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Sapotaceae, Omphalocarpum procerum – Central West Africa

July 5, 2012

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This is Omphalocarpum procerum I photographed in Gabon. The tree is a West African member of the Sapotaceae family, growing up to 20 m in height. The round fruit, born on the trunk (cauliflory), resemble loaves of bread and grow to the size of a human head weighing up to 2 kg. People use the sticky sap exuded from the fruit to paste on tree branches as a method of trapping birds. Elephants feed on the bark and fruit, ingesting the entire fruit and all of its seeds. Seeds are deposited in elephant dung where they germinate and grow into new trees.

In some areas of Africa where elephant poaching has taken its toll on local populations, the O. procerum fruit fall on the ground and rot. Seeds appear to be unable to germinate without having first passed through the elephants digestive tract, thus the trees are unable to reproduce.

Accepted synonyms for O. procerum are:O. congolense, O. laurentii, and O. pierreanum

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 7, 2012 10:08:34 pm

    A most interesting case of symbiotic reliance if ever I saw one. A bit like our own dodder vine that needs to pass through a bird before it can travel to another tree.

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