Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mangosteen III

When I opened one of the fruits today, I was surprised to see that the seeds are quite large in comparison to the size of the fruit segments. I sucked the pulp away from the seeds and another surprise! The fruit is much sweeter and less acid than I remember it from a few years ago. It may be that I ate fruit not totally ripe. This one was ripe and right on. The other fruits I had collected for photographing two days ago were overripe and not fit for eating. The tree from which I picked the fruit belong to my former neighbor at the Bosque. He used to work at a small airport nearby as watchman and it was there that he came by the original fruit and seeds, brought in from a Japanese fruit farm in the souther part of the State.

Mangosteen II

Notice that I'm still calling the fruit mangosteen, even though I don't know for sure that's the correct name. In the previous image I showed the whole fruit and leaves. I suppose if I'm to get any help in classifying it, I'd better show what it looks like inside. As you can see there are five segments. If by chance there are normally six segments in a fruit, one was without seed. Indeed there were six segments but one was quite small and without seed.


Some years ago I planted pingo-de-ouro (Duranta repens) along the fence that separates the two entrances to the Bosque. It became what I intended it to be, a live fence. While in the process of growing and filling in spaces, I always kept the plants cropped at about a meter and a half high. I never dreamed that pingo-de-ouro could become a beautiful tree until I visited a nursery owned by our friend Edna and her husband, Manoel. They have such a variety of plants, palms and trees, I always become starry- eyed seeing it all. On one visit I asked about a beautiful tree about 6 meters high, full of small, beautiful yellow fruit. Pingo-de ouro. I couldn't believe it, the same plant I use as a hedge! So I decided that day I'd let the hedges grow into trees. The attached image shows foliage and berries. It doesn't take much imagination how it came to take on the name pingo-de-ouro, i.e., drops of gold. I understand that it is originally from Mexico.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


My main interest at Bosque Santa Lucia has always been that of keeping it in native trees and palms of this region. As such, I've never planted corn, beans, rice and other crops that keep rural people alive, well and happy. I suppose my egocentric ways were showing because Cleuson, the young man who helps me out at the Bosque on a part-time basis, took it on his own to plant manioc at the beginning of this rainy season. So now I'm the proud owner of maybe a dozen plants scattered between my three year old palm trees in front of the reception center. I think I'm right in saying that nothing is more basic to the Brazilian diet than manioc (Manihot esculenta). The Indians were planting manioc maybe thousands of years before the Europeans made their way into South America. The newcomers from across the big waters were probably hungry for anything resembling food but they came to adopt the byproducts of the manioc root as their own, especially the toasted sawdust-looking meal called farinha. In upcoming blog posts, I'll be presenting more images of manioc and short descriptions of how it's processed into traditional foods appreciated by the Brazilian population. In the attached image you can see a young manioc plant that's now about two feet high. Although manioc produces seeds, the reproductive unit is that of stem cuttings. In this case, Cleuson planted a short segment (5-6 inches long) of stem material, all underground. I don't remember how long it took to germinate and come up out of the ground but I think in the order of 3-4 weeks. The plant will reach a height of 2-3 meters before the roots are large enough to harvest.


Several years ago, I listed this exotic fruit as mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) but now I have my doubts. My gut feeling is that I got the genus right but not the species. I remember back then someone telling me that the seeds had been brought in by an air-taxi pilot from the southern Pará. Then too, I remember a visitor to the Bosque telling me that mangosteen is Queen Elizabeth's favorite fruit. I've been spreading the word ever since. One of the joys of being around tropical flora is that of learning the name of a plant, or in this case, the correct name. I sorted through pages of images on the net to find Garcinia xanthochymus, which for the world looks like the fruit in the attached image. But I won't jump to conclusions until I hear from the experts in the field of tropical fruits. In the meanwhile, I can report that the fruit is quite tasty but very acid. It's at its best as a juice.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Miriti (Buriti) III

My favorite snake is Cobrinha and she's made of miriti (Mauritia flexuosa) palm wood. It's the lightest wood I've seen here in the Amazon. I don't know how it compares to balsa wood but I've seen craftsmen using kitchen knifes to carve it into boats like the one I showed in yesterday's post. Cobrinha has some very special features in terms of craftsmanship. All seven segments are united by the natural fibers of the palm, as opposed to wires or strings, and they articulate much like a real snake. She lives in the reception center of Bosque Santa Lúcia, along with four other snakes.

