Monday, March 26, 2012

Prelude to Scaphosepalum pleurothallodes, S. merinoi, S. parviflorum and outgroups

The week before Christmas 2009, Alex Hirtz (a famous orchid explorer and a good friend) and I went in the search of Scaphosepalum pleurothallodes in the forests close to the Jatunyacu Delta.  These forests are extraordinaire but very different from the montane forests that I normally work at.

This species is tiny and it has given me the biggest headaches of my professional life.  On that field trip Alex and I separated, got lost and had to sleep in the forest until the next day. As scary as this may sound it was a very humbling experience that I will treasure for ever.  It rained so hard that I could not see a thing, I could not hear more than the storm on the forests so I decide to sit down, give up for the day and just think about the important things of life (that at some points included a prosiutto sandwich that I have left in the car).

The Legend
Years later,  (you will need to read the blogs of my return to this locality) the kichwa friends that came with me to the field where terrified that I have slept alone in the jungle, since the "Lord of the Jungle"normally comes in the form of one of your friends and  takes lost women into the center of the jungle pretending he is helping them out.  Afterwardsthey turn into jaguars and women find themselves with jaguars, boas, tucans and other creatures. Women who experience the "heart of the jungle"should never talk about the creatures that she sees otherwise the spirits will punish her. I think that I was just thinking about the chapters of my dissertation, the collecting permits and the prosciutto sandwich, too blind to see this spirit....
These incredible pictures of the "Lord of the Jungle" were taken by my good friend Santiago Espinosa. He is one of the most remarkable field biologists that I know and he has an incredible Doctoral project on jaguars.  I thank him for letting me use his pictures and please ask him for permission if you intend to use this images.

Conclusion of the trip:
- A wet camera that passed to a better life (therefore no pictures for this story)
- Alex had many stitches on his hands from grabbing some rough edged grass
-Four Kichwas found me almost at the end of the trail, close to the entrance to the forest at 11 am next morning.  The kichwas were using a snail shell (caracola) to call me and I was calling them back by whistling (I am a pro at whistling and I owe that super power to Maria, the lady who has worked with my family since I have memory)
-I had one million chiggers on my feet and waist, really sore legs and could hardly walk after I returned to Quito

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