|Tilo (Ocotea foetens) in Terra Chã (Azores)|
Over 200, see text
There are 324 species currently accepted within the genus, distributed mostly in tropical and subtropical areas of the Americas (around 300 species) including the Caribbean Sea and West Indies, but also with some species in Africa, Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands. One species (O. foetens) is native to the Macaronesia (in Canary Islands and Madeira).
They are trees or shrubs, occasionally with adventitious roots (O. hartshorniana, O. insularis). Leaves simple, alternate, rarely opposite or whorled. The leaves are lauroid, they are commonly dark green glossy with sometimes brown on the underside and fragrant oil cells.
The African and Madagascan species all have bisexual flowers (possessing both male and female parts), whereas many of the American species have flowers that are unisexual (either male or female). The apetalous flowers are in small panicles.
The fruits are globose or oblong berries, 3–5 cm in length, hard and fleshy and at the junction of the peduncle part with the fruit covered by a cup-shaped, occasionally flat, cupule, giving them an appearance similar to an acorn. The fruit is dark green, gradually darkening with maturity. The cupule at the base of the berry, can be more brightly colored. The fruit has a single seed wrapped in a hard coat and can be slightly lignified.
The genus has no standard common name. Names often refer to the aroma of the wood, which can be strong and not always pleasant. Sweetwood is usually applied only to this genus, although many names are also applied to this genus and other genera:
- Stinkwood can refer to several unrelated trees that have bad-smelling wood. Ocotea bullata is called black stinkwood or true stinkwood, and Ocotea foetens is also called stinkwood.
- Camphorwood is usually Cinnamomum camphora a close relative of Ocotea species.
- Rosewood (Peruvian rosewood, O. cernua) is normally Dalbergia or related members of the family Fabaceae.
The common names of some species refer to their similarity to other Lauraceae such as Sassafras (Brazilian sassafras: O. odorifera) or Laurus (Cape laurel: O. bullata, Sword laurel: O. floribunda, Guaika laurel: O. puberula, etc.).
Ocotea species are distributed in subtropical and tropical regions, often at higher altitudes. They are characteristic plants of many tropical montane habitats such as Araucaria moist forests, Laurisilva, Afromontane biomes, Knysna-Amatole montane forests and Talamancan montane forests, although in Madagascar they also occur in lowland forests. Most relatively small fruit species, are of great environmental importance because they are the food of many endemic birds and mammals, especially in Islands, and premontane and montane forests. The leaves of Ocotea species are the food source for the caterpillars of several species of endemic Lepidoptera, including several species of Memphis. Some Memphis caterpillars feed solely on the leaves of one species of Ocotea; for example M. mora feeds only on O. cernua, and M. boisduvali feeds only on O. veraguensis
Seed distribution of some Ocotea species is performed by frugivorous birds such as toucans, the three-wattled bellbird (family Cotingidae), quetzal and Cape parrot. Ocotea fruit is also consumed by several Columbiformes such as Columba trocaz, Delegorgue's pigeon, Bolle's pigeon (Columba bollii), African wood pigeon, and American doves.
Most of the African tree species are ancient Paleoendemic species, which in ancient times were widely distributed on the continent. This is not the case in the Americas: 89 species have been collected in Venezuela alone.
Some Ocotea species are used as nesting sites by ants, which may live in leaf pockets or in hollowed-out stems. The ants patrol their host plants more frequently in response to disturbance or to the appearance of insect pests such as grasshoppers.
Ocotea produce essential oils, which are rich in camphor and safrole. East African camphorwood (O. usambarensis), Peruvian rosewood (O. cernua) and Brazilian sassafras (O. odorifera) are traded internationally. Safrole derived from "Ocotea cymbarum oil" (a trade name) is used in the production of the recreational drug methylenedioxymethamphetamine ("ecstasy"). Research into the essential oils of some Ocotea species has demonstrated that the compounds can have anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties.
Some fast growing Ocotea tree species are harvested commercially for timber. These include O. puberula, O. bullata (black or true stinkwood) and O. usambarensis. The timber is valued for its resistance to fungal decay.