Miriti (Buriti) II

The buriti palms (Mauritia flexuosa) love the swampy areas of Santarém. I've planted them at Bosque Santa Lúcia but it's much too dry during the summer for them to survive. Someday, when we have a a more dependable source of water, I'll try again. The palm, called miriti in some parts of the Amazon, produces literally hundreds of pounds of fruits, which can be seen in the attached image that I took this morning on the way to the Bosque. The fruit isn't as popular as pupunha (Bactris gasipaes) here in Santarém but it can be found at all the market places and it has its fame for making an excellent wine and liqueurs. Buriti may be the largest of the palms in the Amazon, reaching heights of 35-40 meters.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bees at Lake Hevea

You'll need to click onto the thumbnail image to see the detail of bees collecting rubber latex from a smoked ball of rubber. I have no idea what the bees are doing with the rubber they take away from the small lakes of liquid latex in the rubber ball. It has nothing to do with the fact that it was smoked because over the last three years I've seen the same species of bees reduce coagulated latex (sernambi) samples to much of nothing. I wonder if the material might be used in the construction of nests, as opposed to food. The attached image is a close up of a small area of the smoked rubber ball, which used to be the way rubber was preserved for shipment to the industrial word in far away in places like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Today the latex is kept in liquid form by adding ammonia to the collection vessels. This is the rubber used for making surgical gloves, condoms and other prime rubber products. I bought this smoked rubber ball from Milton Marques, a fellow Lions Club member, around 1987. Sr. Milton was the primary buyer of rubber for all of this region when it was still a viable market. He has since died, as has the market.

Miriti palm

No, this isn't the riverboat that Francisco de Orellana used to come down the Amazon River in 1541-42! It's a toy riverboat that our friend Jeremy Campbell brought from Belém this past weekend. The wood is from the miriti (Mauritia flexuosa) palm, known as buriti in this region of Santarém. The miriti gets to be the largest of the palms in the Amazon and the wood is the favorite for making arts and crafts because it is very light, much like balsa wood. In recent years a number of small toy shops have opened up in the Belém area, providing employment for kids and adults alike. My favorite miriti artifact at the Bosque reception center is a wooden snake that Áurea brought back from Belém a year or so ago. It's done in such a way that the joints of the snake are held in place by the fibers of the wood. As such, it articulates much like a real snake!

Brazilian mahogany

This Brazilian mahogany tree (Swietenia macrophylla) is only 8-10 meters away from the large African mahogany shown in the previous post. I planted it in January of 2001, along with approximately 80 other mahogany seedlings, which were donated to the Bosque by Sr. Barrosa, then administrator for SUDAM (Agency for the Development of the Amazon) here in Santarem. Later I received another donation of seedlings from Dr. Paulo Sérgio Pimentel, making for a total of approximately 200 mahoganies planted at Bosque Santa Lúcia. I need to do another headcount now that the power company has cleared 15 meters on one side of the road, an area where I had planted some of the trees. I also know that I lost many trees because of the shade factor. If I end up with 20 survivors, I'll be happy. I remember seeing five mahogany trees in Fordlândia, which had been planted in the mid-1980s. At that age they were already really quite impressive in size. Swietenia macrophylla is on the CITES list of endangered trees, thus it is prohibited to cut the species in Brazil without special permission from the federal government. They were certainly cut from the areas close to Santarém long ago. Some of the neighbors at Bosque Santa Lúcia, people who have lived all their life there, tell me that they have never seen a mahogany. That makes me feel good knowing that the tree has made a comeback, if nothing else a few sample trees.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

