Ulmaceae - Rainforest Plants

Celtis iguanaea (Jacq.) Sarg., the canopy liana in the Ulmaceae. Note the asymmetrical leaf bases and the toothed margins. A bejuco that grows in the canopy. Note the jagged margins and asymmetrical bases of the leaves.

Description: This is one of the few families that are more diverse and important in the temperate zones than in the tropics. Ulmaceae are characterized by simple, alternate leaves with asymmetric bases and stipules. Most species have strong bark, though not as strong as Annonaceae. Almost all Ulmaceae have toothed leaf margins; Celtis schippii is the only exception at La Selva. Two of the five species here are lianas: Celtis iguanaea has toothed, non-asperous leaves and spines, while Celtis schippii has, asperous leaves and no spines. Ampelocera macrocarpa , an understory tree of old-growth forest, has large, glossy leaves with very obscure teeth and conspicuously asymmetrical leaf bases. The two Trema species are understory trees, common in secondary forest or disturbed areas. In the tropics, Trema Wood was traditionally used to make yokes for oxen, due to its resistance to torsion (J. Gonzales, pers. comm) . In the temperate zone, they are widely planted as shade trees and one (Ulmus fulva ; slippery elm) is used as a cough remedy.

Economic uses: In the tropics, Trema wood was traditionally used to make yokes for oxen, because it is very resistant to torsion. In temperate zones, Ulmaceae trees are planted for shade, and a species (Ulmus fulva) is used as a remedy for cough.

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Genera / species at La Selva: 3/5. Ampelocera (1), Celtis (2), Trema (2).

FIELD MARKS - alternate, simple leaves with serrate margins, scabrous in one direction (sandpaper-like) due to hairs, distichous ranks), uneven leaf bases, bark peels in long strings .

Photo by N. Zamora courtesy of The Digital Flora of the Jungle.