The following are some of the species of Ocotea. Distinguishing Ocotea species from Nectandra and other close relatives is problematic. Povedadaphne may be better placed in Ocotea.
- Ocotea aciphylla
- Ocotea acutifolia (Nees) Mez
- Ocotea albida
- Ocotea albopunctulata
- Ocotea amazonica
- Ocotea arechavaletae
- Ocotea argylei
- Ocotea arnottiana
- Ocotea atirrensis
- Ocotea bangii
- Ocotea basicordatifolia
- Ocotea benthamiana
- Ocotea bofo
- Ocotea bullata – black stinkwood, true stinkwood
- Ocotea calophylla
- Ocotea camphoromoea
- Ocotea catharinensis
- Ocotea cernua – Peruvian rosewood
- Ocotea clarkei
- Ocotea corymbosa Mez
- Ocotea cuneifolia
- Ocotea cuprea
- Ocotea cymbarum (often included in O. odorifera)
- Ocotea dendrodaphne
- Ocotea diospyrifolia (Meisn.) Mez
- Ocotea dispersa (Nees) Mez
- Ocotea divaricata (Nees) Mez
- Ocotea domatiata Mez
- Ocotea floribunda
- Ocotea foeniculacea – black sweetwood
- Ocotea foetens – "til", "tilo"
- Ocotea gabonensis
- Ocotea glaucosericea
- Ocotea glaziovii Mez
- Ocotea gracilis
- Ocotea guianensis
- Ocotea harrisii
- Ocotea heterochroma
- Ocotea indecora (Schott) Mez
- Ocotea insularis
- Ocotea illustris
- Ocotea infrafoveolata
- Ocotea javitensis
- Ocotea jelskii
- Ocotea jorge-escobarii
- Ocotea kenyensis
- Ocotea kuhlmanni Vattimo
- Ocotea lancifolia
- Ocotea lancilimba
- Ocotea langsdorffii
- Ocotea laxiflora
- Ocotea leucoxylon – loblolly sweetwood
- Ocotea longifolia
- Ocotea mandonii
- Ocotea marmellensis
- Ocotea matogrossensis
- Ocotea megaphylla
- Ocotea minarum Mart. ex Nees
- Ocotea monzonensis
- Ocotea moschata – nemoca
- Ocotea nemodaphne – laurel sassafras
- Ocotea notata (Nees) Mez
- Ocotea oblonga
- Ocotea obtusata
- Ocotea odorifera – Brazilian sassafras
- Ocotea oocarpa
- Ocotea opoifera
- Ocotea otuzcensis
- Ocotea pachypoda
- Ocotea pauciflora
- Ocotea porosa – (sometimes placed in Phoebe)
- Ocotea porphyria
- Ocotea portoricensis
- Ocotea prunifolia
- Ocotea puberula
- Ocotea pulchella Mart.
- Ocotea pulchra Vattimo-Gil
- Ocotea quixos – ishpingo
- Ocotea raimondii
- Ocotea regeliana
- Ocotea rivularis
- Ocotea robertsoniae
- Ocotea rotundata
- Ocotea rubrinervis
- Ocotea rugosa
- Ocotea rusbyana
- Ocotea sericea
- Ocotea silvestris Vattimo-Gil
- Ocotea smithiana
- Ocotea spathulata
- Ocotea spectabilis
- Ocotea spixiana (Nees) Mez
- Ocotea staminoides
- Ocotea tabacifolia (Meisn.) Rohwer
- Ocotea teleiandra (Meisn.) Mez
- Ocotea urbaniana Mez
- Ocotea usambarensis – East African camphorwood
- Ocotea uxpanapana
- Ocotea vaccinioides Meisn.
- Ocotea variabilis Meisn.
- Ocotea velloziana
- Ocotea velutina Mart.
- Ocotea veraguensis
- Ocotea viridiflora
- Ocotea wrightii – Wright's laurel canelon
Formerly placed here
- Chlorocardium rodiei (bibiru, "greenheart"), as O. rodiei
- Nectandra coriacea ("lancewood"), as O. catesbyana, O. coriacea
- Sextonia rubra, as O. rubra
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