Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dracena, continued

There are a number of these older dracena plants in this area. Almost a small jungle of them. Look at the size of the trunks.


Dracena plants close to an old homestead site at Bosque Santa Lucia. I haven't taken the time to identify the species yet. This is the one that gets to be the size of a small tree. Image coming up.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Colors of Five-star fruit

Carambola fruit (Averrhoa carambola) is said to provide rich sources of potassium for our body system. Many Brazilian doctors recommend the juice of this fruit for heart functions. It's very acid to eat raw, but the juice is in a sweetened form is very delicious.

Cinnamon leaves

New leaves of canela (cinnamonum zeylanicum) show their colors at my friend Didi Macedo's place in Mararu. I remind my readers that it was the dream of cinnamon that drove our Spanish friends to leave the mountains of Peru to the Amazon in 1491-1492, thus becoming the first Europeans to discover the Amazon River. Francisco Orellana was leader of the group that eventually made their way back to Spain via the Amazon River.


The necessary electrons needed to publish a blog post from my own computer have returned to my modem. I discover that the cell phone company had cut our subscription because the bill was due on October 10th and it was paid only on the 12th. We received the bill via the mail on the 12th! This happens a lot here in the interior. A credit card bills arrives late, making for some hefty fines. The company doesn't consider it their problem that the mail system is slow. To get around having to pay fines, one needs to call the credit card company to ask for the amount that is on your bill somewhere in the mail. Then one needs to go to a bank, stand in line for awhile to make the payment.

Image: cashew fruits partially eaten by birds. Technically, the nuts are the fruit. What we call "fruit" is the swollen stem above the nuts.

Cacauí quadrado

New blooms veil last year´s fruit on this cacauí tree (Herrania mariae). I´m surprised that even one fruit was left over. The monkeys like it very much.

Helioconia butterfly

I was surprised how close I was able to get to this helioconia butterfly. They normally stay one step ahead of me as I try to get pictures. The water was still drying off the leaves of this Triplaris tree, so it could be that the wings of the butterfly were a bit humid. Regardless, it´s the best shot I´ve ever been able to get of this little beauty.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Last of the fish, continued

I´m still limping away at one of the local internet cafes in Santarem, but I´ve discovered that things could be worse. The place is airconditoned, music from a radio station and pretty girls to serve the coffee. What? Me worry?

Getting back to the fish, I reported that my caretaker, Cleuson, and our neighbor removed around 400 of them from a drying up hole at the Bosque. They were taken to the Poço Branco water hole, attached image, across the road, where they won´t be lacking for water. It´s a dirty looking, muddy water, but that´s what these fish like. As we get into the rainy season, the water levels of the water hole will raise and eventually overflow into the old creekbed and ajoining depressions. As mentioned in other posts, there are no rivers or creeks in the immediate planalto area. This waterhole has served even Indian civilizations thousands of years ago. Over the last one-hundred years it has been the major source of water for homesteaders. When we bought the Bosque property back in 1981, it was still the source of drinking water for many families in the area. In the last decade, more and more wells have been dug and today it´s used more for watering the neighbor´s cattle.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Hang in there readers, I will be back. One of the mishaps of living in the jungle is that there are times when nothing works. Internet services have always been touch and go here in Santarem. I have tried all of them, but I have resolved that there will be days when it is better to shut the computer down and get out of town. I am at an internet cafe now, which is run by the largest of the internet servers, Netsan. I used this server for several years but finally gave up on them. Later!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Last of the fish, continued

This is the waterhole, where Cleuson and Bimba removed more than 400 fish just two days ago. My picture was taken in June, when the ancient creek bed area dried up, leaving this small body of water. The area around it is very much bare, the result of being under water for about 5 months. The story goes that the community of Poço Branco got together to dig a well in this particular spot because there was evidence of a spring that would keep everyone in water for the long summer months. From what I understood of community lore, the volunteer diggers got into some discussion that could not be resolved, so the digging was abandoned. When we bought the property in 1981, the well was much deeper than it is today. Over the years, mud has almost filled up the old well. It's amazing that so many fish could survive in such a small area.

