Thursday, January 31, 2008
When you're a newcomer to this earth, it doesn't make much difference what color you are, as long as you ain't green. It's nature's way of giving you a helping hand to be a survivor in this world- before you become a mature, toughened oldie nobody wants to eat. Cupuaçu (Theobroma grandiflorum).
This is an older image of the termite nest long before it fell to the ground, but it'll demonstrate the size. The nest was unique in that it was so large, compared to the slim little tree on which it was built. I would have expected it to have fallen long ago.
What you see on the ground are the remains of a very large termite nest, which was placed in this very small tree. It was always the center of attention for visitors because it could easily be seen from the entrance to the Bosque. It had shown sign of abandonment over the last few months, so the termites knew what was up beforehand. In the next image you can see what it looked like when active and on the tree trunk.
There are a lot of different gingers in the world, but this is one of the spiraling types. The genus is Costus. The ants are obviously supping up some nectar from the extra floral nectaries, those yellow slits. It's called symbiotic relationships. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. The ants get food and the plant gets protection from its predators.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
At last cedar trees (Cedrela odorata) are in full dress with all their new leaves. The tree is unique in that it loses all of its leaves early in the summer (dry season) and stays that way until the rains are underway. This span of time can be up to 3-4 months. Cedrela, by the way, isn't a conifer. The family is Meliaceae, the same as mahogany. Maybe that's why it's a threatened species. It has a lot of the same qualities as its cousin. I planted these individuals but I don't remember the year. I brought the seeds in from Belterra, one of the Henry Ford rubber tree plantations.
Here's a better view of the cacauí quadrado fruit. I've read somewhere that this tree used to be in the Theobroma genus, the same as chocolate. It's now in the genus of Herrania. When ripe, the sweet seeds and pulp can be eaten together. I should add that it's difficult to find a ripe fruit because the monkeys get to it first.
This cacauí quadrado (Herrania mariae) is a loner because we normally see a lot of them on the trunk of the tree. Same for the fruit, which is just a few inches below the flower. There can be 4-6 fruits conglomerated together. The family is Sterculiaceae.
I figure this butterfly can't be any thicker than a sheet of paper. Looking at it from a distance, I thought it was droppings from a roosting bird. It reminds me of that phantom plane flown by the United States Air Force. It's so white, it's difficult to find a focus point, other than the small brown spots on the tail. I managed to get this closeup shot of the insect before it flew off.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
The indigenous name is tajá, caladium in English. There are lots of them around the Bosque now that it's raining. Not one of them was planted. All natural outlets from Mother Earth. I'll include a few more without comments.
Monday, January 28, 2008
And here's a better view of the Brazil nut (Bertholetia excelsa) pods that Cleuson picked up off the ground under that gigantic tree of more than 200 years old. Some pods are larger than others, but the average pod has around 14 nuts. I've counted as many as 23 in a pod.
I see this bug around quite a bit but I've never been able to identify it. So for the time being, a bug is a bug. I take my hat off to the entomologists for the identification of endless species of insects. Note the furry "boots" on the front appendages of this one. Click on the image to enlarge it.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Speaking of bromeliads, I discovered this one at Sr. Manoel's nursery. It's a gigantic beauty! I would also assume that it's from the tropical savanna area, since I've neve seen one like this at Bosque Santa Lúcia.
After some days of developing tiny buds, the bromeliad broke out in bloom day before yesterday. I can't say I've ever seen more beautiful flowers on a bromeliad. The fragrance competes with the best of perfumes.
This bromeliad was given to me by Eliésio Steel, descendant of an American Confederate family that came to Santarém right after the Civil War. Steel died this past year and I never got a chance to ask where he got the plant. I would assume that it's from the tropical savanna, rather than the highlands (Planalto). Regardless, it's in bloom for the first time. Image coming up.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
And here's the owner of the bicycle with a jack fruit (Artocarpus intergrifolia) he harvested from a tree on the main Bosque trail. Called jaca here, it's an exotic originally from Asia. You would think it's native of Brazil because wherever you go in the country, there's the tree. It's a delicious fruit, if mature. The one that Cleuson is hold is not fully ripe. It will "rest" in a dark place for 3-4 days before it's ready to eat.
