Genus honouring the Swiss national Beat Ernst Leuenberger (1946-2010), curator of the Berlin-Dahlem Botanical garden tropical collections, specialist of the Pereskioideae, and prematurely departed.
A genus of shrubby to treelike plants, branched, woody, with robust branches, leaves wide, ovate to elongated, acuminate, fleshy, sessile, deciduous, with a marked central nerve. Leaf axils having a spine or more aciculate, sometimes fasciculated, as well as hairs. Species of the genus produce bark (periderm) very early, and do not have stoma on the stem, unlike Pereskia.
Flowers diurnal, self-sterile, large, rotate, solitary, appearing at the end of stems, pink, red purple or intense yellow red, pollinated by bees or hummingbirds. Fruits globose or turbinate to pear-shaped, naked, edible, bearing small leaves. Seeds large, flattened, black, shiny. The dispersion of fruits fallen on the ground is provided by frugivorous mammals.
The genus Leuenbergeria grows in savannas (caatinga in Brazil), deciduous forests, on often flooded volcanic,
limestone or clayey soils, rocky hillslopes, or areas disturbed by anthropological action, from sea level (L. guamacho) up to 920 m in altitude (L. aureiflora). It is use to make quickset hedges in Costa Rica and in Venezuela. It is a genus difficult to spot in the habitat, as it merges with the surrounding vegetation. There is a significant disjunction between species of Central America and those of Brazil. As an anecdote, L. quisqueyana (former Pereskia quisqueyana) was discovered in 1977 at Bayahibe (Dominican Rep.) by the Frenchman Alain Liogier, and, being endemic of the region, this taxon was declared in 2011 ≪National Flower of the Dominican Republic≫.
The Antilles (Bonaire), Brazil (Bahia, Minas Gerais), Colombia (Antioquia, Bolivar, Magdalena), Costa Rica (Guanacaste, Limon), Cuba, El Salvador (La Libertad), Guatemala (Chiquimula, El Progreso, Zacapa), Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico (Oaxaca), Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela (Bolivar, Sucre, Zulia).
Currently 8 recognised species:
– Leuenbergeria aureiflora* (Ritter) J.Lode 2013
– Leuenbergeria bleo* (Kunth) J.Lode 2013
– Leuenbergeria guamacho* (Weber) J.Lode 2013
– Leuenbergeria lychnidiflora* (D C.) J.Lode 2013
– Leuenbergeria marcanoi* (Areces Mallea) J.Lode 2013
– Leuenbergeria portulacifolia* (L.) J.Lode 2013
– Leuenbergeria quisqueyana* (Liogier) J.Lode 2013
– Leuenbergeria zinniiflora* (D.c.) J.Lode 2013
References: "TAXONOMY of the CACTACEAE" - ISBN 978-84-617-3723-9 (Vol. 1)