Puerto Rican violet-tree


The Puerto Rican violet-tree is endemic to Puerto Rico. It is considered in danger of extinction because few individuals grow naturally, most of them solitary, while cross fertilization is required to produce vigorous seeds. The tree grows slowly but over the decades can reach a height of 65 feet, with a trunk 2 feet in diameter. The leaves are up to 5 inches long. Flowers are about three-quarters of an inch wide and appear in abundance, especially in branches exposed to the sun that have lost all their leaves. Fruits are composed of four wings, two large ones (up to 1.5 inches long) and two small ones, in the center of which there are one or two seeds. It flowers in winter and the seeds disperse in spring. The generic name means abundant milk, in reference to the belief that cows produce more milk when they pasture in fields with certain species of the genus. The species name honors the American botanist John Francis Cowell (1852-1915).

The photographed tree is in front of the de Diego Building and was planted by José A. Ramos in 1948. There’s a tree in front of Building C (planted in 1987 by Ángel Vélez) and another one across from the Piñero Building.

Polygala cowelli (Polygalaceae)