Friday, March 30, 2012

Scaphosepalum breve, Scaphosepalum globosum and some more at the Master of all Teagueia territory

The master of all Teagueias is my dear friend Lou Jost.  We met in 1997when I was working in my Dracula thesis and my co-advisor Nigel Pitman introduced us.  Later on, Lou started talking about this pleurothallid genus Teagueia that I had not heard about.  Been a pleurothallid enthusiast it was a bit embarrasing for me not to know them but it was a small genus (four species) until Lou came an discovered fifty more. Yes 30!

Lou lives literally surrounded by orchids and the best part of it is that he lives next to the very active Tungurahua volcano, so in the next picture, after the Sobralia, there is a cloud right? That is a vapor cloud from the volcano that just erupted and the cone is hiding behind the cloud.

View from Lou's house

Teagueias are sister to Scaphosepalums and that is another reason why I visited Lou in Banhos because we have an ongoing project plus I have been searching for other variations of Scaphosepalum breve and also looking for Scaphosepalum globosum, a species that Carl Luer separated from Scaphosepalum odontochilum.

These pictures were taken on the river sides of the Pastaza river at Mache, Lou and his NGO Ecominga purchased some of the land of this area to protect the high diversity and endemism. Lou's efforts are 
incredible and I am really honored to be his friend and sort'a collaborator.

These are some Scaphosepalums covered in volcanic ashes that Lou helped me with!! 

 Scaphosepalum ovulare
 Scaphosepalum globosum
Scaphosepalum odontochilum

Having fun in the Pailon del Diablo, believe it or not there are tons of orchids hanging from the bridge.  Did not have the nerve to stop in the middle of it to id them...

The following pictures were taken in Lou's Ecominga Rio Anzu Reserve.  This place is spectacular, most of the following pictures are to honor Lou's work.  Wish there will be more Ecuadorians like Lou!

This picture is awesome, this is a monument of Richard Spruce, an early explorer of Ecuador, his book is a must read.  Lou is a fan and he has been after several species that Spruce discovered but were lost and I really like the fact that a botanist sculpture made it to such special place in the heart of diversity and endemism. 

Before I forget....I love that along the roads there are so many truck with funny names or paintings, for example this truck is called "El mil Amores" The Thousand Loves. How can you get bored in these roads?
 This is a "cuy" (guineae pig) rotisserie. I am not a fan of any animal product and I have observed with interest how many foreigners would like to try "cuy".  This is a picture of it, it smells better than it looks. Will not try one, even if my Ecuadorian citizenship requires me too.

Highlights with the lab

In a north to south eastern Ecuador trip we had the greatest time sharing orchids, stories and well kept field secrets like the preparation of peanut butter and mustard cracker sandwich.  Norris, our advisor took us for one of kind fieldtrip that I will take with me where ever I go.  This bus stop served us as a picnic stop along the way to Zamora.
Mario Blanco, Kurt Neubig, Norris Williams, Paula Viveros, Mark Whitten waiting for lunch. Check the puppy...looking at the camera.

These pictures are actually a joke on Kurt.  Back in the day, Kurt was working with Dichaea and Mark and Norris decided to make a Selaginella look like Dichaea.  In the left you can see the Selaginella surgery and the right the product....they called Kurt who came running to see it! Love the unnoticed branch on Norris hat.

This is one of my super favorite pictures ever.  This is in a little hostal in Vilcabamba, southern Ecuador, and the gentlemen are closing this gigantic plant press.  
 I like the additional use that Mark gave to the plant press. This picture should be great as a calendar picture.
 We had a lot of fun with each other and also finding fun orchids! 

This picture is a view of Cordillera del Condor, this mountain range is really interesting because is floristically more similar to the Guyana Shield vegetation and also is protected by the Shuar indigenous people. This picture was taken from the Portilla's greenhouse in El Pangui.
Flat tire....of course, otherwise the trip is not a trip in Ecuador, Kurt learns from the well experienced Norris Williams.  There is a beautiful thing about flat tires in Ecuador, "Vulcanizadoras" are  everywhere, we probably have the highest tire repair shops density in the world.

