The higüero de sierra is a shrub or small tree that grows with scattered branches. It can grow to be 20 feet high and 3 inches in diameter. Its bark is gray and its leaves are long and thin. The leaves are smooth and can measure 2 to 6 inches long and between ¾ of an inch to 3 inches wide. The higüero de sierra flower is bell shaped, yellowish-white, and its fruit is dark green, cylindrical, hard, and coriaceous, about 4 inches long and an inch in diameter.
Information from preliminary studies indicates that higüero de sierra produces flowers and fruits throughout the year. During two years of study no wild seedlings were observed even though the seeds germinated under conditions in a nursery.
This endangered plant, endemic to Puerto Rico, grows along rivers and creeks in the serpentine soils of the forests in Susúa and Maricao.
Biologists have observed loss of individuals of this species due to increased erosion on riverbanks caused by deforestation. A large part of the original forests of Susúa and Maricao were eliminated for agricultural use, grazing, charcoal production, and wood cutting before they were designated as public forests.
Although populations in the Susúa Forest could be considered as being protected because they are in a public forest, some are near a road, and changes in the road could affect the plants. In addition, like all plants in that place, higüero de sierra is exposed to erosion and flash floods. Populations in the Maricao Forest are also subject to flooding that can uproot the plants.
It is necessary to take unique plant communities into consideration, including higüero de sierra and animals, when developing and implementing management plans in our public forests.
Higüero de sierra was designated as endangered in 1987. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with other institutions such as the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, has created a propagation program to try to increase the number of individuals of higüero de sierra. Species seeds have been germinated successfully. Studies are also being conducted on the reproductive biology and distribution of this species.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1987. Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants; determination of endangered status for Crescentia portoricensis. Federal Register 52(223):46085-46087.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1991. Crescentia portoricensis recovery plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia, 20 pp.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: August 27, 2014.
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