I've noticed that my right hand man at the Bosque, Cleuson Teixeira, rides different bicycles to work. One is a very new looking bike and the other one, as you see in the image. He tells me that he uses this one when the road and trails are very muddy. It has nothing to do with getting the newer bike dirty. It's all in the equipment. This one doesn't have fenders, which can get clogged up with mud. The bike without fenders will throw mud up onto the back of the rider, but it'll keep going. Imagine one of those lightweight, 18 speed bikes. The whole thing would end up on the back of the rider because it would never get through the sticky, slippery mud.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
This was the red latania palm I gave to the Portuguese, who owns the nursery right next to the Dom Amando High School on Rua São Sebastião. Also the same seed stock of the other two individuals shown on this page. I received the seeds from Joao Carlos Geraldo in September of 2003. I don't remember how long it took for the seeds to germinate, but some palm seeds take a long time. The fresher they are, the faster they germinate.
This is an image of the red latania (Latania commersonii) I mentioned in the previous post. It's from the same seed stock as the one at the Bosque, but look at it. It must be at least double the seize. This location has the typical sandy soil of the Tapajós River region, plus it gets a lot of light.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Next to the carnauba palm with the wasp residents is a Latania commersonii palm, as pictured in the image. This particular individual isn't doing all that well because the clay soil is extremely poor. I've added some organic fertilizers but it's difficult for the palm roots to penetrate the ground. While this individual isn't anything to brag about, it has a couple of relatives attracting a lot of attention in Santarém. One I gave to the "Portuguese", nickname for a big fellow with a green thumb. He planted it in just the right place in his nursery, which is in his big backyard here in the city. Sandy soil + lots of organic material from an old compost bin. The palm has grown to more than three meters and catches everyone's eye as they walk the narrow paths in the nursery. The Portuguese tells me that many people want to buy it. No way! He's waiting for the day when it begins to produce seeds. He should make a mint from the seedlings. The second Latania, I gave to UNIMED, a health plan group managed by associated physicians. This was more recent, but the palm is in a very visible in front of the UNIMED building on a major street and it's doing as well as the other one. I already have people asking if I have more! The fame is so great, I may dig up the one at the Bosque and transfer it to a more suitable environment.
Sometime back I showed an image of this wasp nest, which is well placed under the leaf of a carnauba palm (Copernicia prunifera). I sort of forgot about it, since I don't need to water it every day, as this past summer. Now, I notice that the wasp are building onto their home. There's a second floor, which of course, is below the first one.
This character is my friend, Guara Miranda. He's savoring ingá, an Amazonian fruit that everyone likes very much. I was parked in front of his mother's drugstore waiting for Áurea when he came out to offer me a taste. I say "taste" because what we eat is only the pulp around the beans. It's more of a sucking act, as opposed to eating. There are many different kinds of ingá. This one looks like a giant bean. The most famous is one that looks like a long stick. They can get to be more than one meter in length.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
I can't say that I've seen lilies more beautiful then these! Look at the seize of the flowers ... and today there was a light drizzle of rain. On a sunny day, they must be something else. Eimar and Cecelia promised a couple of these lilies for the Bosque.
Here's a closeup I took of Sr. Eimar this morning. He's recuperating from a fall that's kept him closer to home these days. Eimar is author of O Tapajós Que Eu Vi (Memórias), which I consider to be the best book ever written on life on the Tapajós River last century. The literal translation of the title is: The Tapajós that I saw (Memoirs). A better translation is The Tapajós I Knew (Memoirs). The book was published in Santarém in 1998, by Instituto Cultural Boanerges Sena. My copy of the book was given to me by Hélcio Amaral, who was Secretary of Culture for the Municipality at that time. There's so much to say about Sr. Eimar, but my interest here is not history, but flora of the region. I wish someone would translate his book into English. It's a real treasure!
Áurea and I find ourselves visiting Eimar Franco and his wife, Cecilia, more frequently these days. In the beginning these visits were more related to some volunteer maternal and child health services going on in the community around the Bosque Santa Lúcia area. More and more we return for the pure pleasure of visiting these fine folks and their little wooden home, which is located in the woods off the Santarém-Cuiabá Highway. Their extensive yard is chuck full of beautiful plants and flowers. With the advent of rains, I found the botanical menu even more appealing today. Coming up, some images of things around the house. By the way, that's Eimar sitting on the porch. He's 86 years young!
