Unranked clade: Rosidae
The genus Cecropia is part of the family Urticaceae. There are 64 accepted species names in this genus. They are native to the American tropics, where it is one of the most recognizable components of the rainforest. Their geographic distribution extends along the Pacific and Atlantic Mexican coasts and in Central and South American forests and are found over an elevation range of 0 to 2,600 meters.
They have aggressive rapid growth and thus they tend to be among the first pioneer species to occupy former forest areas cleared for pasture or altered by human activity.
Cecropia species are easily identified by its large, circular, palmately lobed leaves, about 30>40 cm in diameter and deeply divided into 5 to more than 20 lobes.
The trees consist of very few branches, usually with candelabrum-like branching system. In most of this species the branches depart at obtuse angles and the crown has a distinct umbrella-shaped.
Parts of the Cecropia such as the stipules (a small appendage at the base of a leafstalk), the spathers (A leaf like bract that encloses or subtends a flower cluster) and the main veins of the lamina (expanded area of a leaf) have red-coloring substances. The concentration of the substances varies, even within species, and some parts can be green, bluish, pale pink, dark red, dark purple and even blackish.
When the branches are cut, they release a watery, often mucilaginous sap which turns black when it is exposed to the air, this is to prevent inhabitation by ants and damage by herbivorous insect larvae, the terminal buds and upper internodes are filled with mucilage.
A tree of the species Cecropia photographed at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth.
Wind fallen leaf underside.
Upper surface of wind fallen leaf. It is losing its dark green colour on drying out.