The Inga Plant Family
Inga Trees give wonderful shade
One of our meeting trees in Moraro
Inga trees can be found growing among other trees in different areas of the forest, most noticeably near to water. One specie grows so huge and tall in virgin forest that the wood is used by local people to make canoes. On the other hand, other species growing in secondary forests are so many that it can be tricky to identify them. One species of Inga traditionally have been left to grow around houses where they seem to prefer. In Indigenous forest communities they become communal fruit trees.
Fruits are so desirable that people have to compete with cheeky monkeys to get their share. Inga trees can live with leaf cutter ants and even if stripped of all its leaves will eventually grow new ones.
One certainty is the value of the fruits. They are consumed by local people, animals such as monkeys - the sakawinki (Saimiri sciureus) and white face (Cebus capucinus), acouri ( Dasyprocta leporina ) and birds like the toucan (Ramphastos Sulfuratus) that have the beak type to get at the inner goodness. Some insects wait until the fruit pod splits open to reveal the ripe inner sweetness.
Though the fruit tastes sweet, that sweetness varies according to species. One has the distinct sweetness of raw sugarcane juice. Fruits are called Ice-cream by some people. It is also called Whitie by some because of the inner colour.
Bees are attracted to the blossoms. When in bloom the tree is normally covered in flowers. The Inga family is nitrogen fixing and so brings much needed nutrients to the forest soil.
The importance of Inga trees then is obvious. This special family contributes an important food source that enables the local population including threatened species to survive. Trees provide habitat as well as shade and recyclable material.
Inga trees, people, animals, birds and the environment all work hand in hand. In Moraro, part of our work is identifying species according to their leaves and fruits. One of the realities of having a lot of inga plant species growing in Moraro is the difficulty of identifying them according to their scientific names. What we have found is that the leaves and fruits can have very subtle differences. However, because we are more interested in having the plant family around and saving the different species as forest fruit trees, we are just happy to let them grow.
This specie grows mostly in secondary forests and is common in areas where people inhabit. Inga pilosula traditionally have been left to grow around houses where they seem to prefer.
In Indigenous forest communities they become communal fruit trees and is valued mostly for the fruit which is popular with local people. The fruit is not as long as some other inga fruits. The pod is smooth and when ripe becomes brownish lime green.
The cotton like coated seeds is sweet and one indication that the fruit is ripe is that the pod appears fully swollen. If opened, the sometimes dark brown seed can be seen as trying to split through the coat.
This tree grows in Moraro ( click on picture to enlarge)
Unlike the typical white flower of other inga species, the flower of Inga pilosula is yellow. When in full bloom the tree is very attractive and like other inga species a flowering tree attracts lots of bees.