African mahogany II

This is another view of my little six-year old African mahogany described in the previous post. Out of the 15 seedlings, this one is by far the largest and healthiest. The other four planted nearby at the entrance to the Bosque are getting larger every year but they are bent over, maybe from looking for light, and they developed a disease/condition that creates large black blobs on the trunk of the trees. One tree actually broke off last year at about five meters, I assume from the stress of being bent over too far. It's now developing new life at the top of the standing trunk and may end up being a beautiful tree yet. Only one of the ten African mahogany trees planted along the trails survived. I discovered the hard way that young trees can't survive in the shade of older trees. This was my experience with all the species of trees I've planted along the Bosque trail system. An anonymous visitor once made the comment that "trees need to grow up together." That may be true.

African mahogany

In January of 2000, I received 15 African mahogany (Kaya ivorensis) seedlings from Dra. Gladys, then director of EMBRAPA, the foremost research center for forestry here in Brazil. She told me that the trees were part of a stock that had been reserved for a forestry project in the Amazon floodplain but that the person responsible was slow in picking them up. I loaded the seedlings into my old VW van and took off for the Bosque as fast as I could go, hoping that the owner wouldn't show up before I put them in the ground. Five of the seedlings were planted at the main entrance to the Bosque and the others along the walking trails. The one in the attached image is at the main gate and it's the one doing the best, probably because it gets more sunlight. Another view of the tree coming up.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Mucajá palms in full dress

Seeing these three mucajá palms (Acrocomia aculeata) with old fronds hanging down over their spiny trunks reminds me of Francisco de Orellana's trip down the Amazon River in 1541-42, and how the river came to be called the Amazon. You'll remember that Orellana was the first European to sail down the river and it was on this trip that he and his crew encountered what they thought were women warriors in their palm/grass skirts. Historians seem to agree that they were probably men, not women. Nevertheless, the Spaniards remembered the Greek legend of the Amazons, those legendary women warriors who removed one of their breasts so as to better their aim with bows and arrows. Thus, they gave the name Amazon to the largest river in the world.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Taquarí (Mabea caudata) hasn't quite made up its mind whether it's tree, shrub or a vine. It'll make adaptations to any environmental situation in order to get to sunlight. I deal with them on a regular basis when it's time to cut cut brush back from the edges of the Bosque reception center grounds. Long before undergrowth has reached any height at all, taquarí has found its way over and through other vegetation to get to the "big hole" in the woods. Likewise, they are always found on the sides of road systems, edging out of the brush to get to what they like best, sunlight. In the attached image you can see the inflorescence of the tree, which is already out in the open.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Colors of Caladiums V

.. and the last caladium for now. I'm repeating some species just to show differences in design and colors.

Colors of Caladiums IV

More in a sea of green.

Colors of Caladiums III

.... and another one. Look at those colors!

Colors of Caladiums II

I'm seeing many different kinds of caladiums (taja de cobra) at Bosque Santa Lucia right now, so let me share them while they are fresh.

Colors of Caladiums

There are so many caladiums around the Bosque, I’m sure that visitors think that they were planted. I suppose the rhizome of the plant could be dug up and planted where one wishes but all the caladiums you see there are in their natural state. They are classified in the Araceae family of plants. The genus is Caladium and there are many different species. They all pop up like weeds during the rainy season and die back to the ground during our long dry months. We have several different kinds at the Bosque. I'll be posting images of them as I find time.

Colors of Geniparana

Geniparana (Gustavia augusta) is a real showoff when it comes time for flowering- and producing new leaves. Back in December of last year I posted an image of a Geniparana flower, the same one I used for our Christmas greetings message. Now it's time for new leaves and they are almost as attractive as the saucer-seized flower. In the picture you can see the new leaves to the right and the mature ones to the left. As described in the "Colors of Ingá" post not long ago, plants have a bag of tricks to ward off leaf-eating insects- and changing colors is one of them. The insects are tuned into jungle green, not other colors. This gives the leaves a few extra days to toughen up before they are discovered as a delicious salad.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Orchid (Maxillaria amazonica)

My friends, Claúdio and Bernadette Serique from the Santarém Orchid Society come to my rescue again. Identification tags on most of my orchids, a dozen or so, have all disappeared and I'm at loss to name them when they produce those beautiful flowers. Claúdio and Bernadette tell me that this one is Maxillaria amazonica. I think this is the first time it has bloomed. Bernadette also tells me that if I fertilize it properly, it'll produce many more flowers. Hum, I seemed to have forgotten that little detail! I've not zoomed in on the flower because I think the plant is just as fantastic. Click in on the thumbnail, if you want to have a better look.