Last of the fish, continued

Another look at the two species of fish found in the old well in the ancient creek bed that gets flooded during the rainy season. The one at the top of the image is tamuatá, the famed walking catfish. A Brazilian biologist told me that this little mud-loving fish is capable of "walking" up to 18 kilometers. I guess a lot would depend on the terrain, but it seems like quite a distance. I can personally testify that I've seen them moving about on the ground around the old well. More recently I've been looking for them in order to get a photograph, but nothing. I appreciate Cleuson and Bimba holding back five of the fish for me to see. We placed them in a concrete water box next to the front porch of the reception center. Nearly 400 found a new home in the old Poço Branco waterhole. I'll see if I can find a photograph of that place.

Last of the fish

In earlier posts I've shown images of the ancient creek bed at Bosque Santa Lucia, now known as the baixada (low area - flooded area). Synchronized with our very pronounced dry season and rainy season, this area is either flooded, or completely dry. At the peak of the dry season, the surrounding area can be almost desert-like due to weeks and sometimes months without rain. As the flooded area dries up, many fish are left stranded. They become food for the vultures. The last survivors take refuge in a hole that used to be an open well. Some years this refuge also tries up, which is taking place right now. Cleuson and Bimba (care-taker for the neighboring farm) got together day before yesterday to save this lot of fish. Amazing, but they rescued more than 400 fish from that small hole. They were taken across the road to a spring-fed body of water called Poço Branco. Only two species of fish were noted, per image. The large fish is acari and the smaller one, tamuatá, the famous walking catfish. Next image.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wild flowers

Beautiful flowers are not restricted to vases in someone's yard. The woods are full of them, at one time or another. I discovered these alongside the road going into the Bosque.


One of many vases of flowers at the Franco home. One more beautiful than the next.

Bougainvillea flowers

A closer look at the bougainvillea bracts and flowers.

Bougainvillea flowers

The bougainvillea plants (Bougainvillea sp.) seem to thrive on very hot weather and certainly don't require a lot of water. They are at their best this time of the year. This picture was taken at Eymar Franco's place not very far from Bosque Santa Lúcia.

Russelia flowers

This is the first dry season for our newly dug well. Everything is getting watered now and it's showing. The russelia (Russelia sp.) plants have plenty of flowers and they attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Holes, continued

A newly constructed underground apartment. An armadillo, for sure. Amazing how fast they can dig.

Holes, continued

These holes have been around for a long time. My guess is that armadillos were the original dwellers. I can also imagine that they are in the high rent district at Bosque Santa Lucia. Some day I'll stick around for awhile to see what comes out.


Knock, knock. Anyone at home?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dr. Okada, in memory

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. I remember the first time I placed an image of this plant on the blog. It was a puny plant of no more than 12 inches high. It surprised all of us by producing a large red flower, the size of those you see above. I made the remark, "imagine what it'll produce when it grows up." Dedicated to Dr. Okada, a local physician, who passed away last night. We've know him since we arrived in Santarém in 1979.

Ubaia flowers

At last my cultivated ubaia tree (Eugenia patrisii) is blooming again. I'm sure that Marco Lacerda, co-author of Brazilian Fruits, will be delighted with the news. The tree has grown a lot since the last fruit produced last year. Amazing what some water and tender loving care will do for a tree.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bring home the meat

I don't know the name of this high-strung, racy insect in shining blue armor. They move around real fast-like and in this case, it seems to have paid off. If I'm not mistaken, that's a baby spider being dragged off for dinner. Click on image for more details.

Wasp on Vanilla leaf

Our new resident continues to build on to its nest, which is attached to a vanilla orchid leaf. Click on the image for a better view.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tento seeds falling, continued

Some tento seeds I picked up off the ground yesterday.

Wasp nest

This nest seems to made by only one wasp. At least I've only seen a single wasp at a time. When finished, it'll be nearly as long as a pencil.

