Friday, June 29, 2007

E. Steel, Part II (American Confederates)

Returning to my previous E. Steel post, I wish to thank Thom Hiers of Charleston, South Carolina for bringing some historical documents to my attention. It was on the basis of one his references, Confederados em Santarém -saga americana na amazônia, 1987, by Norma Guilhon, that I came by the name of the George Steel, who was in the original group of American Confederates to come to Santarém in 1867. Later, I reconfirmed that fact with another document I found on the internet, Registros de nomes de famílias que entraram no território brasileiro entre 1865 e 1885, by Betty Antunes de Oliveira of the organization, Fraternidade Descendência Americana. One single name appears, George Steele, so it seems that he didn't bring any family members to Brazil. Norma Guidon found some reference to a 1892 document, which mentions "Mr. George Steel, his wife and son, (João Douglas Steele)..." Interesting that at the time of her research, the name Steele didn't appear on public records anymore. Guidon assumed that the family didn't remain in Santarém. I'll be digging up new information on the Steele family in the next few days.

The palm trunk vase in the attached image was created by E. Steel in recent weeks. On one of his last visits, he told me that the mussandra plant needed to be moved to a cooler environment. I took it out to Bosque Santa Lúcia and it's doing much better there.

Wasp and spider

I didn't see the wasp killing the spider but I witnessed our six-legged friend taking the bacon home to the kids. The kill was much to large and heavy to fly with it, so it was being dragged across the floor of the front porch. It took some effort but the wasp eventually pulled it up the side of a chair and into a vase, where she had dug a hole into the dirt to make her nest. I can imagine that a spider of this size must have provided food for the young ones for some time.

Ginger III

On May 02, I posted an image under the title of Ginger II of a ginger plant with a white flower. Interesting to see that the cone turned out red, much like the red flower variety. This image was taken last week when it was still relatively fresh. Yesterday I noticed that it was dried up and almost on the ground, the result of seven days without rain. Hum, seems that summer (dry season) is upon us. I'm already back to my daily mantra of watering plants.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Harlequin beetle

Towards the end of our tour yesterday, Brad, Christie and I stopped to look at the tatajuba logs described in the previous post. I was focused in on the log that had been chainsawed when I heard Brad say "What's that?" He had spotted the beetle you see in the image coming up from the underside of another log on the other side of the road. I just couldn't believe the size of the beetle. That log must be at least 15-18 inches in diameter and the front appendages of the beetle almost spanned that space. Aside from size, the beetle was in true Technicolor. To get a better look, click in on the image to increase the size. I didn't expect to find a name for this beetle so quickly but flipping through Charles Hogue's Latin American Insects and Entomology, I think I can safely say that it's a harlequin beetle (Acrocinus longimanus). Amazing that in all the years I've been at Bosque Santa Lucia, I'd never seen this beetle. It just confirms what I always say to guests, there's some new every time I walk the trails.

Tatajuba II

At last my neighbor has found a person with chainsaw and knowledge of transforming logs into lumber. About six weeks ago the power line company cut two of our tatajuba (Bagassa guianensis) trees close to the entrance of the Bosque and I made a deal with my neighbor that he pay for the service in return for half the wood. It was much more complicated than I had ever dreamed. Not everyone has a chainsaw and there seem to be very few people around with the ability to cut logs into planks. I can see why. I wasn't around when they started cutting this log but I'm impressed with the quality of the work. I'd expected very rough cuts with a chainsaw but as you can see in the image, it has the look of having been cut in a sawmill.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fungi VIII

While on a walking tour at Bosque Santa Lucia today with Christie and Brad, from Canada, we discovered these beauties - fungi whiter than white. A few days ago a visiting student from Michigan State University, with some knowledge of fungi, mentioned "oyster mushrooms" and it seems to me that these would fall in that category. Image: Christie Lombardi.

