1. Habit and Bark
Neotropical Lecythidaceae are small to very large trees which are most abundant in the upper strata of lowland tropical forests (see Chapter VI). Schulz (1960) has divided the woody plant species of the forests of northern Surinam into four groups, i e upper story, middle story, lower story and undergrowth. Upper story species are generally 28-45 meters tall (Schulz, 1960) but may reach 55 meters (e g Terminalia amazónica, Fig 42 in Oldeman, 1974). Because these species do not form a closed canopy and because their crowns project above those of most other woody species, they are often called emergents. Middle story species attain a height of 25 meters and their crowns usually form a continuous canopy, whereas lower story species reach heights of between 8 and 18 meters and do not form a closed canopy (Schulz, 1960). Undergrowth species are mostly small trees, tall shrubs and stemless palms, all of which reach a maximum height of 3-10 meters (Schulz, 1960). In the forests of northern Surinam, the Lecythidaceae are most common in the middle story, where they often form the majority of the trees, less common in the upper story, and essentially absent from the undergrowth (Schulz, 1960). Representative species of Lecythidaceae occupying these strata are Couratari stellata of the upper story (reaching 45 m x 112 cm DBH, see fig 60 in Schulz, 1960), Eschweilera odora of the middle story (reaching 25 m x 50 cm DBH, see fig 60 in Schulz, 1960), and Gustavia hexapetala of the lower story (reaching 20 meters but usually smaller, pers. obs.). Height/diameter diagrams for all species of Lecythidaceae in forests rich in species of this family are needed for a proper evaluation of intrafamilial stratification.
Two principal growth forms are found in the Lecythidaceae. At one extreme are those species with well defined trunks, relatively small leaves, and a much-branched crown in which the branches are much smaller in diameter than the trunk. We refer to this growth form as leptocaul (Figs 1C, D). The leptocaul form is prevalent in the family as a whole, and it is the only growth form found in Asteranthos, Allantoma, Cariniana, Couroupita, Corythophora, Bertholletia, Couratari, Eschweilera, and Lecythis. At the
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