Celebrating “Fascination of Plants Day”: Another view of the dry leaf of the Cecropia

It is Fascination of Plants Day! I welcome you to one more view of the leaf of the fascinating tropical Cecropia, also known as Embaúba. I have added it to my “Dry Leaf” image series, dedicated to portraying the beauty of leaves that are past their prime.

What is fascinating about the Cecropia? These pioneer successional trees are myrmecophylous, which means that they have an association with ants. They house the ants in their hollows and segmented stem, providing them with food. Usually, a single Azteca ant colony inhabits each mature Cecropia tree. The ants, in turn, protect the trees from predators and remove climbing lianas and other plants that compete with the Cecropia for light.

Cecropia trees are ideal for sloth viewing, because they have more space between their leaves than some denser trees of the rainforest canopy. Common knowledge says that sloths have a preference for this fascinating tree. Humans have been know to use the Cecropia for sandpaper, wood, animal fodder, eating the fruit, tobacco substitute, shade, making flutes, and composting material.

Digging my archives from my trip to Brazil last year, I found a photo of a Cecropia tree. Because these trees are tall, and are often immersed in the Atlantic Forest, they are not easy to photograph. However, by the road of the family house, there is one especial tree that I was able to photograph from below. I find the radial arrangement of the leaves of this tree quite fascinating.

View of an Embauba tree from below (Cecropia).

If you are new to this blog, and have not been introduced to my project Dry Leaf (Folhas Secas)“, you can find my previous posts on it on this link. My posts include some tips on how I make these types of photographs, and also how I manage my files in a large project like this one. The fascinating leaf of the Cecropia is what inspired me to endeavor to photograph dry leaves in the first place, and it remains my favorite leaf of all.


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Published by Alessandra Chaves

Photographer with a preference for nature photography in black and white and other abstractions.

17 thoughts on “Celebrating “Fascination of Plants Day”: Another view of the dry leaf of the Cecropia

  1. The relationship between the ants and the tree is quite interesting, but the shape in the last photo caught my eye, too. The form resembles that of many plants in the carrot family, like prairie parsley or Queen Anne’s lace. As so often happens in nature, the wildflowers and the trees differ in size, but are remarkably similar in shape — fascinating!


  2. So so interesting. Brings a smile to my face as again I’m reminded how nature is all connected and how it does just fine without us.. despite us I should say. I’m thankful to you again for educating me about these incredible things happening in nature. Beautiful images. I wish I had those trees. I love those leaves.


  3. Really interesting about the coexistence of ants, trees, sloths etc. The interconnections of nature are amazing. Love those leaves!


  4. The little dark ring a bit below the center of the leaf in the top picture keeps drawing my attention.

    I know cecropia as the name of a large, decorative North American moth. That seems strange, given that trees in the genus Cecropia grow in the tropics, according to an online article I found. Apparently the moth and the tree both grow together in at least one place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The ring is a blemish in the leaf. Maybe it would be better if there were more, so it would not call so much attention. It is interesting that, according to google, “Cecropia is a term derived from the Ancient Greek κέκρωψ (kékrōps, Latinized: cecrops) which means “face with a tail” and refers to the mythical first king of Athens.” I can see the why for the species name Hyalophora cecropia, but I am not clear as to why the tree was named Cecropia.


  5. I always enjoy your leaf images. Ants are amazing creatures and very important on so many ecological levels. I really liked the silhouette shot of the view below the tree.
    I’d love to meet a sloth in the wild someday. I have a tee shirt with sloth face on it and I jokingly tell people it’s my spirit animal.


      1. That slow moving is how the sloth received one of the seven deadly sins as its name and why I call it my spirit animal since at times I can be quite lazy. 🙂


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