E. Steel (in memoriam) - American Confederates

An interesting piece of Brazilian/United States history was the immigration of approximately one-hundred confederate families, who came to Santarém in 1867. These families were part of a larger group of North Americans who were recruited by the Brazilian government in an effort to upgrade agricultural skills in the country. Most went to the State of São Paulo and were quite successful in their economical endeavors. Even today there is still a very large community of American descendants, called Confederados, living in Americana, Campinas, and other cities in São Paulo. In the Santarém region, farming proved to be very difficult and, as today, there was a lack of infrastructure to get produce to market. Thus, many of the original families who came didn't do well and returned to the United States within a few years. There were, nevertheless, several families who persevered in Santarém to become involved in ranching, farming and other enterprises. Family names, some of which still exist today, include Hennington, Jennings, Vaughan (now spelled Waughan/or Von), Riker, Rhome and Steel. This particular post is dedicated to E. Steel, who died on June 24, 2007, by a death of his own choosing. I'd known Steele, as I preferred to call him, for more than 20 years. He used to stop by my tourism office from time to time, hungry to speak English and make contacts with cohort Americans. I need to check with his mother and sister but I think it was his great grandfather who had immigrated to Brazil after the American Civil War. Our encounters were always fast ones. He talked like a cross of a tape recorder and a machine gun. He was so anxious to speak English, he didn't take much time for listening or asking questions. I always loaned him books written in English and I'm positive that he devoured every word in them. In more recent years he took up gardening as a way of earning a meager living, selling flowers and plants. Then he came to create vases sculptured out of solid rock and other natural materials. The rock vase in the attached image is one of his artistic creations. The first time I saw one of these vases was on the back of his bicycle. He'd made a stop in front of our house to talk with me and as I remember it, I bought a plant or two he was selling. I couldn't keep my eyes off the rock vase, it was so beautiful. I wanted to ask him how much he was asking for it but I figured I couldn't afford it and I didn't want to create false expectations. I guess he saw me slobbering at the mouth because when we went to visit him and is wife at their modest home in Nova Republica some weeks later, he gave me the one you see in the attached image. Knowing he wasn't in a stable economic situation, I bought another rock vase. He responded by giving another one to my wife. We bought some plants and he gave us others. So it went, he was a very humble person making the most out of what he knew best, plants and flowers. The last time I saw him alive was about 10 days ago. He'd spent most of the day pedaling the streets of Santarem on his bicycle and made a stop in front of our house to return a book I'd loaned him, Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice by Mark Plotkin. I invited him in but he said he was in a rush to get home. I thought to myself that he seemed extremely burned from the sun and very emaciated. His last words to me were something to the effect that I should stop by his home to pick up roses he's saved for me and that I shouldn't worry about paying for them right now. We were friends. At his funeral yesterday, his body was covered with a blanket of roses and other flowers taken from his yard.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Amarelão (Apuleia molaris)

It's so easy and so nice to come back to Bosque Santa Lúcia trees already classified by Sr. Manoel (former classifier for SUDAM) in 1990. I remember traveling with a pack of international forestry students and professors to several national and state forest reserves around that time. Sr. Manoel was with us and I must say that we all took our hats off to him for his ability to identify trees. Even the Brazilian forestry engineers treated him as the guru of the forest. In a world of complex biodiversity, it ain't easy to identify trees! I know that Sr. Manoel has retired from SUDAM but I assume he is still alive and well. If I had resources, I'd hire him to complete the survey at the Bosque. We estimate that there may be as many as 400-500 species of trees on the 270 acres which make up the Bosque. Only 150 or so have been classified and I've lost some of the identification tags for some of these. The tree in the attached image is Amarelão (Apuleia molaris). Other common names include miratauá and guarapa.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Eugenia, unidentified

In an earlier post (June 1, 2007), I talked about ubaia (Eugenia patrisii), a cherry-looking fruit found in the wild and also planted in a few back yards in the rural areas. Last year, I noticed a small tree near the reception center bearing red fruit and I immediately thought of ubaia. As it turned, the fruit are much smaller. And, as usual, nobody had a name for the tree. This year the tree produced fruit again and I still haven't the slightest idea what it is. My guess is that the genus is Eugenia but it's only a guess on my part. That's what tropical biodiversity is all about. I've searched the internet, I've looked at my books, I've asked many people ... and I'm still in the dark.