Olle Pettersson

Occasionally, I divert from tropical flora and life at Bosque Santa Lúcia to include a post about people who have visited the Bosque. These posts are listed under the "People" label off on the left hand side of the page. Olle Pettersson visited us in January of this year and I'll have to admit that I don't remember him at all because he was with a group of Scandinavians, maybe a dozen or so. It was only after his return to Sweden that we began to correspond about trees, of course. I discovered that Olle has been photographing trees for nearly five decades and little did I realize that in less than two hours at the Bosque, he added considerably to his portfolio. He recently sent me three CDs of photographs taken of his trip to Brazil, including the Bosque. I asked Olle to send me a pix of himself with some biographical data so that I could do this post. In his own humble way, he says very little about himself. But his art form speaks for him! His blogs are listed under "Links". His remarks follow:

Inspired by an old gringo!

You never really know these days what or who you are going to meet where. In January 2007 anyway, at Bosque Santa Lúcia, I met a pleasant man with a wide knowledge. I came here as an ordinary tourist with a group from Tema-resor Sweden. Steven guided us in both the biodiversity of the rain forest and the history of Ford's Belterra in the 1920s and the agro-industrial adventures and dangers of today in Santarém and Brazil. And he is a very good storyteller. My grandfather on my mother’s side, a self-educated carpenter, would have enjoyed lifting the heavy wood-samples at Steven’s small museum.

Now, every other day, I look into his blog to get a story of what he has met on his rounds in this Bosque and what is happening around it. It is very fascinating. He inspired me to put up my own blog on trees, flowers, stones and skies! And a “road-movie” from the market early one morning in Belem.

When I nowadays walk in the forests at home, the visit to the rain forest in Brazil has brushed up my eyes for all kinds of trees in this northern region were I live. Maybe in a more irresponsible sampling of forms and colours than is exposed in Steven’s blog. But still, maybe the search for beauty in trees also support in the long run the forces to preserve them?

So, anyone who plans to go to Brazil, Amazon and Santarem – book a visit to Bosque Santa Lucia!

I do not have a picture of myself from the Bosque Santa Lúcia so I enclose a picture at Artfjället with Lake Överuman in the background. Here you find the sources of Umeälven (Ume River), not the size of the Amazon, but still a beautiful river rolling down to the Baltic sea. Maybe I can inspire someone to visit the Swedish mountains?

Olle Pettersson



Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Light for All

When I was out this afternoon getting photographs of standing paricá trees, downed paricá trees, old paricá trees and young paricá trees, I found myself staring at a concrete light pole with the motto of the national rural electrification program engraved onto it. "Luz para Todos", which translates into "Light for All". I suppose in English, "Lights for All" might be a better way of saying it. I have to admit that it was an emotional moment because the motto is so simple, the engraving so simple, the concept so bold! In less than two electoral terms, President Lula has brought electricity to large areas of rural Brazil, including the Amazon. Lula's promise of electricity for every home in Brazil is obviously platonic, much like his "Zero Hunger" campaign. Nevertheless, these are high impact programs, which pluck at the heart strings of the masses. I know that the Luz Para Todos project around the Bosque Santa Lúcia region is the most important social benefit to ever come our way. I lost a few meters of trees along a kilometer or so of power line construction but let it be.

