Friday, February 29, 2008

Another plant that likes a lot of sun is mussandra. The more the better. Notice the tiny white flowers and the large red bracts.

Lazy flowers

One of our neighbors gave me these flowers, neatly planted in an empty sapucaia pod. They open up only with lots of sunlight and by 5:00 pm they're closing down again.

Fungi 2008, continued

Some more bracket fungi I discovered while opening a new trail around an old log located near the entrance to the Bosque. That green growth may be micro-ferns.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


I thought I had already posted this image of a fully grown jucá tree (C. ferrea), but I guess not. I'd like to share it with a member of a Yahoo Group called bigleaftropicals.

Dracontium (tajá de cobra), continued

A closeup of the leaves of the dracontium shown in the previous post. Looking at the plant from a distance, it appears as a gigantic parasol.

Dracontium (tajá de cobra)

I could be wrong but I think this dracontium reappears every year and it seems to get larger as we open up the area right around the receptions center. For more details about the plant go to my post of last year, Dracontium.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mucajá palm (Acrocomia aculeata), continued

And the last image in this series in which I take a poke at the question of low germination rates for the Acrocomia palms. I look forward to a barrage of comments on the topic. Ha!

Mucajá palm (Acrocomia aculeata), continued

Trunks of two mucajá palms. Notice the thorns. They're not called aculeata for nothing. You might think that the wood is relatively soft, but it's hard as iron. I remember having to cut one to open up another entrance to the Bosque and I mean to tell you that I nearly broke the bones in my arms. The ax blade actually bent from the blows to the palm. Next image, the crown of the palm.

Mucajá palm (Acrocomia aculeata), continued

Ah, just one more ground shot before displaying the adult palm. I was under a palm when it started snowing! In the Amazon? No way, it was pollen from the palm inflorescences falling to the ground.

Mucajá palm (Acrocomia aculeata), continued

On to another location and I discovered another young mucajá palm, but only one. Note that vegetation is more dense here. Not being a scientist or researcher, I can't venture a guess why the germination rate for this genus is so low. Some points to consider are: ground litter and vegetation may provide the needed environment for the seeds to germinate. In those areas where the ground was relatively clean, as around the reception center, I didn't find any young plants. Another factor is that these seeds are as hard as nails. It takes time for them to germinate, under the best of circumstances. Some palm species take up to five years! The fruit is edible, which means that some of the fruit is being carried away. Some are eaten on the spot. I'm sure that there are other reasons and somewhere out there in the scientific world, there are folks who can explain these things. I hope someone will respond. Now on to a couple more images of the palm itself.

Mucajá palm (Acrocomia aculeata), continued

After reviewing several fruit producing palms, I found this loner making its way into the world of green. Hundreds of fruit on the ground and only one seedling! I noticed that there was more litter and vegetation on the ground at this location. Next slide, please.

Mucajá palm (Acrocomia aculeata)

This week I had a note from a reader, who reported that he didn't get a very good germination rate from the Acrocomia palm seeds he brought back from Haiti. His comment prompted me to have another look at my own palms, in this case mucajá (Acrocomia aculeata) palms. I had visions of seeds germinating all over the place, but to my surprise, there were few. In the attached image you can see the ground covered with fruit. Not one had germinated and there were no young plants from previous fruit production. Next image, please.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cycad, continued

Another look at the new leaves of the cycad described in the previous post.

Cycad, new leaves

This cycad was given to me by a neighbor at the Bosque. I don't remember the proper name for the offshoots of this plant, but it was a very small thing when I planted it. As you can see from the pruning of the lower leaves, the trunk is taking on what makes Cycas revolta a real beauty. Many people who visit the Bosque think this plant is a palm. To confuse the issue more, I planted nearly 40 palms around it. When I tell them that it's not even in the palm family, I get that look of "... is he putting me on?"