Papaya (Carica papaya)

I think I see the day when I'll be eating papaya. The fruit you see in the image are still immature but as soon as they start turning yellow, they'll be ready for picking. A few days later they'll be ready for eating. I only have these two trees, which are about two years old. I've planted several in the past but they didn't survive the dry season. To be honest about it, I'd given up hope. One day I took a papaya fruit to the Bosque for a snack and threw the seeds and remains on the ground near the reception center. Well, you see the result. Serendipity at its best. Nobody seems to know where papaya came from originally but it seems to be native of Central America.

Jacarandá da Bahia

In a previous entry I reported on Jacarandá do Pará (Dalbergia spruceana). The young tree you see in the attached image, along with my neighbor, Sr. Waldemar, is Jacarandá da Bahia (Dalbergia nigra). They're cousins; the trees, of course. And as names indicate, one is found in this State of Pará in the Amazon and the other in the Atlantic Forest. The wood of both is a favorite in making musical instruments, for example, veneers for pianos and organs, expensive guitars and other string instruments. Most of the Jacarandá do Pará wood harvested in the Amazon is exported to Germany and I understand that it's one of the most expensive leaving Brazil. As far as I know, it's not on the endangered species list. If it's not, it will be very soon! Jacarandá da Bahia, on the other hand, is an endangered species. It has been used in the making of luxurious furniture for several centuries and continues to be cut clandestinely, even today. The wood is so rare, it's difficult to come by in lumber form. Nearly all jacarandá da Bahia is used nowdays in laminated form. It´s often referred to as Bahia Rosewood. I planted a few seeds of the tree, given to me by a friend in the State of Minas Gerais, in November of 2002. I gave most of the seedlings away to friends but I still have one tree in a large plastic bucket and this one, which I finally got in the ground. It's becoming a beautiful tree!

Orchid (Brassia Caudata ) II

Here's another look at the same orchid. I'm almost sure that this orchid was part of a day's find at the Tapajos National Forest, 4-5 years ago. Our local orchid club had been given permission to "save" orchids from trees which had been downed for the select cut project. The purpose of the project is to demonstrate that it's possible to harvest trees without destroying the forest.

Orchid (Brassia Caudata )

Here's another orchid in bloom. It's an interesting format, a long stem with many of these fish-looking flowers. Identification: Claudio Serique. He tells me that another name for this orchid is the "cricket orchid". It's native to the floodplain areas of the Trombetas and Tapajos Rivers.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Grasshopper III

Yesterday, I caught these two lovers by surprise while I was pruning a Chamedorea tepeiilote palm. In fact, I cut off the branch they were on and didn't see them until they were on the ground. They were much too busy socializing to make an issue out of my blunder.

Grasshopper II

I discovered this almost invisible grasshopper after he had eaten up part of a young palm next to the Bosque reception center. You can see how well he's camouflaged for this task. This critter may, indeed, be a katydid rather than a grasshopper. Regardless, it's the same family.

Erva de urubu

We're seeing many erva de urubu (vulture's herb) plants at the Bosque these days. I can't find a reference under this name but that's what it's called here by local folks, who also tell me that the juice of the berry is used for treatment of skin fungus. I've tried it a few times, myself, and it seems to work. The plant is found on areas of the trail system which get some sunlight. They are also found in the more open areas of the reception center grounds. It's a real "hugger", meaning that the leaves and fruit are close to ground level.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fungi VII

Here's another image of bracket fungi at the Tapajos National Forest (Flona). That's Sr. Francisco, our local guide, up there on top. I see from a quick search on the internet that these fungi comprise several species of the Polypore Family. As noted in the previous blog, technically they're not plants.

Fungi VI

Olle Pettersson, my photographer friend from Sweden, shared some of his mushroom images this week and I was impressed with not only the beauty of the mushrooms, but also the size of them. I thought to myself that I didn't remember seeing any really large mushrooms here in the Amazon. Then suddenly, I remembered these bracket fungi we found in the Flona last year, only a few miles from Bosque Santa Lucia. Olle was on one of these tours, so I suspect he has photographs of the same giants. That's Haken, the Swedish tour leader, up there on top of a fungus. He's getting some support from friends down below but it wasn't necessary. These bracket fungi, sometimes called shelve fungi, were strong enough to take on people heavier than Haken.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fungi V