Paricá III

After taking the photograph of the cut paricá tree, I discovered a young one coming up through an assortment of tropical flora along side the road. Defending its role as a pioneer tree, it grows very fast. I'm sure that this seedling germinated from a woody seed that fell to the ground last summer. Next season, I'll show you images of the pod and seed. The first time I discovered that paricá is a pioneer tree was at Serra do Navio in the State of Amapá about 10 years ago. They were being planted in the disturbed areas of the ICOMI manganese mine.

Paricá II

No, fear not, I didn't cut the paricá tree described in the previous post. But this was a paricá tree and it was cut - by Celpa for clearing way for the high tension electrical cables, which are already being strung from the concrete posts put up recently. One more beautiful tree makes way for progress.


I planted the seed of this tree in a powdered milk can at home in Santarém about 18 years ago and then transferred it to an area close the Bosque Santa Lúcia entrance. The person who did the classification of trees along the trail ways at the Bosque in 1990 lists two paricá tree species, Acacia polyphylla and Schizolobium sp. I believe from some amateur research on my part that this is Schizolobium parahyba var. amazonicum (Huber x Ducke) Barneby. Regardless of scientific jargon, it's a beautiful tree. At 18 years of age, this paricá is already getting to be an old tree. In the role of a pioneer tree, they rarely ever get older than 20-25 years. There are several of these beauties at the Bosque and when the lineated woodpeckers begin to drill into them, I know their days are numbered. I dread the day that my little milk can tree dies because it will fall on the entranceway and several other important trees. I suppose I'll have to have it cut, so as to give it some direction ... and also avoid pieces of it falling on visitors.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lacre II

This is a better image of the coloring effect I mentioned in the earlier post. On the newly forming leaf we see the copper/reddish color of the underside and on the larger leaves the green of the superior part of the leaves. I'll be on the outlook for an opportunity to photograph the red resin. I forgot to mention that the genus is Vismia.

Lacre (Vismia)

Our botanical listing of trees was done about 10 years ago by Sr. Manuel dos Santos under the supervision of Dr. Luiz Pedroso at SUDAM. Refer to Botanical Listings on this blog, over on the left hand side of the page. Sr. Manuel referred to two species of lacre at Bosque Santa Lucia, one being lacre grande and the other lacre vermelho. To be honest about it, I haven't taken the time to sort out which is which. I only know that the tree is distinguished by leaves which are a reddish/copper color on the inferior side and the normal jungle green on the superior side. One, or maybe both species produce a thick red resin, which reminds me of the lacre material used to seal letters and documents in older days. As you might suspect, this material is also used in traditional medicine practices.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Erva de passarinho

The common name of this parasitic plant translates in the "little bird's herb" because the seeds are transported by birds. They eat the fruit of the plant and pass the seeds around in their feces. The genus is Phoradendron and there are countless species. I love birds but they sure infect a lot of my star trees, like the Pau Brasil and Pau Rosa. The troublesome plant starts off looking like a very small bud coming out of the branch of the tree or other places where the birds have crapped. In due time it grows into a vine that dines on the sap of the tree. It is fast grower and will kill the host in due time. The only way to deal with it is to manually remove it piece by piece, or prune the infected branch of the tree. The culprit birds at the Bosque are flycatchers, those beautiful yellow breasted birds, and some of the tanagers. They keep a brood going at all times in the Pau Brasil, which means they are continually passing the seed laden droppings to all parts of the tree. In the attached image, erva de passarinho is taking over some branches of a castanhola tree (Terminalia catapa).

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tatajuba III

In the attached image off to the left you can see an immature fruit of the tatajuba tree and rotting ones to the right. Tatajuba trees (Bagassa guianensis) get to be very large trees growing to heights of 40-50 meters and they are capable of producing loads of fruit. I suppose they are edible but I've never known anyone to collect them for food. For seeds, yes. I love tatajuba fruit because they attract the large blue morpho butterflies belonging to the genus Morpho. Several species are found at the Bosque, including the iridescent blue ones. On a bright sunny day I keep a close look at the trail ahead of me when nearing a tatajuba tree. Nothing is more exciting than seeing several morphos feasting on fermented tatajuba fruits.