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bug vs. gall

Is this bug preparing for battle with a gall, or is it a romantic overture directed to a strange visitor on the manioc plant leaf? Regardless, their attention seems to be directed to one another.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bug on neen leaves

As the scientific name indicates, the neen tree (Azadirachta indica) originates in India. It's reported to have exceptional medicinal properties; so much so, it's spread throughout the world in the last few years. I came by my seedling from the a nursery owned by a person referred to as the "Portuguese." He has a few neen trees already producing seeds and the price is right, about a US dollar per seedling. I only planted one, this one you see in the image.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Caterpillars, continued

Another view of that same green caterpillar taking a global tour of the cupuaçu fruit. Have you figured out what end of the insect is the head? I had the advantage of seeing it move; otherwise, I'd probably have guessed wrong.

Caterpillars, continued

This well dressed caterpillar took a tour of its own at the reception center. I first discovered it crawling along the table on the front porch. There were a number of display items on the long wooden table and it explored each and every one. The image I took of it on a cupuaçu fruit (Theobroma grandiflorum) is my favorite scene. Click onto the image, if you want an enlarged view of a very beautiful caterpillar.

Timbó, continued

A couple of posts back I reported something eating away at the leaves of my timbó vine (Paullinia pinnata). My hunch may have been right, grasshoppers! Yesterday, I caught this one in a very suspect position. I didn't actually see it eating the leaf, but ...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ipê wood, continued

In that same area where we cut the small ipê trees (Tabebuia serratifolia) for tool handles, I discovered even a smaller tree. The leaves are easy to recognize, so I can say with certainty that the are a lot of ipê seeds germinating on the grounds of the Bosque. Then too, the trees are very prolific in terms of the large yellow trumpet-shaped flowers and subsequent seed pods. The seeds, themselves, are the "winged" types, which fly off like butterflies in all directions. Both the flowering and seed dispersal take place during our dry season when we have strong easterly trade winds roaring over the highlands. This large forest tree should not be confused with the many decorative ipê trees found on the streets of Santarém. The big yellow flowers look to be the same but the physical attributes of the trees are quite different.

Timbó, continued

Old and new leaves of the timbó vine (Paullinia pinnata). In a previous post I described timbó as the plant that Amazonian Indians have used for easy fishing. I've never had the honor of going on one of these fishing trips, but I've seen them take place on video and film. The fishermen essentially beat the heck out of the water with the poisonous plant, including crushed roots. In little time many fish come floating to the surface, where they are quickly plucked by hand or nets. Notice the old leaves in the image. Some insects, maybe grasshoppers, have made a good meal out of them. Evidently they don't respond to rotenone, like fish do. Also notice the third new leaf from the left. It was curled up like a Cuban cigar with some signs of webbing inside. I unfurled it for the picture.

Cauaçu (Tabocão)

While on the topic of big tropical leaves, let me post this one for cauaçu (Coccoloba latifolia), one of the largest I've ever seen at Bosque Santa Lúcia. The tree is a very slim one that normally finds some support from a larger tree. The higher it gets, the larger the leaves become. The leaves in the image are at about three meters high. They are big, but they get much bigger. I've never measured them but my guess the largest ones I've seen are 70-80 cm. I'll put that on my "do list".

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Colors of tachi cauaçu, continued

On a previous post I showed this tachi cauaçu, (Tripolaris sp.) leaf unfurling itself as the latest new-comer to the world. There was a subtle touch of red to it, which is now evident in the vein system. Being a very large leaf, I remember a new Yahoo Group called Big Leaf Tropicals, which I joined yesterday.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ipê wood

Cleuson returned from cutting brush today with two new handles to be used for a hoe and also a pick. They were cut from small ipê trees (tabebuia serratifolia), ones which had grown up with brush in an unused entranceway to the Bosque. Cleuson tells me that this wood is the first choice for handles, as witnessed in the cutting tool to the left. What impressed me about the dripping wet handles was how smooth they were. The only preparation had been that of peeling the bark off the wood. I was also impressed with how heavy they were! Ipê is one of the so called iron woods.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Joe Jackson's new book

When I took this picture of the root system of a paricá tree at Bosque Santa Lúcia, I couldn't help remembering the cover of Joe Jackson's new book, Thief at the End of the World. Joe visited the Bosque with me on 19 October 2005, while researching the life of Henry Wickham, the person attributed to smuggling the rubber tree seeds out of the Amazon. The book will be available on 28 February. I know a number of people here in Santarém very anxious to read the book, including myself.

