Sunday, March 25, 2012

Scaphosepalum a galore! Los Cedros, Imbabura, Northwestern Ecuador

Los Cedros is a very special place to me.  It is located in Northwestern Ecuador, is part of the Toisan mountain range.  I made my undergraduate research on this incredible forest.  When I started going there (1997) Los Cedros was nothing like it is now.  We had to walk all the way in the waist deep mud for eight hours to reach the wonderful station and the most incredible forest. I am not exaggerating!
Montane cloud forest of Los Cedros, Imbabura, Ecuador

Draculas, the orchids that I used to work with, flower primarily in the super rainy season.  We use to walk from Saguangal and our base there was Don Pepe's farm.  After all these years the logistics changed an now you can enter through El Chontal and it will save you half of the miserable mud trail, but no worries, it will make your soul and legs stronger, you will experience it anyways! Back in the days there was only Flora a beautiful white mule that has been retired from business and probably now in another dimension.  Last time I saw her she was lying on the sun and enjoying her retirement next to the banana field.  Now four perky mules carry most of the lucky researchers.
Trail from El Chontal to Magdalena Alto: muddy
Back to business....
In 2008 we visited Los Cedros again so I can collect Scaphosepalum digitale, S. dodsonii, S. ophidion and Scaphosepalum beluosum.  You know that you start to get closer to the station when you start to find these creatures.

Scaphosepalum digitale and S. dodsonii often live in the same trees and some times in the same branches.  Scaphosepalum beluosum is also very common and I have seen some of the most incredible plants of this species with pending inflorescences that reach half a meter in size.  Los Cedros has the dark purple form of S. beluosum and the yellow almost white form living right next to each other and of course the common form that is yellow with purple spots.

This is the xanthine form of Scaphosepalum beluosum

I studied the pollination biology of the species in Los Cedros but the flies that visit them are extremely rare and really...lets say..."static".

Scaphosepalum dodsonii is been visited

Stig Dalstrom found Scaphosepalum decorum in Los Cedros and after all these visits and despite of been one of the largests Scaphosepalums I have never seen it there.  Lucky Stig, he is always ahead of me!

In Los Cedros I am super thankful to Jose, the administrator of the Reserve, and also to Martin Obando who was the most patient field assistant I have ever had, especially when the flies were not doing what they should - pollinate.  I trained Martin to be an orchid and plant guide and I heard last time that he is now working as a para-biologist working with projects in the Choco forests of Ecuador. I am really proud of Martin who chose to work as a parabiologist instead of cutting forests. It has been my pleasure to work with Martin since he brought a lot of perspective to my life the when I just cared for flies and orchids!
Here Martin, Angel and Danilo that had helped me at different times of my field work.  

Danilo (right) draws plants that he finds along the reserve, he uses an old notebook leftover from school and a pen.  He has copied most of Dr. Carl Luer illustrations to learn how to draw and I am amazed by his skills.  I took this picture and show it to Dr. Luer so he can see how far his work goes and how important it is for younger generations. 

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