Monday, March 31, 2008

Rain clouds

The attached image was taken early yesterday morning. Dark clouds threatened to dump more rain on Santarém and the region, but by mid-morning the clouds had veered off to another area and we were treated to a day of sunshine. By midnight, it was raining again and it hasn't stopped. Out there where you see the Tapajós and Amazon Rivers covered with a blanket of black clouds, there's only a white haze. And the rain continues to fall.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pajurá de Óbidos germinating

I think most fruit tree enthusiasts get emotional when seeds germinate, especially if it's a relatively rare tropical fruit, like Pajurá de Óbidos (Pouteria speciosa). The fruit, and seeds obviously, are difficult to come by, even here in Santarém. The one in the image was given to me by a rare fruit collector, who had traveled to the Óbidos area in search of the trees. As a matter of fact, he gave me two seeds. This is the first to germinate. I've written about these seeds and pajurá fruit in the past few weeks. Readers can find them by going to the Blogger search link at the top of the page.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Paricá tree

I planted this paricá tree from a seed more than 20 years ago. As a matter of fact, I planted the seed in an empty milk can and then transferred it to Bosque Santa Lúcia. It's now an adult tree and it's big. These trees don't have a long lifespan, like most Amazonian trees. They grow fast and then make way for other species. It's a favorite tree for recuperating deforested areas because of these qualities. I remember seeing paricá trees being used in the mining areas of Serra do Navio in the State of Amapá when I was there some years ago.

Paricá seedling, continued

Another paricá seedling along side the dirt road going into Bosque Santa Lúcia. It has succeeded in making its way through other growth to get the sun it needs to become an adult in about 20 years.

Paricá seedling

From seed to seedling, a paricá tree (Schizolobium sp) takes on the world. The family is Caesalpiniaceae.

Paricá seed, continued

Many weeks after falling from the tree, a paricá seeds germinates. Even as a "baby", it projects an air of wanting to be big.

Paricá seed

There are several large paricá trees (Schizolobium sp) at Bosque Santa Lúcia and their seed production is quite prolific. There's only one seed in each pod and it's very hard after drying out. As a result, the germination of them can take awhile and the process can be spread out over long periods of time. I'm not totally sure of the species but I think it's parahyba.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Wetness, continued

After leaving the Santarém Market Place, I took Daniel over to the Dom Amando High School to say goodbye to some friends before he returned to Belém. The rain was still coming down hard and the sky socked in with low-moving clouds. I took advantage of my wait to take some pictures from inside the car. Through the splashes of rain on the windshield and the haze, I spotted an old friend down the street, a carnauba palm (Copernicia prunifera) located in front of the State Secretariat of Health building, SESPA. The silhouette of the tall palm was just beautiful.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wetness prevails

I might complain about the lack of access to local destinations because of the seasonal rains, but I'll never bitch about the wetness. The more rain, the better, as far as I'm concerned. It's the lack of rain during our long dry seasons that worries me most. I figure that the Amazon will survive quite well with excessive rains, but the lack of wetness could destroy our environment. Global warming promises to convert tropical forests into tropical savanna in the next few decades, according to all scientific research. Let it rain! Image: The soybean elevators at Cargil lurk over the Tapajós River as though they were giant water birds looking for a fish dinner. The zoom picture was taken from the inside of my car parked at the Santarém Municipal Marketplace - during a tropical downpour.

Tajá, continued

This is another variety of caladium (tajá) that caught my eye at Flona (the Tapajós National Forest) earlier this month. This is our rainy season in this part of the Amazon, which is most favorable for caladiums. They pop up out of the ground like weeds.


We have a lot of caladiums (Tajá) at Bosque Santa Lúcia but I discovered a couple of new ones on a recent visit to the Tapajós National Forest. This one was a combination of green with blue-black.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wild is wild, part 3

In the same article ( O Impacto) about a black-caiman eating a fisherman, Gerciene Belo writes about two large anaconda snakes found in our city of Santarém. The one shown in the newspaper article above was found in the Maracanã area by local dwellers. It measured 5 meters in length. Another one was at the Banco do Brasil Recreation Center closer to downtown. When I saw the picture above, I thought to myself that the snake was certainly not well fed. Gerciene went on to say in his article that local biologists point to the devastation of the native habitat of these animals as the cause for their invasion of urban areas. They're looking for something called food.

