barry

    This plant is a close enough relative of Fremontodendron californicum (flannel bush, native to California), that it hybridizes with it, and creates a plant that has flowers intermediate between the two to create xChiranthofremontia lenzii that has the yellow flowers of Fremontodendron, and the cup shaped and (reduced) claw of Chiranthodendron.

  19. Pat

    What is your policy on posting commercial seed suppliers? I wouldn’t normally but there is only one place I have seen this offered. I don’t think my windowsill is big enough, a constant source of agony.

  20. Daniel Mosquin

    Pat, not sure why a posting about a commercial source is necessary — no one has requested it, and I found 4 sources in the first 2 pages of search results for the species. I generally try to keep BPotD non-commercial, though not always successful.

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