I discovered this leaf trapped in a spider web on the back porch of the Bosque reception center yesterday afternoon. I couldn't focus in on the fungi at that location, so I moved the leaf over to my worktable. Click on the attached image to get a better view of a very dead leaf with very live fungi. I'm placing fungi in the "plant" label but there's some question about this classification. Some scientists advocate that fungi should be classified under the "animal" label. I'm glad that these decided to make a home on the leaf, not me!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Fungi IV

Fungi III

Fungi II


Given the great diversity of trees in the Amazon forest, it only makes sense that there would also be a great variety of fungi. The most popular among visitors to Bosque Santa Lucia are the cup mushrooms, the type you see in the attached image. I'm including some other images of fungi, all of which I have photographed along the trails of the Bosque. I'll be posting more in the near future.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Pencil tree

I've heard many common names for Euphorbia tirucalli but the one I remember best is the "pencil tree". Looking at the branches and stems of the tree, it's understandable how it came to be associated with pencils. The leaves of the plant are found at the end of the newly forming branches and they are quite small. This is an exotic, originally from India. Like most euphorbia plants, it exudes a milky-looking latex that is highly toxic and poisonous. I remember we used to have one of these trees/plants in our backyard many years ago. Eventually we decided to cut it and I remember the latex pouring from every whack of the machete. Someone warned me that I shouldn't come into contact with this liquid because it could blind me if gotten into my eyes. A friend recently told me that he placed a drop of the latex on a wart that was getting in the way when shaving. The wart just disappeared, he reported. Imagine what it would do to the eyes! I saved a cutting of the pencil tree to plant at the Bosque. See attached image. I keep it pruned back because it's right next to the entrance to the Bosque. I have a few warts I'd like to get rid of but I keep forgetting to experiment with the latex.


It doesn't take much imagination to understand why this plant is referred to as the Swiss-cheese plant. Monstera is the genus and I always thought the species was deliciosa but now I'm not sure, since I see images of this species having split leaf characteristics. We normally find the monstera plant in this stage of development up high on the trunks of trees. It starts off as a vine at the base of the tree with small leaves, none of which have the holes as you see them in the image. The higher the plant gets, the larger the leaves become and they all develop the perforated, Swiss-cheese look. I've always wondered what purpose the holes serve in the physiology of the plant. I can only speculate that they allow the wind to flow through the leaves without tearing them apart. When the plant really gets up very high, like 30-40 meters, the leaves become the size of elephant ears. They appear to be quite fragile and I imagine that the holes play an important role in keeping them intact. The plant in the attached image is attached to a tree that was blown over by the wind some four years ago. It keeps its posture because there's a lot of sunlight falling on it in this location.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Claudio Serique

No, it's not a tree, it's not an orchid; it's my friend Claúdio Serique, who has been very kind in helping me with the classification of orchids. As the saying goes, there's a woman behind every great man; and in this case, his wife, Bernadette. She's been collecting orchids most her life and seems to know them all. She's a professional real estate agent and it's not by coincidence that the name of her agency is Orchid Real Estate (a rough translation from Portuguese). Claúdio is a retired accountant and now part-owner and manager of the Cultura Inglêsa, a school of English backed up by the British Council. I took this picture 2-3 years ago in the backyard of Cultura Inglêsa. Claudio´s showing off cutite fruit (Pouteria macrocarpa) from a very productive tree next to the school.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Orchid roots

I joined the Santarém Orchid Society to learn something about orchids, since I didn't know anything about them. That was several years ago and I still don't know anything about them. I seldom attend the monthly meetings and I have to admit that I never took part in any of the training courses given by the club. I did participate in two or three club sponsored trips to the Tapajós National Forest to help collect orchids from fallen trees, which were left over from the select cut project. I put my share of the specimens in trees at Bosque Santa Lúcia. About two years ago, I moved them from the trees because of the dust factor. I hung them from rafters of the porches but then couldn't keep them from drying out during the summer months. Try again, I did. Now they are all attached to the same pieces of wood but placed in plastic buckets with a mixture of dirt, cow manure, charcoal and acai seeds. This is the best solution I've found but I'm sure my collector friends will be horrified to see my techniques. What impresses me is the extensive growth of roots, as seen in the attached image.