Wild is wild, part 2

The journalist writing this article about a black-caiman eating a fisherman is Gerciene Belo for the local newspaper, O Impacto. This edition was published on February 29, 2008. I assume that the pictures featured on the front page of O Impacto are also his, but there are no credits given. Likewise, dates of the event were not given. To summarize the article, this happened in a community near Faro and Nhamundá, close to the borders of our State, Pará with the State of Amazonas. The victim of the giant black-caiman of 6 meters was a fisherman by the name of Manoel Sebastião, 53 years old. He had been missing two weeks after leaving home to fish for the family. The possibility of having been attacked and consumed by a caiman was suspected, given that his body hadn't been found. Then the killer caiman attacked another fisherman, which led the community to ask permission of IBAMA (The Office of Environment) to kill the beast, which they did. Inside the caiman of 200 kilos was the body of Manoel Sebastião, as shown in the newspaper picture.

Wild is wild

I always look forward to reading the local newspapers because they deal almost strictly with Santarém people and events. The February 29, 2008 edition of O Impacto really caught my attention because of two articles about wild animals- a black-caiman that ate a fisherman and a large anaconda snake found right here in the city. The front page features photographs of both, plus another of three children whose bodies were carbonized in a house that caught on fire. I won't bother my readers with the details of the last article, but the first two are demonstrative of the fact that there's still some wildness left in the wild.

Santarém - Riverboat Town, continued

The weather was quite appropriate for the presentation of my book, Santarém - Riverboat Town (refer to the previous post) this past Saturday. A riverboat or canoe would have been a better mode of transportation for getting around than a vehicle. Everything was flooded from the abundant rains in the region, even places on BR-163, the Santarém-Cuiabá Highway. Entire streets in the city were washed away, walls toppled and houses flooded. At Bosque Santa Lúcia, water came up over the footbridge and access to area became impossible for smaller vehicles. Even today, low areas on the dirt road going into Poço Branco and beyond are under water and there are still a lot of big clouds rolling in with the easterly trade winds. It's that time of year when we get all the rain we want and then some. Photographer from Belém, Lais Paiva Amoedo, captured the mood of two of the largest rivers in the world, the Amazon and Tapajós Rivers, at the book signing ceremony as they passed by and under the Santarém Tourism Center on the city waterfront. I mean to tell you that there's a lot of water out there and water levels will continue to raise for a few more weeks. It's quite possible that the city waterfront will be completely flooded this year.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Santarém - Riverboat Town

My book, Santarém - Riverboat Town, was officially presented to the community on March 22, 2008. Breakfast and the book signing ceremony were held at the Santarém Tourism Center, located on the waterfront of the city. Despite heavy rains with flooding, some 40 invited guests showed up for the event. More information on how and where to purchase the book at

The local chapter of Partners of the Americas was responsible for the presentation. Our State of Pará is partner with the State of Missouri in the United States. The Missouri Chapter published the book.

Image: my son, Arthur Daniel (lower left) and friends at the event. Daniel designed the cover of the book, as well as the banner in the background.

Pupunha, continued

I planted these pupunha palms from seeds, maybe four years ago. I'm told they're much too close together, but I'm not about to remove any of them. If necessary, let nature do the thinning out. I actually planted about 30 of them at this location next to the reception center, so the natural selection is already underway.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pupunha fruit, continued

This image demonstrates the high value of pupunha in the world of tropical foods. A very thin skin, a relatively small seed and lots of "meat". The normal way of preparing the fruit is to boil them in salted water for about 15-20 minutes. Eat them like this, or if you want to get fancy, add butter or margarine while they're hot.

Pupunha fruit

Another fruit that is very plentiful now is from the pupunha palm (Bactris gasipaes). The bunch in the attached image was taken from a palm at Bosque Santa Lúcia. I thought they had been harvested too early, but they turned out to be delicious.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ingá fruit, continued

From the tree to the table! My friend, Sr. Carmo showing off one of the very elongated ingá fruits at the Tapajós National Forest to one of his Swedish groups.

Ingá fruit

No, those aren't snakes up in this tree. No, they aren't over-seized worms. They're ingá cipó (Inga edulis), one of the most sought after wild fruits of the Amazon. If you walk along the waterfront of Santarem this time of the year, you'll see piles of them for sale. Life wouldn't be right without sucking the pulp off these large seeds inside the overly-exaggerated pods.