Tatajuba II

I brought this piece of tatajuba wood (Bagassa guianensis) out of the Reception Center so that I could photograph it under better lighting conditions. It had been sanded but not enough to remove the saw marks from the sample. Nevertheless, the image demonstrates the yellowish/red color of the wood after drying out. When it's first cut, it much more yellow than red. It is an excellent wood for decks and floors because it's relatively heavy and resistant to insect infestation. As mentioned in the previous post, it's also becoming a substitute for Asian teak in the decking of ships.


I'm losing some really fine trees because of the construction of the power line that follows the road into the Bosque. Tatajuba (Bagassa guianensis) is one of the trees being cut in the 15 meter clearing required by Celpa, the power company. In the attached image you can see a couple of these trees which were chainsawed down this week. Although the lumber isn't worth as much as mahogany and some of the other noble woods, it's being used with more frequency in-country and on the foreign market. In Holland and some other countries, it's a substitute for Asian teak, especially in naval construction. Notice the coagulated latex on the cuts. In a standing situation it flows from the tree much like rubber when it's tapped. I'm trying to work out something with my neighbor so that we can both utilize these logs. The equipment and transportation for getting these logs to the reception center area is too much for my pocketbook. In the meanwhile, I hope that some logging outfit doesn't see them. They could be ripped off fast.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lantern bug

It's a real treat to find this beautiful creature when on a tour. Funny, in my post yesterday morning I talked about the copaíba tree and in the afternoon I conducted a forest walk with a small group of visiting Germans. I took my camera with me because I was hoping that we might see our friend, the so-called jequitiranamboia. It's an indigenous word, which translates into something like the "bug with an empty head", referring to the false dragon-like head. In the image you can see what I'm describing. Click in on the thumbnail pix to get a better view. The real head is back of that protrusion. See the eyes? There were three of these creatures on the tree trunk, which is a copaiba tree. I have never seen lantern bugs on any other trees, other than on this copaíba. I can say, almost for sure, that the sweet smelling copaíba oil (resin) is the attraction. The family of insects is Fulgoridae and the species is Fulgora laternaria.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Copaíba II

Erotic moments in the forest! Don't laugh, this is a copaíba tree. In the previous entry I didn't mention that the tree produces a very fragrant oil used in the perfume industry. This oil is also one of the most used homeopathic medicines used in the Amazon. It's taken from the tree in almost the same fashion as maple syrup, that is by drilling a hole right into the tree. The hole is then plugged until some quantity of oil has accumulated for collection. That's the purpose of this stick, by the way. This particular tree isn't at Bosque Santa Lúcia but on one of the trails of the Tapajós National Forest, about 70 kilometers from here. I have a very beautiful copaíba tree (maybe more than one) at the Bosque but I don't tap the tree. There is, however, some oozing of oil from a natural opening on the tree. It´s enough for visitors to get the gist of the fragrance and it also attracts some beautiful lantern bugs from time to time.

Copaíba seeds

Seeds are now falling from the copaíba trees (Copaifera multifuga). If I wanted to collect the seeds, I'd have to do it fast because the forest animals find them quite tasty and they disappear very quickly. I have planted some seeds in the past. They germinate well but the seedlings are slow in growing and requite a lot of attention. Evidently the tree is becoming rather rare because government officials show up from time to time to collect seeds for their reforestation projects. Next blog entry, the copaíba tree.

Chifre de veado (Deer's horn)

This Platycerium was given to me two or three years ago by Dona Yaco Rodrigues and her daughter, Nelly, who are proud owners of the largest private collection of orchids in this region. It was attached to a small piece of xaxim-like material and I was told to put it onto a larger plaque of the same. After hanging it up in one place and another for some months, I finally put it in a small vase made out of coconut fibers. Xaxim is much better but the palm from which it comes is on the endangered list, so most gardeners use coconut fiber and other materials for their epiphytic plants. Some more time passed and I was feeling guilty about it not growing properly. What if the donors showed up to find their gift in this state of affairs? My next move to save face was that of placing the vase with the "chifre de veado" into the hollow of a wooden log that had become too rotten to use as a vase stand. This was just a few months ago and I'm surprised how well the plant has done in this environment. It continues to produce "horn" after "horn" and there are many off-shoots coming up from the sides of the vase. The light intensity seems to be perfect here too because it's on the edge of a shady forest area but with plenty of indirect light getting to the plant.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Sorry, I don't have time to pose for more photographs. I'm too busy eating these delicious leaves of the bacurizinho tree (Rheedia sp.).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Urucu II