Orchid (Catastetum macrocarpum)

The buds on this orchid have been forming over the last few weeks. Yesterday, I discovered them all in bloom. Interesting that they are quite thick and heavy. So much so, they are all facing down. I asked a friend to hold them up so that I could get a picture. Yesterday's visit to the Bosque was in haste, so I didn't take the time to see if I have the name for this orchid. In the meanwhile, my friend Claúdio Serique came to my rescue. It's Catasetum macrocarpum. Claúdio came up with his own common name for the orchid, morcegão, which means "big bat". He tells me that this is a very common orchid here in Santarém.

Erva de passarinho II

On May 20, I displayed an image of a parasitic plant called erva de passarinho. I consider it a nuisance and a real danger to the young trees planted around the Bosque reception center. In this image you can see erva de passarinho plants in the beginning stages of development on the stem of a jacaranda da Bahia tree. In little time they'll become vines sinking their roots into the bark of the tree as they spread from branch to branch. If not removed, they'll kill the hosts in little time. The birds love the fruit of this vine and they are the culprits in spreading the seeds around in their feces. I liken the newly deposited seeds to a rivet, as well demonstrated in the image. Wherever they fall, they seem to be fixed by a super bond cement, regardless of whether the recipient is a tree or any other object.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Foam nest III

... faster than a speeding bullet, here's the image I promised. One of the disadvantages of living in tropical paradise is that the internet service doesn't work most of the time. No internet connection, no blog, no website. The computer becomes an almost worthless package of dreams and electronic parts. The owner goes crazy; he refers to the server in terms not permitted in public. After reaming new ones for the server staff, he discovers that nothing helps. The system is congested and nothing is going to resolve an overloaded system, except new and better equipment. "It's ordered but hasn't arrived yet" is the standard response. In the meanwhile, keep paying your monthly fee! In desperation, he resolves to return to the jungle, where he can forget the word internet. Then comes a spark of electronic connection that permits the posting of a blog. And here we go again. The nature of the beast, as we say. So, here's the little critter I found in the spit-looking foam shown in my last blog post. Our mentor from Michigan, Rachael, was sure right about it not being the work of frogs. Now comes the task of identifying the insect. I assume this creature is in nymph form, since I took it from it's nest of foam. It didn't lose any time moving on. I had hardly taken the pictures when it crawled off. Somewhere out their in the blog world, there's someone who knows the name of this insect. Since insects make up the bulk of all life on this earth, there are untold numbers of species. This may be the work of a professional!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Foam nest II

To continue the story about the foam nests on the lemon grass, two days ago I moved some of material to my work table for a better look. The foam was still very soft and wet (attached image) and I found two critters at home. Next image.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


As commented, one of the little pleasures in life is to learn the name of an unknown plant or tree. Yet another little pleasure, almost as pleasing, is to remember the name of the person who gives it to us. The seedling of this jabuticaba tree (Myrciaria caulifora) (image) was given to me by Carlos Godinho and his wife, Marilha Godinho, OBYGN specialist, here in Santarem. The source was a tree in their back yard. That tree has since been cut, for what reason I don't know. In the meanwhile, my jabuticaba tree has grown to a height of 2.5 meters and it's producing fruit in small quantities. As the scientific name implies, the fruit grows on the trunk and larger branches of the tree. They look much like black grapes; so much that the tree is often referred to as the Brazilian Grape tree. I remember the first fruit it produced, a single fruit. And I took pleasure in eating that fruit. The next year it was producing 20-30 "grapes" at a time but it's seldom that the birds leave any fruit for us human beings. The tanagers and flycatchers are quick to get to them as soon as they begin to ripen. As the tree gets older and larger, it'll produce buckets of fruit. In order to get this kind of production, it's necessary to keep the trunk as free of branches as possible. As you can see in the image, I've kept it as clean and smooth as baby skin.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Crajirú (Arrabidae chica) is a medicinal plant used by many in the treatment of anemia and a number of other aliments, including diabetes. I learned this from Dr. Anna Maria, an internal medicine specialist at the Maternidade Hospital in Santarém as we wheeled through some eroded dirt streets in an outlying neighborhood in search of a person who makes concrete vases for plants. Anna Maria can be very emphatic in speech and command, so I wasn't surprised when she ordered me to stop in front of a house all fenced in with wooden planks. No vases for sale here. She wanted to show me a crajirú plant that had grown up the fence from the inside and was hanging over onto the street side. Anna Maria is a walking dictionary when it comes to medicinal plants, so I took her seriously when she reported that the tea made of the leaves of this plant is a God-sent for anemia. Not being timid, she clapped her hand to call the dwellers to the gate and in short order she was back in the car with a hand full crajirú cuttings. When we dropped her off at her apartment I reminded her to take her plants. Nope, they were for the Bosque. I guess that was a couple of years ago and our good friend is now doctoring in Juriti at the future ALCOA bauxite mine. And my crajirú plants are now 2 meters high. I cut off a piece of one for photographing. I guess the next step is to brew up some tea to see what it taste like. I understand that it's very bitter, as a good medicine should!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Foam nests