Colors of an imperial palm

If we planted ourselves in the forest for a few years, we would add some color to our skin too. In the case of the fungus on the bark of the imperial palm (Roystonea oleraceae), I'd say it's a mark of beauty.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Babaçu palm nut

Babaçu palm nuts. The one to the left had been cut to show visitors the grub worm that was eating the seed. It seemed to have done a good job at it! To the right, an uncut nut. Attalea speciosa.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Orchids in bloom now, part 5

Psygmorchis pusilla moves around a lot, but it's in bloom most of the time. The yellow in this flower is so yellow, it's difficult to get a good picture of it. It's quite small, about the size of the fingernail on my small finger.

Orchids in bloom now, part 4

I never saw these seed capsules on the Epidendrum schomburgkii before. Quite impressive. There must be thousands of future orchids in this little package.

Orchids in bloom now, part 3

Epidendrum schomburgkii doesn't bloom all that often, but when it does, the flowers stick around for awhile.

Orchids in bloom now, part 2

Another orchid in bloom right now at Bosque Santa Lúcia is Brassia caudata. There are a lot of flowers on those stems!

Orchids in bloom now

Arundina bambusifolia is in bloom most of the time. Give it water, some good soil and sunshine and it won't ever let you down.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Delano Riker, part 6

In a previous post, I mentioned knowing Joe Riker, who was the last of 14 children fathered by David Bowman Riker. Joe lived in Belém, but came to Santarém quite often. It may have been his sister, Mayflower, who introduced us around 1985. Regardless, he stopped in to see me many times here where we live on Turiano Meira Street. Joe retired precociously as South American Representative for the The Gideons International because of an vehicle accident in Guyana, as I best remember the details. On one of his visits he presented me the book you see in the attached image, O Último Confederado Na Amazônia, written by his brother, David Afton Riker. The translation of the book in English is, The Last Confederate in the Amazon, referring to David Bowman Riker, who came to Brazil with his father, Robert Riker as a young boy. He indeed became the last of the all the American Confederates to die here in the Amazon. There have been other books written about the Confederates in the Amazon, but Afton's book may be the only one written by a blood descendant of one. According to Afton's historical accounts, he and Joe were always very close because they were the youngest of the very large David Bowman Riker family. Joe always invited me to visit him at his home in Belém, but sadly enough, I never did. It's been years since I've seen or heard from him.

Delano Riker, part 5

I find it interesting that not one word was said in the press about Delano Riker being a descendant of Robert Riker, an American Confederate. I may have missed something, but I read many newspaper articles and I also reviewed most internet reports of his death. It just goes to show you how some details of history can get lost fast. The main reason I added these posts to my Tropical Biodiversity blog is that the death of a descendant of an American Confederate is of interest to many people in the world, especially the United States. As a matter of fact, there are an untold number of Rikers who live outside Brazil and many are interested in knowing more about their relatives here. Image: Municipality of Santarém flags were being distributed to the public as the coffin left the Baptist Church.

Delano Riker, part 4

Although I never had an infinity with Delano Riker, I did have the pleasure of knowing his mother, Mayflower Riker, and his uncle, Joe Riker. I don't remember who introduced me to Mayflower (now deceased) back in the early 1980s, but she was quite enthusiastic about taking me to Diamantino to visit her grandfather's grave site. Diamantino is about 10-12 kilometers south of Santarém. It's fairly much suburbia of Santarém today, but back in the 1860s, when Robert Riker settled there with his American family, it was really back country. It was a rather unique location because it connects three different environments, the planalto (highland), tropical savanna and the Amazon floodplain. Robert Riker's grave site was located almost at the bottom of the hill, very close to where the community of Mararu is situated today. I got the impression that the site had almost been abandoned. I don't remember historical details, but it seems that the Riker homestead had been sold around 1910 by Robert's son, David Bowman Riker. It's quite probable that this particular piece of land had changed hands many times over nearly a century. What I saw there was a small farmer's house and a field of corn and manioc. The grave site was right in the middle of the corn and manioc crop. I've not been back to the site since that time, but I heard rumors that the remains of Robert Riker may have been moved to another location, maybe Santarém. I'm negligent in not having researched these details. Image: Delano Riker procession arriving at the Santarém cemetery.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Delano Riker, part 3