Tento seeds falling

Yes, tento (Ormosia sp.) seeds are falling, but very slowly. The tree seems to resent having all the seeds fall at once. It tenaciously hangs on to each and every pod for weeks and sometimes months. In the attached image you can see the pods, which have turned a bright red color. Some seeds can be seen towards the top of the image. With time, they'll fall from the pods. Next image, the seeds.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lucky bridge, continued

I forgot to mention that some of the branches of the pau mulato tree (Calycophllum spruceanum) also came down over the bridge. I was thrilled to see the fruit of the tree, per attached image. This is the first time I've seen them up close. In the past, I've included some posts in my blog about this tree. It's called an "ironwood" because of the high density of the wood. It's a favorite for making charcoal because it produces long-lasting hot coals. It was also the favorite wood for feeding the boilers of the old paddle-wheeled steamships.

Lucky bridge, continued

Here's a more distant shot of the mass of tree branches lodging in the lowland vegetation on the other side of the footbridge.

Lucky bridge, continued

Here's a better view of that part of the paricá tree that fell over the footbridge without smashing it to bits. Look at how neatly it came to rest in the forks of the two smaller trees. To the left you can see a piece of the rope that serves as a handrail. It was spared too. Cleuson simply cut the section of the tree that was blocking access to the bridge. Paricá isn't a very hard wood, so it was no big deal.

Lucky bridge

Yes, trees have a way of falling and whatever is under them get destroyed, in most cases. Certainly an exception was my footbridge, which spans an old creek bed just down the trail from the reception center. In the attached image you can see the paricá tree (Schizolobium parahyba) that broke off at about 5 meters up its trunk and then fell on a pau multo tree (Calycophyllum spruceanum), which also broke off at about the same height. The impact of hitting the pau mulato slowed the falling of the paricá to the extent it got caught up in the fork of another tree on the other side of the bridge. As you can see, it came to rest over the bridge with less than a meter of free space. Next image, please.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Red lily

I planted this lily in the old hollowed out log next to the entrance to the Bosque.  This is the first time that it's bloomed.  I'm sure this variety of lily was one that got spread around by local dwellers who liked the colors.  Sometimes I see bunches of them in bloom along the dirt road going to Poco Branco, the next community down the road.  They are eye-catchers.

Geniparana bud

This is the first geniparana (Gustavia agusta) bud I've seen this season. Some of these big white flowers get to be the size of a dinner plate.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Goat balls, continued

I took the opened fruit back to the reception center for a better look. Unfortunately, I didn't think to taste the fruit. When I came back the next day, there was nothing left of the fruit except the pod and some seeds. Some animal liked it.

Goat balls, continued

Here's a better look at the opened fruit. A very colorful sight of bright orange and black.

Goat balls

I walked right by this small tree without seeing it. Daniel, my younger boy, pointed it out to me, knowing that I'd be interested in getting a picture. It's not something we see on a daily basis, but I've seen them in the past. The only name I've been able to come up with among neighbors is "goat balls". Notice the fruit on the right. It's starting to open.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cicadia, continued

This picture was taken with a green leaf placed over the glass of the built in flash on my camera. I wasn't really trying to get the green effect. My objective was to cut down on the brightness of the flash, which was washing everything out. Well ....

Friday, September 12, 2008

Another rabo de arara

This is a another image of a "macaw's tail". It's definitely a liana. Robin Foster at the Field Museum, Chicago tells me that the family is Fabaceae - Papilionodideae. The genus is probably dioclea. Thanks again for the help.

