Mexico is one of the most diverse countries on earth. Most of tropical Mexico is seasonally dry, and the wildly rugged and varied topography has led to a fantastically colorful and striking biota. Click on a thumbnail for a larger image:
1. and 2. In contrast to tropical wet forests, which experience
more or less even precipitation throughout the year, tropical
dry habitats have pronounced dry seasons, usually one but sometimes
two. Image 1 shows the Tule River Gorge in Hidalgo in the wet
season. Image 2 shows the same gorge in the dry season.
3. Part of the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Valley in southern Puebla in the dry season.
4. The Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Valley in southern Puebla in the wet season. The Frangipani plant in the genus Plumeria of the Oleander Family (Apocynaceae) is often associated with Hawaiian floral necklaces. However, Plumeria is native to Mexican and Central America dry forests. A Plumeria plant can be seen in this photo from northern Oaxaca just to the right of center in front of the stems of the cactus Cephalocereus columna-trajani.
5. Many dry tropical areas are wild, strange- looking places.
To me, one of the strangest combinations is the unbranched columnar
cactus Cephalocereus columna-trajani (the cactus in the
left foreground) occurring with a member of the Century Plant
Family (Agavaceae) Beaucarnea gracilis, the fat-trunked
tree with shaving brush-like tufts of leaves on skinny stems
that can be seen in the middle of the photo. Other plants in
this photo are Century Plants (Agave), and Barrel Cacti
(Echinocactus). To see more, visit the Beaucarnea
6. The tropical dry forest scenery of southern Puebla is hard to beat. The sinuous tree on the left is the very aromatic species Bursera morelensis (Burseraceae). From the heat of the dry forest, the ever-snowy peak of Popocatépetl can be seen in the distance on the right.
7. Natural lakes are rare in the Mexican dry tropics, making Lake Metztitlán in Hidalgo a precious resource and a place of inestimable scientific and social interest.
8. Tropical dry forests usually have more fertile soils than tropical rain forests. As a consequence, tropical dry forests are in a much more advanced state of destruction than rain forests. This view in the southern Tehuacán - Cuicatlán Valley of northern Oaxaca is typical: the entire valley floor that can be seen here has been destroyed and replaced by sugar cane and other crops.
9. Intact and disturbed forest remains on
slopes too steep to cultivate. The rich forest on this hillside in Michoacán has
been recently cleared and burned to produce pasture.
10. The Iguana's Tail Tree (Fouquieria ochoterrenae) is only found in a few places in southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca. The heaps of soil behind this lone individual are all that remains of this stand that was recently bulldozed to make way for a factory.
11. The original vegetation in the bed of the Venados River in Hidalgo has largely been destroyed for cultivation, while the slopes often have relatively intact dry forest.
12. The Valley of Jaumave in the state of Tamaulipas is spectacular
for the proximity of very different habitata. This photo was
taken from the floor of the valley, which is tropical or subtropical
dry scrub. The top of the mountains that separate the valley
from the Gulf of Mexico, seen here shrouded in clouds, support
dripping cloud forest, with tree ferns, moss, and abundant epiphytes.
13. The wide shore of Lake Metztitlán in Hidalgo during a dry period. A small group of local people subsist on fishing endemic fish from the lake for local sale.
Images from Mexico are also on the Beaucarnea Page, the Cactus Family Page, the Legume Family Page, and the Pineapple Family Page