My association with Delano Riker was never that great. I remember having consulted with him many years ago about chartering a flight for some group wanting to go up river, but nothing ever came of the tour, so I didn't go back to his office, located only a few meters from where this picture was taken. I remember having talked with him another time about renting his riverboat, El Dorado. As it turned out, the boat wasn't for hire. It was transportation to his ranch downriver and home for him once getting there. The encounter I remember best with Delano was in 2005, when he was Secretary of Agriculture for the Municipality of Santarém, as well as Vice-mayor. He and a couple of other politicians were passing through Bosque Santa Lúcia on the dirt road that connects the Santarém-Cuiabá with the Curuá-Una Highway. I happened to be out on the road, close to the Bosque entrance, because some community people had gotten together to repair a large, nasty hole in the road that was getting out of control. Delano stopped his pickup next to me and asked if I was responsible for the road construction. I guess it all looked impressive because several community people were working and there was a big pile of rocks on the side of the road. I recognized him immediately, but I'm not sure he ever figured out who I was, then or any other time. I explained to him that it was a community project and I introduced him to Professora Inêz, who was community president of Poço Branco at that time. The good professora isn't timid when it comes to asking for help from politicians. The result of the chat was that Delano committed himself to repairing another part of the road closer to the highway, which he did.

Delano Riker, part 2

There are several months of the year in this part of the Amazon when we eat dust and pray for rain. Then there several months of the year when we breath water and pray for sun! The day of Delano Riker's funeral was one of them. It had poured during the night and then started up again early morning. When I got to the Baptist church, where Delano's body was placed for public visitation, it was raining very hard. The burial was scheduled for 10:00, but at approximately 10:15, the rain let up. It's only two blocks up to the cemetery from the church, so the procession got there before wetness set in again. Image, the Military Police Calvary waiting in the rain for the procession to begin. It was impressive to see how horses and riders stood up under more than an hour of heavy rain without hardly batting an eyelash. To be continued.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Delano Riker, in memoriam

I depart from my regular posts on flora and fauna to report the death of Delano Riker Teles de Menezes, 60, vice-mayor of Santarém on March 13, 2008. Delano was much more than a politician in his life. He was a cattle rancher on the Amazon River floodplain; he was a pilot and owner of a regional airline; and Riker was a blood descendant of the American Confederates, called Confederados here. The patriarch was Robert Henry Riker, who ventured off from South Carolina to Santarém with his whole family in 1867. I understand that he was president of a railroad in South Carolina prior to the Civil War and that he was much better off economically than other Confederados coming to Santarém. His American wife, Sarah Elizabeth Hapoldt, died 10 years after arriving in the Amazon. Their six children born in the United States included David Bowman Riker, the last Confederate to die in the Amazon. Robert Riker married again and fathered several more children born here in Santarém. More coming up in the next blog post. Image, Delano Riker's coffin leaving the Baptist Church of Santarém.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wild Cacao, continued

This is another wild cacao on the same tree shown in the previous post. It's completely ripe and will probably be eaten up by animals very soon.

Wild Cacao

The cacao shown in the previous post is the commercial variety of the chocolate tree, Theobroma cacao. The one above this text is the wild variety of cacao, Theobroma speciosum. I took this picture next to an area of forest that had been destroyed for the purpose of planting corn, beans and rice. We have these chocolate trees on the Bosque Santa Lúcia property too, but the monkeys have eaten up the fruit. As a matter of fact, the local name for the tree is "cacao de macaco", monkey's cacao.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cacao fruit

Ripe cacao fruit, ready for eating. It's the pulp around the seed that we eat, not the seed. Chocolate is made from the seed, after it's dried, toasted and ground into a powder. Pass the sugar, please.

Colors of cacao leaves

Early morning sun lights up cacao (Theobroma cacao) leaves at the Tapajós National Forest.

Aracanga, continued

Here's another look at the aracanga trunk. The outbreaking of red is from a light scrapping of the bark. In reality, it's all that brilliant red. I gather that the wood is used mainly for flooring lumber, and it's red too.

Colors of Aracanga

I took this picture of the aracanga tree (Aspidosperma macrocarpon) a few days ago on a walk into the Tapajós National Forest. The first tipoff that the tree is nearby is when we see a few brilliant red roots surfacing the trail. The attached image is a closeup of the trunk of the tree. The word "aracanga" is indigenous for species of parrots and macaws sporting red colors. Another view coming up.