Goggled-eyed bug, continued

This insect, which I call a goggle-eyed bug, is so cryptic, it's near impossible to see it on the trunk of a tree. Likewise, it was very difficult to photograph. What I found interesting is that the head of the insect looks much like the face of a person. Look at it closely, you'll see what I mean. There's no reference point but the insect is about 3 inches long.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Social spiders

Social spiders have constructed a very large web up in the tree tops on the trail going to the reception center. It's been awhile since I've seen these webs and I've never seen them up this high. My guess is that the trees are in the 20+ meters range. Here's a good reference, if you'd like more details about social spiders:

Ubaia fruit, continued

My objective in taking this picture is to show the difference in ubaia fruit (Eugenia patrisii) between two different trees. The three fruits to the far left are from one of the native trees in the woods at Bosque Santa Lúcia. The larger fruits are from a tree that I planted from seeds acquired in Mararu, a suburb community of Santarém. A different variety? I don't think so. I believe that the tree producing the larger fruits is getting more sunlight and perhaps better nutrition than the other, which is very much dwarfed by much larger trees. Why the difference in shape? Notice the larger fruits are pear-shaped. Is this the result of more sunlight and better soil? I think so, but can't prove it, yet.

Passion fruit, continued

Only two plants make up this wall of passion fruit vines in the backyard of Sr. Raimundo in Cipoal. Amazing. He harvests a bucket full of fruit every day and the vines keep on producing. I planted the seeds from one of the fruits and they are already germinating. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with so many plants, but if I get the same results as Sr. Raimundo, I'll be the most sedated person around.

Passion fruit, continued

This is what the fruit looks like, when completely ripe. They are gigantic compared to the wild varieties shown on this blog previously. It's really quite easy to make juice from them. Cut the fruits in half, scoop out the seeds and pulp, put them in a blender with water and sugar (with or without), blend for a minute ... and enjoy. The fruit has sedative properties, but not to the point of interrupting daily activities.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Passion fruit

Flower of passion fruit, Passiflora edulis. This is the commercial variety of passion fruit, the one that the Brazilians use almost every day for making fruit juice.


We hear cicadas all the time, but seldom see them. The one in the image was with two others, which was more unusual yet. The other two flew off as I approached them to get a picture.

Friday, February 15, 2008


I discovered these flashy colored flowers in the backyard of Dona Filha Teixiera. As usual, names for flowers and plants in general are left up in the air. But what counts is beauty.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Check out the latest fashions from Paris and London on this dragonfly. Fantastic!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pajurá de Óbidos, continued

This is another pajurá de Óbidos seed. I understand that the fruit itself is much larger than the "true" pajurá (Couepia bracteosa). I'd love to see one myself. In the meanwhile, I've planted two seeds at Bosque Santa Lúcia. In researching this fruit, I gather that it's indeed very rare. I found only a few references and only one image.

Pajurá de Óbidos

I'm holding the seed of a relatively rare fruit called Pajurá de Óbidos (Pouteria speciosa). The pajurá shown in the previous post is the "true" pajurá, which is more widespread in its distribution. Although more common, it's not often that we see them in the market places of the region. The pajurá de Óbidos seems to be restricted to very isolated areas, Óbidos being one of them. The person who so kindly passed on two of the seeds, told me that he traveled some distance from the City of Óbidos to find one of these trees. He was lucky enough to find some of its fruit on the ground! There are two pajurá de Óbidos trees on the grounds of the Museu Goeldi in Belém, but neither seem to be producing fruit.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pajurá seed

Pajurá (Couepia bracteosa) is a "crazy" fruit that very few people know about and few like. I happen to love it, which explains why only the seed is left. As you can see, I broke the shell around it so that it will germinate faster. It looks a bit like an avocado seed, but I assure you that the fruit is quite different. On another occasion, I'll take a picture of the edible part.

Imperial palm, putting down roots

I planted this imperial palm (Roystonea oleracea) in the shade of other trees some 19-20 years ago. It was rather slow in getting up above its competitors, but it now seems to be on stage for good. I never pass by the palm without looking up to see if it's producing fruit. Who knows, maybe the new root system is saying something about it maturity. This palm has a life expectancy of about 220 years!