I got really hungry and grumpy but I promise that I am not dangerous, despite the pictures
Lorena and Mario in a fun breakfast in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.  If we could just be doing fieldwork!
Mario y los Cachorros (puppies) in La Manzana Real Hotel (Royal Apple Hotel) in Zamora.  I think that we will never forget this place, Kurt, Mario, Mark and Paula got severely ill and Norris and I were trying to act like nurses helping them, there was nothing we really could do, just keep high spirits and joke about everything...Kurt will never forget this unique adventure, this was his first contact with the local fauna.
After our field trip we attended  the First Scientific Andean Orchid Conference, we had a great time.

 Mario Blanco, Samantha Koehler, Paula Viveros, Mark Whitten
 Lorena, Kurt and Norris - love this picture!

Before I forget... This is one of those things that makes me cringe. Electric showers.  I think that the idea of energy saving is great and I wish that since electric showers are so incredible in this aspect, engineers will focus in the design and it will also help if they can make them installer proof.  This is a vivid example of why I rather take a cold shower or not take one at all...this was probably Frankensteins shower. The price difference of room with electric shower was a dollar (5 to 6 USD per night) and the teller will tell you that in order to take a shower you need to turn the light switch first.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Potential habitats of Scaphosepalum: Siempre Verde and the Intag region

Siempre Verde is reserve in northwestern Ecuador that protects remnant forests of the Intag Region and the Toisan Mountain Range.  This region has been extensively converted into agricultural patches so we were very lucky to visit this site that I thought it was going to be similar to the Los Cedros forest so I thought I could find some Scaphosepalums here.

The Director of this reserve is a good friend of mine, Alex Reynolds, and we both were doing our undergrad thesis, he worked with Chondrorhynca and bees and I worked with Dracula and flies. Here you can see Alex explaining to his group the activities of the day and how are we going to hike and see.

In this trip I was so happy to share the hikes Mike Wenzel from the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  ABG has been instrumental for my research, they grow my plants and they are so good at making them flower so I can measure and study them. I am super fortunate to have their collaboration.

Back to Siempre Verde! The first day we hiked on the lower part of the reserved and walked by the river most of the time.  This place is phenomenal, we were able to find lots of terrestrial orchids, the most common were Cyclopogons.
Jeff, Judy and Mike walking along the river
I love these pictures: On the way back we had to cross a cow field with some hidden swampy spots and citrus trees that were full of orchids.
 Mike finds a super cute Stellilabium
Other cute findings

 The next day we hiked the path on the right that goes all the way to the ridge of this mountain (1000m altitudinal difference), Nelson was our guide.
The trail was full of spectackled bear tracks and we have seen some cubs on the way in.  Along the trail we also so some of the leftover bromeliads that were eaten.  
On top of the hill, there is the most unbelievable forest ever, the Lord of the Rings could totally be filmed there, you walk most of the time on the roots of trees or underneath them.

 The ridge is also covered with Barbosella plants that were fruiting but is the dominant orchid in the higher parts of this trail.  You can also find all sorts of strange things like this Pachyphylum, Fernandezia, Prescottia, Epidendrums and huge plants Lepanthes magnifica

I love the picture on the left, it makes me laugh every time I see it.  We are using our x-ray vision to see the Cotacachi volcano behind the clouds, can you see it? (If not look at the map on top of this blog).  Jeff's x-rays are clearly not working, therefore his discontent, but it seems that Mike's x-ray camera is going to work.  We walked the whole day and the only thing we saw is white! But on our way down we got very lucky and saw a bit of landscape.

 Nocturnal plant pressing

Scaphosepalum wise, we found a couple of interesting things that could contribute to my research: Platystele alucitae, and one of the forms of Specklinia grobyi that just grows on this side of the Andes.
 This was a super fun trip thanks to Alex. He is saying goodbye to us.

 Before I forget.....yes....we had a flat tire
 Love to be in the field!
This picture is dedicated to the people that don't believe in telecommuting.  This is Jeff working on his way to the little town of Apuela in the back of the truck. Intelligent phones really rock!