This week I discovered splotches of foam attached to many of the lemon grass blades, as shown in the attached image. I've seen such foam on grasses and plants along the road but this was the first time on the lemon grass. My first thought was that of frogs but I couldn't find any evidence of eggs. I never dreamed that it might be the work of insects until talking with a visitor from Michigan yesterday. Rachael, a staffer for the Amazon/Africa Aid program in Ann Arbor, had brought a group of students to the Bosque for the afternoon and she was quick to notice the foam. She suggested that maybe it was produced by insects rather than frogs, based on the fact that the applications weren't very large and that they weren't close to water. I enjoy learning something new, so I'll be looking at the foam again to see if I can discover what little varmints are benefiting from the foam nests.

Friday, June 08, 2007


If you ever have a look at a botanical listing of trees for the Amazon, you'll see that most of them have indigenous names, as should be the case. The Indians were the first in habitants of South America and they were here for thousands of years before the first Europeans arrived and there was little that they didn't know about their environment. They had climbed all the mountains, they had explored all the waterways, they had probably tested every plant and tree for their medicinal properties. I joke about tree nomenclature by telling visitors that the biodiversity of the Amazon was so great, the Indians ran out of names! As such, they expanded the dictionary by using the word rana at the end of a name. It means "false", in this case. The tree shown in the attached image is a good example. Goiaba is guava; rana is false, thus the false guava tree. Why false guava tree? I can only assume because under all this beautiful red flaky bark, there's a smooth green bark that resembles guava. The genus of the tree is Eugenia. I don't know the species. It's not a very common tree. It's not rare by any means but the frequency is much less than a lot of other trees. I took this picture yesterday when I was out with a small group of visitors from the United States.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Acerola (Malpighia glabra) does very well in the tropical savanna around Santarem because it likes slightly acid and well drained soils. The fruit provides some income for people who sell it in the market places and to the juice companies. Brazilians love natural fruit juices and acerola is one of their favorites. Although it's not a native to Brazil, some people refer to it as Brazilian cherry. I've heard some enthusiasts say that the vitamin C content in one berry is equivalent to a whole orange! I've planted some acerola plants at the Bosque but I don't expect them to do well. Our high plateau soils are heavy in clays and don't drain well at all, which makes for a very unfavorable environment for acerola. The samples of fruit and foliage shown in the image are from a tree here in Santarem, located almost next to the Dom Amando High School. We can buy the frozen pulp at any supermarket.

Brazil nut tree vs. powerline

I cringe when I see the destruction caused by the construction of the power line along the dirt road going into Bosque Santa Lucia and beyond. The Bosque really got hit hard because my aim has always been to keep the area in trees, including the roadsides. I knew I was taking a chance of losing old and newly planted trees along the road because of public domain, which is 15 meters on each side of the road. After more than 20 years of using a one-lane dirt road, it was hard to believe that the road could become wider and a power line be constructed. The power line is in its final stage of being built. Light cutting of brush was done, followed by chainsawing of larger trees, then the placement of the concrete poles and the high tension cables and the transformers. On the way into the Bosque everyday I see one large Brazil nut (Bertholetia excelsa) defying progress. As you can see in the image, it's a very large tree towering over the electric poles and power lines. As reported in previous blogs, it's prohibited to cut Brazil nut trees without specific permission from the federal government. Mechanized agriculture has seen fit to destroy them in a big way, but that's another story. The power company would never cut one of these trees without permission from IBAMA. Now the question is, has the company requested permission? I suspect that there are other Brazil nut trees in the same situation further down the line from the Bosque. It'll be interesting to see if the trees get cut.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Spider and website II