Sapucaia fruit

It's that time of the year! The outdoor markets are abundant in sapucaia fruit (Lecythis pisonis). So abundant, as a matter of fact, that some are making their way into the supermarkets. I bought these at the Supermercado CR, close to home here on Turiano Meira Street. I always thought the edible part of this nut was that white protrusion you see in the image. It's very sweet and I find it delicious. Then I discovered that the Brazilians throw this part away. They eat the seeds, which are inside the brown capsules, the nuts. Sapucaia is a cousin of Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa). They are both in the Lecythidaceae family.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mata-calada (Ryania speciosa), continued

Three mata-calada trees in the image. Maybe only one with two offshoots. As you can see, the tree doesn't get very large. After the identification I discovered another one on the other side of the center. It was within 4 meters of the place used by the well-digging team for cooking their food over a camp fire! I remember very well that they used wooden spites for barbecuing meat. Can you believe it? By little, they escaped death!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mata-calada (Ryania speciosa)

As an afterthought, Dr. Valdely wrote me from Manaus to say that he had spotted the deadly poisonous tree, mata-calada, at our Bosque Santa Lúcia. He gave me some very detailed instructions as to where it was located and sure enough, there it was real close to the reception center. I've heard of mata-calada for years, but I never knew of anyone capable of identifying it. The translation into English means "silent killer", or a literal translation, "kills silently", referring to the fact that the poison kills a person so fast, he doesn't even have time to cry out for help. The legendary scenario is that of using the branches of the tree to make spites for barbecuing meat over a campfire. There are several confirmed cases of people having died from eating barbecued meat in this fashion. It seems that Merck patented this poison many years ago, but hasn't renewed the concession. I look forward to researching this topic in greater detail.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Brazilian spinach

Always running on high octane, Dr. Valdely made a fast run to the municipality market place before heading to the airport for his return flight to Manaus. His stop there was to buy some espinafre, the so-called Brazilian spinach. Val tells me that research on this plant isn't complete. The genus is Alternanthera but the question of species is still under study. He gave me a few samples, which I planted. Attached image.

Araticum, seeds

In an earlier post, I related the disappointment in having received two araticum fruits (Annona crassiflora) from Alenquer, ones which had been picked green. I planted the seeds but they weren't viable. I was therefore, more than surprised to see Dr. Valdely and Cleuson bring back a whole bag of seeds from that short jaunt to the Poço Branco soccer field in search of another variety of pajurá. Little do we know what's in our neighbor's yard! As it turned out, Sr. Luiz and Dona Inêz had planted araticum trees long before I ever heard the word and the tree are already producing loads of fruits.

Pajurá de Óbidos, the fruit

I dare say that most of my readers never heard of pajurá and even fewer have seen it. Fewer yet have had the pleasure of eating the fruit. I've done my share in spreading the good news, but I want to add just one more image, that of the pajurá-de-Óbidos. I've shown images of the seeds in this series, but not the whole fruit. This one was given to me by Dr. Valdely Kinupp, who brought back some from his expedition to the Óbidos area. It's an unripe sample, but will demonstrate the difference between this species Pouteria speciosa and the more common type, Couepia bracteosa.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Pajurá, continued

Well, why not get the family together for a picture. The two pajurás on the left and right are the most common pajurás in this region, Couepia bracteosa and the two elongated ones are Parinari excelsa, the so-called stone pajurás described in the previous two posts.

Pajurá-pedra, continued

Although the fruit wasn't ripe, I opened it to have a look at the seed.


This blog is dedicated to tropical biodiversity and there seems to be no end to it. If I lived for another hundred years, I'm sure I wouldn't learn everything there is know about even Bosque Santa Lúcia, an area of only 110 hectares. The fruit in the image is a good example of that complexity. About the time I was ready to leave the Bosque to take Valdely Kinupp down to the Amazon River to catch his riverboat to Óbidos, Cleuson mentioned that there appeared to be a different kind of pajurá down the road near the soccer field. Fast as lightening Valdely grabbed his camera and tripod and he and Cleuson were gone. In less than an hour they were back with another kind of pajurá I had never seen before. Valdely called it pajurá-pedra (Parinari excelsa), which translates into stone-pajurá. They did seem much harder than the common pajurá I've shown on this blog several times. Maybe because they were still green!