This is the inside of an urucu pod I picked today at my neighbor's farm across the road from the Bosque. As you can see, it's full of seeds, each covered with a bright red paste (pulp). This particular fruit isn't totally mature, thus the pulp isn't as thick as it would normally be when harvested. The color is also a bit faded, compared to mature seeds. I forgot to mention that the scientific name, Bixa orellana, is in tribute to Francisco Orellana, the first European to come down the Amazon River in 1541-1542. Bixa means "bright red" in Latin. Some people refer to urucu as the "lipstick plant" because the pulp can be applied to the human body, much like lipstick. The indigenous groups of the Amazon have used urucu for thousands of years for body paint and as a dye for cloth and other artifacts. If you do a quick search on the internet, you'll see that the plant is also medicinal. It's amazing how it's used for so many different aliments.

Urucu (Annatto)

You can count on finding the urucu plant (Bixa orellana) around every rural household in the Amazon. Like the use of green onion tops, urucu powder is an essential ingredient in local cuisine; and if you don't have a yard or a piece of farmland, you go to the supermarket or marketplace to buy it. In the powder form, it's called "coloral", which means nothing more than food coloring. The next time you sit down for a meal in this part of the world, you'll notice that the rice and spaghetti are tinged red with coloral. Here at home my wife refuses to buy coloral because our maid/cook goes overboard in the use of it. Salt, too. The attached image is of a urucu plant (shrub/tree) loaded with fruit. The pods are a bright orange/red. When mature, they will be harvested and put out in the sun for a few days to dry. The seeds are then removed and pounded in a mortar and pestle to remove the pulp. This red powder is coloral. Next image, the seeds.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Red milkweed II

With the help of my readers, I think I can confirm that the plant shown in the previous entry of red milkweed is of the genus Asclepias. Now to get the species. On this entry I've included an image of the fruit and foliage. Evidently there are LOTS of species so it's going to be fun looking. I always say that one of the little pleasures in life is learning the name of an unknown plant. Unknown to me, of course. Somebody out there knows it.

Morning glories II

Another view of morning glories along the federal highway, BR-163, alias Santarem-Cuiaba Highway. They are certainly in heaven in this environment because they can grow out in all directions, at times right up onto the asphalt of the road; and of course they climb up all the other vegetation, at times forming a wall of vines and flowers.

Morning Glories

My trip from the city to Bosque Santa Lúcia is approximately 25 minutes via BR-163, the Santarém-Cuiaba Highway. I normally spend the mornings at the Bosque, so I get the full show of morning glories along the road. Today I couldn't resist the temptation of taking pictures, even though I didn't enjoy being gawked at by passing drivers. The morning glory flowers were probably thinking the same of me. The genus is Ipomoea. Since there are more than 200 species in the American Tropics, I will again ask professional help in identifying this beauty.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pau Rosa (Rosewood) IV

These are immature pau rosa seeds. Many people remember acorns when they see them. Some persons also swear they can smell the fragrance of the oil but I can't. I understand that the tree must be at least 30 -35 years old be of essence quality. My oldest tree is only 5-6 years old. In the past, the wood of the tree was used in the distillation process for producing the oil. There are some groups today saying that it wasn't necessary to cut the trees at all, suffice it to use the leaves.

Cassia alata

Although Cassia alata is more common in the Amazon floodplain, we see some of these plants on the Planalto, where Bosque Santa Lucia is located. The common name here is "mata pastagem", which translates into "kill the pasture". It grows like a weed in cattle and buffalo pasture lands, thus the name. The only English name I know is "the candlestick plant." I've never know of anyone to use the plant as a medicine but I see many advertisements for Cassia alata on the internet under the name of "ringworm bush".

