Petraea volubilis is found in Mexico and as far south as Central America. It was named after an 18th Century nobleman called Lord Petre who collected exotic plants. We found large bushes of these beautiful flowering plants not far from the Hacienda.
Allamanda is often colored yellow, resulting in the names Yellow Bell, Golden Trumpet, or Buttercup Flower. For whatever reason, this one is red. Copa de Oro (Spanish for Cup of Gold) is native to South and Central America and grows as a shrub which can reach 2 meters (6 feet) or more. Generally they are found along the banks of rivers and in sunny areas. It naturalizes easily and simple cutting will actually increase its rate of growth. Allamanda also has medicinal properties as a cathartic, and its sap has antibacterial and anticancer properties. It was named for a Swiss botanist named Dr. Frederich Allamanda in the 18th Century.
maguey. Agave, from which the Mexico's firey tequila is made, is a form of maguey. The maguey plant has been used for as much as 10,000 years for a variety of purposes. The heart of the plant was fermented into pulque, a mildly alcoholic drink, by ancient pre-hispanic people and is still enjoyed in many areas of Mexico today. Later, the Spanish took the process a step further to create mescal, a distilled liquor. In the State of Jalisco, where I live, the agave plant is harvested to make tequila, a name which can only be used for such liquor from this region. In addition to an alcoholic beverage, the fibers are used to make rope and sandals and other useful items, and the thorns have been used to make needles and fishhooks.
Pontederia. Linnaeus, the great Swedish scientist who created the whole system of Latin names for identifying the natural world, himself named this plant for Italian botanist Giulio Pontedera. While they are sometimes looked upon as an invasive species, Pontederia are also good at biologically filtering polluted water.
Orchidaceae, are the second largest of all plant families with between 21,950 and 26,049 generally accepted species, and 880 genera. There are twice as many orchid species as there are bird species, and four times as many as those of mammals. Charles Darwin wrote a whole book about orchid cross pollination in 1862. The name orchid comes from the Greek word meaning "testicle", referring to the appearance of the flower. They occur in almost every habitat except glaciers. Pollen from an orchid was found in an amber-encrusted bee 15-20 million years old, and there is evidence that they may date back as far as the Late Cretaceous period where they would have co-existed with the dinosaurs.
pomegranate into Mexico in 1769. The fruit has been cultivated over a wide area of the earth. It may have originated in the high plains of Iran and the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, but it was known from ancient times in China, Burma, Central Asian countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, through North Africa and the Middle East and Mediterranean Europe. The name Punica comes from the ancient Phoenicians who cultivated it broadly, partly for religious reasons. Remains of pomegranates have been found in Early Bronze Age Jericho in modern Israel, and Late Bronze Age Tiryns, also called Troy, in today's Turkey. The fruit was mentioned in the Homeric poetry of Iron Age Greece. In more recent times, after its introduction to the New World, Thomas Jefferson began raising pomegranates on his famous plantation of Monticello.
Ficus aurea, also known as the Strangler Fig. They are most common in dark forests with much competition for sunlight. The seeds germinate in the crevices of other trees, then grow roots down the sides of host tree. The host may actually die, leaving a hollow core surrounded by the coils of the Strangler. A bit eerie, I thought.
Ferns are even more ancient than orchids, getting their start 360 million years ago in the Mesozoic era. They were in existence before there were land animals, and even before there were flowering plants. Talk about survivors! Ferns reproduce by spores rather than seeds. They need shady, cool, moist areas to grow. They also need water as a medium to transmit their spores so they can reproduce.
Vanilla is another form of orchid. The name comes from the Spanish vainilla (little pod). Vanilla was cultivated by pre-hispanic Meso-American people, and was brought to Europe in the 1520s by Hernán Cortés, along with chocolate. Numerous attempts were made to cultivate vanilla outside the area of Mexico and Central America, but the plant was symbiotically dependent upon a particular kind of local bee for pollination and so the effort was unsuccessful for a long time. Finally, a Belgian botanist named Charles Francois Antoine Morren figured all this out in 1837. a However, it wasn't until a French-owned slave named Edmond Albius discovered a way to hand-pollinate the plants in 1841 that the effort was finally successful. However, after saffron, vanilla remains the second most expensive spice, due to the labor involved. No word on whether Albius ever profited from the fruits of his labor.
Cowhorn orchid can be found in tropical areas of southern Mexico and Central America.
Heliconia were included in the family Musaceae, but then were recognized as having their own family. In fact Heliconia is the only genus in that family. Common names include lobster claws, wild plantains, or false bird-of-paradise.
Aloe, but the most common is Aloe vera (true aloe). The plant is native to Africa, particularly the Cape area of South Africa, but it now grows in many other areas of the world. As well as serving as an ornamental plant, aloe has for centuries been used medicinally. Some of its medicinal properties include uses as a laxative, purgative, relief from skin irritation, and for digestive problems, burns, and minor wounds.
This concludes Part 5 of my series on Puerto Vallarta and also concludes the series itself. We hope you enjoyed learning about this beautiful Pacific Coast community and can visit some time. As I said at the beginning, I came with some misgivings about its reputation of an overdeveloped resort, but I was charmed in the end. If you would like to leave a comment, you can do so in the Comments section below, or email me directly. If you leave a question in the Comments section, PLEASE leave your email address so I can respond.
Hasta luego, Jim