Cojoba graciliflora (Guadeloupe blackbead)
Guadeloupe blackbead has beautiful clusters of creamy-white flowers and stunning red pods shaped like a string of beads and containing black seeds.
Flowers and fruits of Cojoba graciliflora (Guadeloupe blackbead)
Cojoba graciliflora (S.F.Blake) Britton & Rose
Guadeloupe blackbead (English); siete camisas, guaje rojo de altura (El Salvador); poma (Belize)
Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Forested riversides, tropical semi-evergreen forests on sandy loam soils.
About this species
A member of the pea and bean family (Leguminosae/Fabaceae), Cojoba graciliflora is an attractive tree with bright green, highly divided leaves. The beautiful, pompom-shaped inflorescences and red seed pods make this plant a handsome ornamental. It occasionally loses its leaves during the dry season in the wild.
The specific epithet graciliflora refers to the graceful appearance of the leaves.
Cojoba donnell-smithii Britton & Rose
Geography and distribution
Guadeloupe blackbead is native to central and southern Mexico and Central America.
Overview: A tree growing up to 15 m tall, with a trunk up to 15 cm in diameter. Young twigs have bark with distinct lenticels (holes allowing gas exchange) and chocolate-brown hairs covering the new (resting) buds.
Leaves: Dark green, glossy, bipinnate (divided into pinnae that are themselves divided again into leaflets), usually with 2−5 pairs of pinnae, with 7−18 pairs of recurved leaflets at the tip.
Flowers: Borne in pompom-like clusters of 44–54 flowers on a single stalk (peduncle) 30–76 mm long. Individual flowers are whitish and bear both male and female parts. Stamens (male organs) are fused into a tube for most of their length, with delicate, cream-coloured anthers (pollen-bearing parts) up to 15 mm long and less than a millimetre in diameter. Stigmas (female parts) are cream-coloured.
Fruits & seeds: The striking, red pods are shaped like a string of beads, being narrowly constricted between the seeds. The seeds can germinate within the fruit whilst it is still hanging on the tree. This is known as viviparous germination. The seeds have a thin seed coat and cannot tolerate desiccation.
Guadeloupe blackbead is cultivated as an ornamental for its attractive clusters of flowers and striking, red fruits. It is also used for medicinal purposes in Belize, where the bark is used in a preparation to treat skin sores.
Specimens of Cojoba graciliflora at Kew are given a thick mulch of manure every two years and propagated from semi-ripe stem cuttings in late spring. In the summer, after spraying with water, the foliage of the plant produces an unpleasant smell, similar to that produced by the roots when re-potting the seedlings.
This species at Kew
Cojoba graciliflora can be seen growing in Kew’s Princess of Wales Conservatory. One of the resident water dragons can often be seen on one of the inclined branches, which seems to be its favourite resting place.
Pressed and dried specimens of Cojoba graciliflora are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details of some of these can be seen online in Kew’s Herbarium Catalogue.
Barneby, R. C. & Grimes, J. W. (1997). Silk Tree, Guanacaste, Monkey’s Earring: a Generic System for the Synandrous Mimosaceae of the Americas, Part 2, Pithecellobium, Cojoba and Zygia. The New York Botanical Garden Press, New York.
Lewis, G., Schrire, B., Mackinder, B. & Lock, M. (eds) (2005). Legumes of the World. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Mabberley, D. J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses, 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Rico Arce, L. (2001). Mimosaceae. In: Flora of Nicaragua, eds W. D. Stevens, C. Ulloa, A. Pool & O. M. Montiel. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.
Kew Science Editors: Neil Bancroft and Lulú Rico
Copyediting: Catherine Rutherford and Emma Tredwell
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