Friday, April 06, 2007


Sebastião dos Santos used to work with me on a regular basis at Bosque Santa Lúcia but he is now captain of a riverboat owned by Santarém Tur here in Santarém. Nevertheless, he is quite aware of my interests in palms and plants in general, so I'm never surprised when he shows up with an assortment of seeds and plants. In November of 2005, he brought me the timbó plant shown in the image. It was only a cutting from a vine at that time. It eventually leafed out and grew into the beautiful thing you see. Only last week I placed it in the ground next to a very high tree stump, where hopefully it will grow into its normal vine form. The chances are that readers of this blog have seen timbó in documentaries made in the Amazon. The scenario is one of Indians beating the heck out of backwaters of a river or a creek with smashed vines or the roots of the same. Fifteen or twenty minutes later dying fish appear on the surface of the water. Yep, that vine was timbó and it is quite capable of killing more than fish. Sebastião told me that when he arrived from upriver Tapajós, he left the cutting at his aunt's home, planning on picking it up another day. Then he discovered that his aunt's ducks were dying of some unknown cause. I'm not sure his aunt made the association between the timbó and the dying ducks but Sebastião was quick to get the plant out of her yard.

I'm still looking for the scientific name for timbó. Henry Bates in his classic, The Naturalist on the River Amazon, described the use of timbó in the Indian villages he visited on the Tapajós River in 1852. The scientific name he used was Paullinia pinnata. More interesting than the Latin name of the plant is the fact that Sebastião took the cutting from one of the same areas visited by Bates back then. I'm sure he never heard of Henry Bates but he sure knew of timbó.

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