Sunday, August 31, 2008


Iris germanica (lower image) is blooming again. This is the flower that some people call an orchid, which it isn't of course. Strange enough, a yellow variety (top image) bloomed too and from the same vase. It's the first time that I've seen this one.

Old leaf

I wonder what happened to these leaves? They're so covered with fungi, they're more fungus than a leaves. Notice that there are other leaves around them, all fresh, slick and green.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Muiratinga, continued

Hang on folks! Don't click on that "inappropriate material" button provided by your blogger company. This isn't jungle porn. It's only part of tropical biodiversity in the world of trees. As explained in the previous post, the muiratinga trees lose their branches, much like plants, i.e., the branches disconnect themselves from the trunk of the tree taking with them the nodule that for the world takes on the image of a penis. Obviously, mankind makes of it what they want, including stories, legends, jokes and even porn. When I came to Santarem in 1979, I remember it was quite common for local folks to present me with the muiratinga oddity, in great jest of course. The local name is caruara, which comes from the Indian language. Strange enough, I haven't been able to find reference to this word anywhere on the internet or in my library. As a matter of fact, there is almost nothing on the topic. The only reference I found was a book of Indigenous stories written by Betty Mindlin, called Barbecued Husbands And Other Stories from the Amazon. The excerpt from the book is explicit enough that I need not say anything else. Only that the word muiratinga means "the white tree". At least that's the best translation I could concoct from the words muira (tree or wood) and tinga (white). A word about the image: the tree is muiratinga, from which the branch fell.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Muiratinga - caruara

No, those aren't walking sticks leaning up against the two muiratinga trees ( Maquira sp.). They are actually branches from the tree that have fallen in a very unique way. Much like many plants, the branches break off from the trunk of the tree taking with them the "socket" that joined them with the tree. This socket, for the lack of a better botanical name, takes on the physical appearance of a penis with the foreskin pulled back, or a circumcised penis. Next image, please.

Flower brightens trail

Red brightened a trail covered with decaying leaves. A lone flower without any signs from where it came.

Frog on bench

I sat down next to this frog. It didn't turn into a princess, but we had a great conversation.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Butterfly on the wing

Our colorful friend didn't want to let me get in close to take a picture, so I caught him on the wing. I took the picture thinking that nothing would come of it, but give it a try. Luck was with me. Click on the image for a better view.

Birth of butterfly

Sometimes we don't need to go very far to see beautiful events. This butterfly is leaving its pupal stage of life to fly off like a bird. It all happened right next to the porch door at the reception center!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mari-mari fruit

This past Sunday we went to Mararu to say hello to our old friends, Didi and Luzia Macedo. Dona Luzia (she just turned 80) had taken off to Belém to visit her daughter and do some medical exams, but we found Didi and his son at home. We've been visiting them at their home in Mararu for nearly three decades, and I must say, I never get tired of rambling around their small piece of land looking at their plants and trees. What got my attention on Sunday was a mari-mari tree (Cassia leiandra) and the fruit, of course. Top image, old fruit on the ground. They reminded me of snakes. Had my venture out in the back yard been at night, I might have jumped backwards seeing them. Bottom image of the fruit still up in the tree. I remember a time when there were lots of kids and grandkids around their place. Rest assured there wouldn't have been one fruit left on the tree at that time.

Quassia amara

Flowers from a small tree called quina (Quassia amara). Quina means quinine, but this isn't the true quinine from the Andes. Nevertheless, it's very bitter and I bet it would make some great quinine water (smile).

Combretaceae - combretum

I found this single seedpod on a walking trail last week. It must have just fallen because it was fresh and colorful. I've seen the dried up version of these seedpods used as Christmas decorations at the BeloAlter Hotel in Alter do Chão. Robin Foster at the Field Museum, Chicago tells me that it from the Combretaceae family. The genus is combretum. Most species of this genus are lianas.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Social flycatchers

Social flycatchers love to setup their households in the Pau Brasil trees next to the Bosque reception center. I can't tell you how many families have been raised in this environment. In the upper image, one of the parents entering the nest with food for the chicks. In the upper image, the other parent (I assume) watches on as a intruder insists on taking pictures. Inside the nest there were sounds of joy from the young residents waiting for delicacies of the forest.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Peperomia, continued

Another peperomia plant climbing up the side of tree. You've heard of "tree huggers"? These vines are the epitome of the tree huggers. Most of them look like they've been painted on the tree.


