Images of dry tropical habitat: Mexico II

Click on the image or text link for a gallery of thumbnail images of plants, animals, and landscapes of some of the dry parts of the tropics:


1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.

1. The trunk of Ceiba parvifolia (Bombacaceae) is covered with long, woody prickles.
2. The flowers of Pseudobombax (also Bombacaceae) appear when during the leafless dry season.
3. Bursera longipes is one of the many species of Bursera that populate Mexican dry forest. The coppery bark of this species is particularly striking. This one is from central Guerrero.
4. Another odd inhabitant of Mexican dry forests is Ipomoea arborescens, a member of the Morning Glory Family (Convolvulaceae), and in the same genus as the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas)! This individual was photographed in southern Puebla.
5. A flowering twig of Lycium, in the Tomato Family (Solanaceae).
6. and 7. The genus Cordia in the Boraginaceae has a center of diversity in Mexican dry forests. 5. shows a tree of Cordia eleagnoides and 6. is Cordia curassavica, both from Guerrero.
8. Cacti are often associated with deserts, but cactus diversity is actually highest within the tropics. Cactus densities are also often very high, as can be seen in this dense thicket of at least 4 species of cactus in southern Puebla. The tree in the upper right corner is Cercidium praecox. The tufts in its branches are a species of Tillandsia .
9. The cacti Astrophytum ornatum (upper cactus) and Mammillaria hahniana (lower cactus) are commonly cultivated as ornamentals. In the wild, they occur in a rich community with many other plants. In this photo taken on a steep limestone cliff, the cacti are growing with ferns, liverworts, and Commelinaceae. The green fronds on the middle right are the a club moss Selaginella.
10. The broad, dark green leaves of Wigandia urens (Hydrophyllaceae) are covered with tiny, stinging hairs. This one was photographed in Hidalgo.
11. At the upper elevational extent of tropical dry forests in Mexico, there is often a transition to oak forest. At these elevations, it is common to find associations like this one in southwestern Puebla of oaks and palm trees growing together.
12. Still higher, in eastern Puebla, communities of Nolina, Dasylirion (Agavaceae), and piñon pine. The pine is draped with tresses of the epiphytic bromeliad Tillandsia usneoides .
13. The carnivorous Butterwort genus Pinguicula (Lentibulariaceae) has a center of diversity in Mexico. While usually thought of as growing in wet places, there are numerous species that are found in seasonally dry habitats.


1. 2. 3. 4. 5 6.

1. Tropical dry forests usually have more fertile soils than tropical rain forests. As a consequence, tropical dry forests are in a much more advanced state of destruction than rain forests. This view in the southern Tehuacán - Cuicatlán Valley of northern Oaxaca is typical: the entire valley floor that can be seen here has been destroyed and replaced by sugar cane and other crops. Intact and disturbed forest remains on slopes too steep to cultivate.
2. The rich forest on this hillside in Michoacán has been recently cleared and burned to produce pasture.
3. The Iguana's Tail Tree (Fouquieria ochoterrenae) is only found in a few places in southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca. The heaps of soil behind this lone individual are all that remains of this stand that was recently bulldozed to make way for a factory.
4. The original vegetation in the bed of the Venados River in Hidalgo has largely been destroyed for cultivation, while the slopes often have relatively intact dry forest.
5. - 6. Natural lakes are rare in the Mexican dry tropics, making Lake Metztitlán in Hidalgo a precious resource and a place of inestimable scientific and social interest. Photo 7. shows the wide shore of the lake during a dry period, while photo 6. is a view of the bed from the northwestern cliffs. A small group of local people subsist on fishing endemic fish from the lake for local sale.

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Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
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all material © 2002 Mark E Olson