Rosewood III

This is the fruit of the rosewood tree close to maturity. When it's completely ripe, it looks much like a black olive. Many people also observe that the fruit looks like an acorn from an oak tree. I've planted a few of these seeds but so far not one has germinated. Just recently I discovered why; insects bore holes into the fruit before they fall from the tree.

Pau Rosa II

The attached image is the inflorescence of the rosewood tree. I was lucky enough to come by three seedlings from friends at SUDAM and the oldest tree was flowering by three years of age. As reported in the previous post, the majority of the rosewood trees in the Amazon were cut in the 18th century. The essence (oil) of tree comes from the distillation of the wood. Just to show you how much the oil was worth, the industry returned to the jungles to harvest the trunks and roots of the trees. Sometimes visitors are anxious to get a smell of the rosewood fragrance by crushing leaves or breaking off small branches of the tree. Sorry, the tree needs to be at least 35 years old to produce that smell. In recent times there are reports that the leaves of the rosewood tree are sufficient to produce oil, thereby relieving the need to cut the tree. I'm not sure this is true but that's the report.

Pau Rosa (Rosewood)

Rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora) is certainly one of the most famous of all the trees in the Amazon. In the 18th century this species was almost cut into extinction, not for the wood, but for the natural oils used in the perfume business. I shouldn't seclude it to the perfume industry because back in those days it was added to soaps, shampoos and everything else that needed a fragrance. The most noted scent using rosewood oil was that of Chanel No. 5, a perfume concocted by a Russian perfume maker around 1920. It became legendary in the 1950s when Marilyn Monroe touted it at a press conference as the only thing she wore when going to bed. You'll get the rest of the story when you do a tour at the Bosque.

The sample of rosewood in the image was given to me by my friend João at the Muiraquitão Arts and Crafts store in Santarém. I understood that it was left over from a stock of the wood he had kept in the store for many years.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Cedar (Cedrela odorata) III

Brazilian cedar is a deciduous tree, which means that it loses all of its leaves; in this case, during the dry season. Most of our native trees are deciduous but what makes cedar unique is that it remain leafless for the duration of the summer. The one in the image is probably one of those beautiful green trees shown on the previous blog entry. Looking at it in its leafless state, you might think it had died. I assure you that there were days when I thought just that, but when the rains come, the trees bounce back to life. You may have rightfully come to the conclusion that the Brazilian cedar isn't a conifer. The family is Meliaceae, as is the Brazilian mahogany.

Cedar (Cedrela odorata) II

In this image you can see several cedar trees which were donated to the Bosque by Marilha Godinho and her deceased husband, Carlos Eduardo. The trees are 3-4 years old and are doing extremely well in this location . Unfortunately the new power line is being constructed only meters away. It still remains to be seen whether or not they'll get cut. So far they're survivors. I made a promise that I would keep them pruned back so as not to get tangled up in the power line when they grow up. But I got the feeling that the Celpa foreman would prefer to abide by the 15 meters clearing policy.

Cedar (Cedrela odorata)

Brazilian cedar (Cedrela odorata) has many of the same qualities as mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla). The lumber is a relatively light, it's resistant to insects and it keeps its fragrance for several years after being crafted. Carpenters love cedar because they can drive nails into it without having to drill holes first. Another similarity to mahogany is that it can take on a deep, long lasting stain. Like mahogany, Cedar is an endangered species. I've planted several cedar trees at Bosque Santa Lúcia but I lost some to the power line construction mentioned earlier. I came by the seeds from a tree in front of the rubber processing plant at the old Ford Motor Company rubber tree plantation in Belterra. Others I collected from two trees, which used to stand at Didi Macedo's place in Mararu. The ones you see supporting the wood sample are at the entrance to the Bosque. They are about 5 years old. During the dry season the trees lose all their leaves.