A peperomia vine has reached the top of this rotting stump. It was probably surprised to find that it couldn't go any higher!


At last I have a breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) tree that shows signs of surviving. It's interesting that Brazilians don't especially care for this fruit, as do the people in Peru and that part of Tropical South America. The best examples of this tree here in Santarem are at the old Tropical Hotel, now known as the Amazon Park Hotel. I think I got this seedling from one of the gardeners there. Our soils at the Bosque aren't really appropriate for breadfruit, but I'm hopeful that with fertilizers and lots of water, it might make it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Black ants

The fight is over. We can assume that the one behind won the round. The referee disappeared in the course of the fight.

Black ants

Two large block-headed (my nomenclature) ants checking one another out, while a very small ant looks on. My caption for this one would be "On the count of three, start the fight." The referee is the miniature ant, of course. The imaginary ring is half a seedpod from a vine up in the trees.

Calabash tree

At last I'm back to Bosque Santa Lucia, located on good old dusty/muddy clay soils. With all due respect to those who love beaches and deserts, sand isn't my cup of tea. The only good sand, in my mind, is the stuff we use to make concrete.

Seeing that calabash gourd at Dona Eunice's place ( a couple of posts back), reminded me that we now have the beginning of some calabash trees (Crescentia cujete) here at the Bosque. Sr. Dagaberto in Mararu gave me some cuttings from his place some weeks ago. Having planted cuttings of calabash before, I didn't have much hope they would take root. To my surprise, most of them show signs of making it in this world. Maybe it had something to do with the person who did the planting, my caretaker, Cleuson. I was responsible for those earlier duds. I find calabash trees full of fruit to be some of the most beautiful trees in the world.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tapajós, continued

Dona Eunice loves plants and trees, so it was no surprise to discover something new in her yard, which is no more than 50 meters from the clear waters of the Tapajós River. She tells me the fruit tree in the attached image is a noni, native of Pakistan. It sure is different from any fruit I've ever seen. If I had run into it by myself, I would have guessed that it was a wasp nest. Someday I hope to taste this fruit.

Tapajós, continued

I thought this was a good looking gourd. It was hanging from a rafter inside Dona Eunice's garage and appeared to have never been used as a utensil.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tapajós, continued

These palm fronds full of bees were right next to a beehive. I think they forgot to make reservations!

Tapajós, continued

The portal areas of the beehives were always congested. As mentioned, these are non-stinging bees.

Tapajós, continued

Another residential area. As mentioned, there are more than one-hundred on this part of the property and every beehive house is unique.

Tapajós, continued

Another little house, full of bees and their honey.

Tapajós, continued

I'm sorry to say that I didn't get one picture of the invited guests and the wonderful food served to us. I was feeling a bit zeroed out from all the adventures of getting to party. Then too, I had to get some food in my stomach and rehydrate myself with plenty of cold beer. After this, off I went to take some pictures of the place our hosts call the maloca (roundhouse). What impressed me the most was the number of beehives I found on the premise. Dona Eunice Sena, who coordinates the project, told me that they have more than a hundred hives of the non-stinging variety of bees. The ones with stingers are kept further out into the woods. Check out some of these hives.

Tapajós, continued

To make a long story short of how we got my car out of the sandbanks and on to Friar Leão's birthday party, my friend Alipio announced that "I'm gonna get help" and off he went by foot into the desert sun at 11:00 AM. To be honest about it, I was a bit worried about him because he's a bit overweight and he left already red as a beet from all the physical activities of trying to get the car up the hill. His wife, who was taking care of their 3 young kids, including one a baby, assured me that he didn't have a heart problem. About an hour later, he showed up in the Friar's bright red pickup with three helpers. Let me tell you, it's not by chance that Friar Leão owns this kind of vehicle. He drives these Tapajós River roads every day. I think that this 4-wheel drive diesel truck is capable of performing somersaults, if necessary. In no time the team pulled my car out of the sand, changed the flat tire and off we went to a dreamland of many friends, cold beer and barbecue. Later Alipio told me that he didn't walk out, he actually ran. I believe him!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tapajós, continued

There were several of these termite nests around the area where we got stuck. I'm assuming that they're termite nests. Unlike the termite nests of the planalto (highlands), there was no easy way of finding out. The building material for this nest, almost a meter high, was like a hard sandstone.