Ani eggs, continued

I may have to make a public apology to those big black birds, called greater anis. In a series of blog posts I accused them of parasitism, thinking that they were laying their eggs in a nest of another bird. I made this accusation, first of all because we found three of their eggs on the ground under a mumbaca palm. The rationale was that the real owner of the nest was rejecting them. Secondly, Cleuson told me that the anis were around much of the time, but that he had never seen them bringing in food or nest-building material. Well, I shouldn't jump to conclusions so fast. Yesterday I spotted two of the anis, I assume a couple, land in the jacarandá do Pará tree next to the palm. To my surprise one of the beautiful birds had what appeared to be food in her beak. They then flew into the palm, shown in the attached image. I may have found the nest. It appears to be where we see all those dried up leaves. In searching the web for pictures of the great ani, I found an article, which states that although a member of the cuckoo family, anis are not brood parasites. So, there you have it! Click on the link above to see pictures of our humiliated friends.

Coutarea hexandra

Oh happy day! It's so great getting this tree identified. It's in bloom only a few days of the year and I always take advantage of any visitor, local or otherwise, to ask if they know the name. Nope! Most locals identify it as a "vine", which it is not. There are several of these small trees around the reception center at the Bosque and it's natural that many other people also ask for a name. My first clue was a comment from Robin Foster at the Field Museum, Chicago, who identified the family as Rubiacae. He also suggested that I contact Charlotte Taylor at the Missouri Botanical Gardens for more details. I sent Charlotte some images this morning and in no time at all she sent me the name. Coutarea hexandra (Jacq.) K. Schum. This blog is not meant to be scientifically oriented, but it's so nice to make contact with people in the know. Thanks Robin and Charlotte.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Boa constrictor

The baby boa constrictor in the image took me by surprise this morning. It was right in the middle of the dirt road that runs through Bosque Santa Lucia; and I almost stepped on it. I was looking for some mystery survey markers on one side of the road, thus the distraction. After the initial scare, I got the impression that the snake was dead because I didn't see its head. That turned out to be the case. "A good snake is a dead snake" is the local mentality here. I assume someone killed it intentionally, or ran over it. Well ...

Capparaceae - capparis

I've been looking at these bright red seedpods for years without knowing the name. At last an identification! (Capparaceae) capparis. Again, thanks to Robin Foster at Field Museum Chicago for sharing his knowledge. We never see many of these trees around the Bosque, but the next time I do see one, I can look at it differently. I'll also try to get a better picture! Groan.

Henry Ford in Belterra, continued

I had the pleasure of taking Dr. Emerick Szilagyi of the Henry Ford Hospital in Michigan back to Belterra, where he had headed up the hospital between 1942-1945. I don't remember the year we made that visit, but according to Allison Jones, it was eight years ago. Seems to me that it was longer than that, but I'll take Allison's word for it until I can figure out the dates. My friend, Ginger sent me the above link, which refers to the professional career of Dr. Szilagyi. I remember he came close to crying when he saw the old Belterra Hospital closed down and taken over by bats and other varmints. As reported earlier, his rubber tree plantation hospital had been one of the most modern in Latin America. The attached image was taken shortly before the whole structure burned down. Today there's nothing left of the place except for two imperial palms (Roystonea oleracea), which marked the entrance to the hospital. One of those has died. Perhaps both of them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vitaceae - cissus

I consider myself victorious when I can get a tree or plant properly identified. Thanks to Robin Foster at the Field Museum in Chicago, such was the case of the plant in the attached image. I had identified it as red milkweed, based on what I heard from another non-professional several years ago. Robin set the record straight. It's Vitaceae - cissus. Many thanks for the help. There are more identifications to come.

Cláudio Serique

I had a note from Cláudio Serique telling me that I had misspelled the word caruara in previous posts about the muiratinga tree. Cláudio is owner of a school of English in Santarém and has an eagle eye for misspelled words, no matter what the language. I guess that explains why I couldn't find any references on the topic. I'll be going back to those posts to correct my mistakes. By the way, Cláudio mentions in his comment that the caruara (that oddity that's associated with the muiratinga tree) is often given to the bride as a present on the day of her wedding. The attached image was taken at Bosque Santa Lúcia.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Allison Jones, continued

