button mangrove

Conocarpus erectus

Conocarpus erectus, one of two species in the genus Conocarpus, is a mangrove shrub and tree in the family Combretaceae growing on shorelines in tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including Florida, Bermuda, The Bahamas, the Caribbean, Central and South America from Mexico to Brazil on the Atlantic coast and Mexico to Ecuador on the Pacific coast, western Africa and in Melanesia and Polynesia. English common names include Buttonwood, Buttonbush, Button Mangrove, Button-tree, False Mangrove, Florida Button, Florida Buttonwood, Green Buttonwood, Grey Mangrove and Zaragoza Mangrove. See also the section Common names in other languages below.

It is usually a dense multi-trunked shrub 1-4 m tall, but can grow into a tree up to 20 m or more tall, with a trunk up to 1 m in diameter. The bark is thick and has broad plates of thin scales which are gray to brown. The twigs are brittle, and angled or narrowly winged in cross-section. The leaves are alternately arranged, simple and oblong, 2-7 cm long (rarely to 10 cm long) and 1-3 cm broad, with a tapering tip and an entire margin. They are dark green and shiny on top, and paler with fine silky hairs underneath, and have two salt glands at the base of each leaf . The flowers are button-like (from which the common name derives), 5-8 mm diameter, with no petals; they are produced in stalked panicles of 35-56 flowers. The fruit is a cluster of red to brown, small scaly, two-winged cone-like seed 5-15 mm long. The seed heads burst when ripe, and the seeds are dispersed by water.

It is generally found growing in brackish water in tidal lagoons and bays, but can grow in inland habitats, with records at up to 745 m altitude in Costa Rica. The United States National Champion Silver Buttonwood is 13.5 meters (45 feet) tall.

There are two varieties, not accepted as distinct by all authorities:

  • Conocarpus erectus var. erectus. Leaves thinly hairy or hairless.
  • Conocarpus erectus var. sericeus (Silver Buttonwood). Leaves densely silvery-hairy.

Uses

The tree is used as an ornamental plant and in bonsai. The variety sericeus with silvery leaves is especially prized for landscaping. It is an important host plant for epiphytes. As a result of ornamental planting, it has become naturalized in Hawaii. It has been used extensively in landscaping in Kuwait and became the most abundant tree.

The wood is sometimes used in cabinets; it is difficult to work but takes a smooth finish. It is also used as firewood, and is reported to be good for smoking meat and fish, as it burns very hot and slowly; it also makes high quality charcoal. The bark is high in tannin, for which it has been harvested commercially.

Common names in other languages

Conocarpus erectus is known by a variety of other names in various localities, including Asokolo, Asopolo, Botoncahui, Botoncillo, Botonillo, Chene Guadeloupe, Conocarpe Droit, Estachahuite, Geli, Gra Mangrove, Grignon, Grijze Mangle, Grijze Mangrove, Iztac-cuahuitl, Jele, Kaba, Kan-chik-inche, Kanche, Kank-ank-che, Kank-che, Madre de Sal, Mangel, Mangel Blancu, Mangle, Mangle Blanco, Mangle Boton, Mangle Botoncillo, Mangle Cenizo, Mangle Garbancillo, Mangle Gris, Mangle Jeli, Mangle Lloroso, Mangle Marequita, Mangle Negro, Mangle Pinuelo, Mangle Prieto, Mangle Roche, Mangle Torcido, Mangle Zaragoza, Manglier, Manglier Gris, Mangrovia Grigia, Mangue, Mangue Branco, Mangue de Botao, Maraquito, N Ja, Paletuvier, Paletuvier Gris, Pash-chuhnul, Pataban, Saragosa, Taabche, Tabche, Witte Mangel, Witte Mangro, Wortelboom, X-kanche, Xtabche, Yana and Zaragosa.

References

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