Tapajós, continued

This relatively large tree was right on the edge of the narrow sandy road. At first I thought it was a Brazilian cedar tree (Cedrela odorata), but checking out the leaves, I discovered that it wasn't.

Tapajós, continued

The desert sun isn't too cool after 11:00 AM. It's hotter than Hates and the glare from the sun is blinding. It can also burn you to a crisp, if you don't find shade. In the image, a young tree of the genus Miconia reaches out over the edge of the woods to explore the sandy road. My car was stuck in it about a 100 meters away. Taking the wrong turnoff, we had dropped down the bluff almost to the edge of the river. Now to get back up the hill and on to the birthday party was going to be an adventure.


It's been awhile since I've seen antlion traps. Going to Friar Leão's birthday party on the beaches of the Tapajós River a week ago required that we drive through tropical savanna country, which features sandy soils. The unfamiliar driver can get lost on unmarked side roads and they can also get stuck, especially if they don't have a four-wheel drive vehicle. And that's exactly what happened to us. To make matters worse, we had a flat on the front-right tire. While my friend, Alipio went for help, I took advantage of the situation to look around the "desert", where I found these antlion traps. So as not to reinvent the wheel, I provide a link that describes the antics of these insects. There must be a better way to make a living!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Colors of carambola, continued

Flowers and newly forming fruit on a carambola tree (Averrhoa carambola).

Colors of carambola

I discovered these totally ripe carambolas, alias five-star fruit, down the road at a neighbor's place. My plan was to ask permission to eat one of them, but I got busy and forgot. They do look yummy.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fungi, Continued

Another lone fungi making an appearance on the stage of the forest.

Fungi, Continued

I found this fungus on an old rotten log. It reminded me of an egg!

Fungi, Continued

This perfectly round fungus appeared on a log that had been cut by the electrical company when they installed the power line last year.

Fungi, Continued

Colors of fungi on a relatively smooth barked tree.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ipê flowers continued

I didn't exactly pick the right hour for taking pictures of the ipê trees here in Santarém. Many flowers were already falling to the street. I was probably one day too late to get them at their best.

Ipê flowers continued

An ambulance rushes a patient to the emergency room at the Municipality Hospital passing by a street full of ipê trees in bloom.

Ipê flowers continued

There are many varieties of ipê trees (the genus is Tabebuia), especially the yellow blooming ones. The ones I'm showing are the decorative species, perfect for the urban setting. On the street that divides the São Camilo Hospital with the Municipality Hospital, there are at least two different species. The flowers look the same but the leaves and seedpods are different.

Ipê flowers coming out

Long hot summer days bring out the best in ipê trees (Tabebuia sp.) planted on many streets in Santarém.

Army ants

As I stepped over a line of army ants on the trail, I noticed that they were coming from a fallen palm tree not very far away (top image). Looking closer I saw two sizable masses of ants at different openings in the rotten palm. My first thought was that the ants were bivouacking while the queen laid her eggs. As it turned out, I think they were only breaking up an overnight stop. What impressed me most were those ants with large white heads and distinctive round eyes. I assume these are guards.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Spider shell

The exuvia of another spider.


Yesterday I went to check on the light meter only to discover that a young tarantula spider was also having a look.

Rabo de arara

I broke this inflorescence off from a tangling mass of vegetation that included young trees and vines. I'm not sure whether it came from a tree, or a vine. There seem to be a number of plants and trees that produce these flashy flowers, all generically called rabo de arara, or macaw's tail. Some rabo de araras are red bracts (false leaves), as opposed to flowers. Some seem to be from the lauraceae family.

Ingá dàgua in bloom

The so called ingá dàgua trees are now in bloom. They are located in the ancient creek bed we call "a baixada". In spite of the fact that they are a show in themselves, nobody really knows the name of this tree. Over the years, I found one local person who ventured to say that were called ingá dàgua. So be it, that's what I call the tree to this day. I'm sure that someone will eventually identify the tree. It's a question of time. In the meanwhile, they're showing off with all those beautiful flowers.