Caterpillars on the move, continued

Here's a closer view of the "pile" of caterpillars on the move. If you want to really get a closeup, click on this image.

Caterpillars on the move

If these caterpillars hadn't been bunched up, I doubt that I would have noticed them on the cement floor of the back porch. They were that small. What really made them noticeable was that they were on the move, as one single unit, caterpillars on top of caterpillars. A pile of moving blackness. It reminded me of a similar scene once on a walking trail near the Napo River in Peru. The difference was that they were very large caterpillars and there were many more individuals. They actually took on the appearance of some medium sized animal moving across the trail.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Manioc plant

The image you see is that of the leaves of the manioc plant, the one that produces the potatoes-like roots used by Indians for thousands of years for making manioc meal, tapioca and the other by-products so important in the everyday nutrition of most Brazilians, even today. This manioc plant is at Bosque Santa Lucia, where we have a few plants just to show what manioc looks like. When I took the picture, my objective was to show the wart-like protrusions on the leaves. To be honest about it, I thought they had something to do with ants, but after three days of research on the internet, I discover that they are created by small flies, which lay their eggs on the upper leaf surfaces. The larvae cause abnormal cell growth forming galls. Although I found a few references in this regard, I didn't find one image! I'm sure there must be one or more in the scientific reports on the subject, but just in case, I present this one.


"Yes, I'd love to dance." This powder-puff flower (Calliandra) reminds me of a beautiful young girl waiting for some charming young man to ask her to dance.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pebbles on sand, continued

Geological formations come in all seizes. It may have taken millions of years to form the Grand Canyon, but it only took a few hours of rainfall on that truckload of sand to form these neat little monuments with the protecting pebbles at the top.

Pebbles on sand, continued

My photographer friend in Sweden, Olle Petterson, asked for an explanation of what the previous post, "pebbles on sand" was all about. I didn't mention that the pile of sand you see in this image was brought to the Bosque for the purpose of constructing sidewalks around the reception center. Santarém is blessed with a great variety of sands, each used specifically for some building purpose. There are red sands, white sands, fine grained sands, course grained sands and sands with lots of pebbles. Sand is the best filter to ever come our way. Water has a way of going through it very fast, which explains why our underground water is of such excellent quality in this Tapajós River region.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Pebbles on sand

Ubaia fruit

It's nice hearing from Marco Lacerda, coauthor of Brazilian Fruits and Cultivated Exotics. We had an exchange of correspondence and seeds some years ago when I was a member of the Yahoo Árvores Group. He tells me that he's still growing the ubaia (Eugenia patrisii) that I sent him. His message reminded me that I took this picture of fallen ubaia fruit only last week. The producing tree is from a seed I acquired from Didi Macedo in Mararu. We have ubaia trees in the Bosque Santa Lúcia woods but they don't produce much fruit anymore because of the intense shade.

Colors of tachi cauaçu

Rising above the surface water of an ancient creek, a tachi cauaçu tree opens new buds with a subtle show of colors. This will be the only show of color until new buds develop. The rest of the year, it's green, green and green. I should remark that you will see many colors, if you mess with the plant. It's home of a very fiery ant that will have you running for for your life, if they get on you. The plant is hollow inside and this is home for the ants. The genus is Tripolaris.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Colors of lacre

The natural colors (undersides of the leaves) of lacre are represented by the two leaves in the background. The browner one in the foreground is the result of the small branch being broken off by a bypassing truck. The genus of lacre is Vismia.

Palm fruit - mumbaca

The star formation of the mumbaca fruit (Astrocaryum gynacanthum) leaves no doubt about the genus of this palm. The pulp around the seed is quite delicious, but not many people will venture forth to gather the fruit. The thorns on the palm are some of the most dangerous around. Interesting enough, the monkeys don't have problems getting to the fruit. If monkeys could tell stories, I suspect there would be tales of woe in this regard.

Butterfly - going for it

Biodiversity strikes again! Sorry, I can't identify the flowers and butterfly. But, nevertheless, it was fun watching the butterfly zero in on the nectar in those flowers. As you can see in the image, it didn't seem concerned that I was nearby.