Allison's question, "what was the name of the Ford Motor Company doctor who was with you when we met eight years ago?" keep haunting me for the next two days. How could I forget? Maybe the name is in my book, Santarém - Riverboat Town. Nope, not there. But I knew it was recorded in some written document. At last I remembered that Mary Dempsy, a Detroit based journalist, had interviewed him for a magazine report on Henry Ford in Belterra. There it was in her article. His name is Dr. Emerick Szilagyi. I have no idea if the good doctor is still alive. When I took him to revisit Belterra, he was getting up there in the years, but still worked at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. I think I had given Mary Dempsy his name as a contact. Her original article appeared in the July/August 1994 issue of Michigan History. Click here for the link. That's me in the image. The picture was taken shortly before the whole hospital building burned down to the ground. It had been one of the most important hospitals in South America during the years Dr. Szilagyi had worked there, 1942-1945.

Ani egg, continued

Somewhere in this mass of thorns there's a bird nest. I have yet to find it and I won't be getting closer to the mumbaca palm to have a better look. It's amazing how monkeys and other animals get into these things with stabbing themselves.

Another ani egg

Yesterday we found another bird egg on the ground under the mumbaca palms. I assume they are from the greater ani (Crotophaga major) because they hang out in the palms, as well as neighboring trees. The question now is whether or not the nest belongs to them. My theory is that the anis are laying eggs in another bird's nest and the rightful owners are tossing the eggs out. This is the third egg we've found. The first was show in a previous post and the second one broke when it hit the ground. Cleuson, who spends the whole day at the Bosque, remarks that not once has he seen the anis bring in nesting material and not once has he seen them taking food to the young ones.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Allison Jones, continued

As mentioned, I was surprised to learn that Allison Jones and his wife have been living in Alter do Chão (only 30 kilometers from Santarém) for the last two years. I'm also pleased because I'll have a chance to get to know him better. We talked about everything under the sun yesterday at the Belo Alter Hotel, but I'd like to know more about him and the descendants of the American Confederates who settled in Santa Barbara, São Paulo. I know that the Jones family came to Brazil from Texas, right after the Civil War. Allison's mother, Judith McKnight Jones (now 90 years old), is much a celebrity for having written Soldado Descansa, probably the most definitive book on the history of the American Confederates and their descendants in Brazil. She is also aunt to Rita Lee, a famous musician and singer in Brazil. I also know that Allison is an engineer by profession. I look forward to learning more about him and his family. Image, that giraffe is me with Allison at the Belo Alter Hotel. I told him that I would be posting this pix in my Tropical Biodiversity blog. He jokingly remarked that it was okay, but not to put it under the monkey label.

Confederates - Allison Jones

From time to time I divert from plants and trees to report on descendants of the American Confederates, many of whom settled in this part of the world after the American Civil War. I've been neglect in searching out and interviewing many of these individuals. Most of the time I just bump into them by chance, or pick up on local news and events. Such was the case yesterday, when my wife, younger son and I pulled up into the shade of a tree next to the Belo Alter Hotel in Alter do Chão, where we were going to have lunch. A couple in a pickup parked there just seconds before us and we exchanged "good afternoon"as we got out of our vehicles. As I started walking towards the hotel, I noticed a decal of a Confederate flag on the rear window of the pickup. Inside the lobby of the hotel I asked the gentleman if, by chance, he was a Confederate. A big infectious smile appeared on his face as he recognized me from an encounter many years ago. When he identified himself as Allison Jones, it all came back. Well, nearly. His memory is much better than mine and he reminded me that that on that occasion I was touring with a former physician of the Ford Motor Company Hospital in Belterra. To my surprise, Allison and his wife, Eloise, have been living in Alter do Chão for the last two years. What brought them from their native Confederado community in Santa Barbara in the State of São Paulo to Alter do Chão? Well, I didn't ask, but I assume it was retirement. Attached image from left to right: Eloise Jones; my wife, Áurea; me; and Allison Jones. Next image, please.

Rose apple, continued

A carpet of fallen flowers cover the ground under a rose apple tree (Eugenia malaccensis).