And here's a better view of the spider commanding its lookout post in the middle of the huge web, evidently just built. There are normally many bats dashing back and forth during the night. I wonder how the web will hold up. I'll find out this afternoon. I suspect that our friend is quick to make repairs. It's not likely that I'm going to find a name for the spider, so I'd appreciate help from my readers.

Spider and website

By clicking onto the thumbnail image you can get a better view of the spiderweb, which must be two meters in diameter. The picture was taken late yesterday afternoon and it seemed to me that the trap was set for some good hunting overnight. I'm anxious to see if our friend will still be there when I return this afternoon.

Tucunare fish II

Today is only Tuesday and I'm already thinking about eating fish at João do Mato's place next Sunday. To be honest about it, I'm getting hungry just looking at these pictures of tucunaré fish taken two days ago. In the previous post I placed an image of tucunaré fried in butter with shrimp sauce and shoestring fried potatoes. Now I want to show what the fried fish looks like with lighter trimmings. The fish is so big, it didn't fit on the serving plate. The head was cut and placed sideways to accommodate Claúdio Serique and his family, who were sitting with us at the same table. Our friend, Jeremy Campbell, helped us consume the other fish. Hard work, but somebody had to help us get through the ceremony.

Tucunaré (peacock bass)

I can't think of a better option for lunch on Sunday than eating regional fish at the Tapaiú Restaurant, which is owned by an old friend, João do Mato. This is a real simple place, not much more than a maloca (indigenous roundhouse) fairly close to the CR Supermarket here in Santarém. We remember the place years ago when it wasn't a restaurant at all; it was João's house, where he and his family lived. But having fame as a fisherman and cook, friends would show up there on the weekends to eat tucunaré frito na manteiga (peacock bass fried in butter) under the thatched roof of an umbrella-sized shelter in his front yard. Three years ago Joao invested in a larger maloca with all the trimmings of a real restaurant, like a bathroom, a kitchen and a bar well stocked with cold beer and soft drinks. I miss the old environment but the quality of the food sure hasn't changed. Maybe it's even better now because he cooks fish some variations beyond just fried tucunaré bass. In the attached image you can see a fish that three of us gobbled up this past Sunday. That's Áurea, my wife, holding the a tray of fried fish covered with shrimp sauce and shoestring fried potatoes. Nobody goes away hungry! As a matter of fact, we normally take the leftovers home for dinner and the head of the fish for our dog, Lucca. Tucunaré (Cichla temensis) is found in the nearby waters of the Amazon and Tapajós Rivers and it's by far the most sought after fish by the national and international sportsmen.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Chacrona III and ayahuasca

In earlier posts, I presented some images and text about the chacrona plant (Psicotria viridis) and the mariri vine, (Bannister caapi). These are the combined ingredients of the famous ayahuasca tea, a hallucinogenic used by indigenous groups of the Amazon. I also showed plants and vines at the UDV Center on the outskirts of Santarém, where a new breed of non-indigenous folks have incorporated "the tea" into their religious ceremonies. I also have these plants at Bosque Santa Lúcia, thanks to a donation on the part of a tea-drinking member of another group located in Alter do Chão. The chacrona plant was given to me in January of 2005, and the Bannister vine more recently. I kept the chacrona plant in a vase for a few months and then moved it to the ground about a year ago. It's about 1.5m high and now producing fruit, the first of which you see in the attached image. Seeds from one of the fruit can be seen just below the fruit. Two seeds to a berry. The leaf of the plant is in the background. I discovered that chacrona likes lots water this past dry season. Many other plants and trees feel the pinch of summer but it was something to see how the chacrona plant would take on the appearance of dying, if it wasn't water every day! There were times when I couldn't be at the Bosque every single day but I was backed up by my water-carrying neighbor. Occasionally, he forgot the plant because it was on the edge of the wooded area below the reception center. When I returned to the site I would find the plant not only wilting but actually shriveled up and drying out. I really thought it had died on more than one occasion.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Fish-tailed palm

The newly opened frond of this fish-tailed palm (Arenga caudata) in the late afternoon sun caught my eye yesterday. Only last week I had pruned an old frond from the palm, as it was turning yellow and drying up. It's amazing just how brilliant the palm is in its new dress of light green. I have several fish-tailed palms planted at Bosque Santa Lucia but this is the largest and the most beautiful. It was given to me by Renata Oliveira about a year ago. Her mother asked her to donate it to the Bosque because it was getting to be too big for the vase and they didn't have a place to plant it in the ground in the city. I'm sending Renata this image of the palm so that she can see how well it's done.

Mangosteen IV

Yes, I'm the owner of a small forest reserve called Bosque Santa Lúcia, which is located on the outskirts of Santarém on the Tapajós and Amazon Rivers. No, I'm not a botanist, biologist or forester. I don't have any professional qualifications for classifying trees and plants but I've learned a few things from people who are in the know and I accept all the help I can get. One person who continues to help me sort through unknowns is Claúdio Serique, owner of the Cultura Inglêsa, the school of English with the British bent. He and his wife are very active in the Orchid Society of Santarém, as mentioned in other posts on orchids. Claúdio took on the challenge of researching the question of mangosteen presented in earlier posts. He thinks that our so-called mangosteen is probably one called the "fake mangosteen", Garcinia cochinchinensis. Good, at least I got the genus right. More comments welcome. I've included another image of the seeds I removed from the fruit.

Friday, June 01, 2007


The first time I saw the ubaia tree (Eugenia patrisii) and its fruit was in Mararu, a small creek-side community down the road from Santarém on the Curuá-Una Highway. When the kids were growing up, we used to visit Didi Macedo there on Sundays and his swimming pool was a big hit with everyone. Right next to the pool was a ubaia tree, which produced fruit as you see them in the attached image. I've had this photograph in my archives for some time but I'm certain that the fruit came from that tree. I planted some of these seeds at Bosque Santa Lúcia, the result being that I have a growing ubaia tree about 8 years old. It produced fruit for the first time this year and I'm certain that I ate them all. In the meanwhile, I discovered that there are a few fruit producing ubaia trees in the secondary forest of the Bosque. They don't produce fruit every year and the production is normally quite small, so it seems. It could be that forest animals are getting to the fruit first.


The word urucurana is a combination of the words urucu (Bixia orellana, the so-called lipstick plant, reported on earlier) and rana, which means false. Thus, the false urucu tree, or urucu fruit. The genus is Sloanea and the family Elaeocarpaceae. Sorry, no species names available for now. The original classification was done by friends, Dr. Luiz Pedroso and his assistant, Sr. Manoel in 1990. I picked this sample from a tree on the edge of the woods next to the reception center at the Bosque earlier this week. Later in the season, I'll show you what the seed pod looks like after it dries out.

Rain continues

Rains continue on almost a daily basis and I'm not complaining because I know that summer time (dry season) will be coming along soon. Weather patterns are very erratic in this region. Some summers we go 3-4 weeks without a rain (August through December) and other years, the drought is more severe. Year before last, for example, we didn't see rain at the Bosque for a four month period. Last year, dryness prevailed for only three months. Weather forecasts indicate that 2007 will be a "normal" year, whatever that means. I've also seen reports that rains will continue through July. I took the attached image yesterday. This is our largest mud hole on the three kilometers of dirt road into Bosque Santa Lúcia. It's not as bad as it looks because the bottom has been reinforced with some dump trucks of gravel. I remember years past when I had to leave my vehicle on Santarém-Cuiaba Highway, BR-163, and then walk in and out. I also remember when BR-163 was a mud hole, itself. It's not much better today because large open craters in the asphalt subject drivers to the risks of having to zigzag from one side of the road to the other in order to avoid serious damage to their vehicles. Come summer time, the holes will be patched up with rock and asphalt. In the meanwhile, we drive at our own risk!