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Not many people have full-pledged nurseries in Santarém, but there are lots of people who sell plants from their front yards. Few make a living from the activity. Perhaps what sets Sr. Manoel off from other enterprising folks is that he manufactures really classy vases. When you walk around Santarém, you'll see examples of his art wherever you go. Put his plants in the vases, more classy yet! These large vases in the background of Sr. Manoel are toys compared to some he produces. I don't know the details of vase making but I know that he designs his own vases and produces the fiberglass molds from which he makes them. Let me see if I can find an older image to demonstrate what I'm talking about.
Sr. Manoel's nursery is quite large because it includes an area where he plants grass, that kind that is transferred to urban development projects for "instant lawn". Then too, they plant and sell everything under the sun in order to make a living. Their place is so difficult to find and get to, I think they depend mostly on special orders from government entities and private companies in order to make it. Not an easy task in this kind of economy. I've often thought of developing a nursery at Bosque Santa Lucia, but I've come to the conclusion that I'd better have some other income in order not to starve to death!
If I were to build a dream house at Bosque Santa Lúcia, it would be on the order of this little wooden home we visited today. It belongs to Sr. Manoel and his wife, Edna, who make their living at their nursery, Vitoria Regis. It's not likely that you'll be visiting Manoel and Edna, and even if you wanted to, it's a difficult place to find. We've been there quite a few times to buy plants and vases, but we continue to get lost on the maze of sandy streets, many of which are impassable. Luckily, Manoel has a telephone, so when all else fails, we ask for better directions.
Friday, January 18, 2008
If you've caught some of my blog posts in recent weeks, you know that towards the end of the dry season we drilled a well in hopes that we could provide water to a lot of thirsty plants and trees around the Bosque reception center. Having found plenty of water at 60 meters, I placed a 2,000 liters water box on a simple tower affair. The box, which in reality is round, was a bright blue fiberglass container that took front stage to everything else around the area. A regular reader of my blog wrote me confidentially suggesting that I find a way of hiding the thing, maybe with vines. To be honest about it, I couldn't get too concerned about the issue because I was too busy getting the system set up. Later, I realized that she was absolutely right. So right that I didn't want to wait around a year or so for vines to cover the water box. We ended up painting the container green! Colors create miracles! It now looks half the seize it did with the original color of bright blue. Cleuson took advantage of being "topside" to paint Bosque Santa Lúcia on the side.
Red hibiscus (my nomenclature) is certainly a hardy plant. I picked up some cuttings of them from a friend in Mararu some years ago and simply pushed them into the ground around the entrance to the Bosque. They have survived without a lot of attention. There have been times when weeds and brush took over completely and there have been long dry seasons when they didn't receive even a cup of water. The picture of this flower was taken only a few days ago, about the time the rains began. They continue to bloom and bloom.
The above image is of a jucá (Calsalpinia ferrea) seedling that may be 12 inches high. I thought the contrast between the newer and older leaves was of note, as well as the format of the branches. The parent of the seedling is only 20 meters away, a tree that may be 60-70 years old. I'm told that word "jucá" in the indigenous language means "the wood that kills", referring to it's high density. Evidently, the wood is used to make war clubs.
A drizzling rain falls on appropriately dressed visitors from the cruise ship, Royal Princess, as they enter the forest from the "hole". The two hour tour was organized by Grand Amazon Turismo out of Manaus. The two old dinosaur buses from Cidade de Belterra managed to get over a very muddy road and through the gigantic mud hole, now named Lake Maria, in honor of the mayor of Santarém.
After being away for the last three or four years, the Royal Princess paid a visit to Santarém yesterday. Better news yet, it will make four more visits this season, which extends into April. The smaller riverboats are conducting floodplain tours, mostly the Amazon. The deep water pier is located on the Tapajós, some 18 kilometers from Bosque Santa Lúcia.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Speaking of frogs, I found the drying-up remains of this poor little devil on the ground outside the reception center two days ago. It appears to be one of the high jumping, stringy tree frogs, and not the gigantic cane toad that produces the foam nests described previously. My guess is that it may have gotten squashed by someone opening the sliding metallic windows of the reception center. They are forever hiding out in the darkest secluded spots they can find. Their favorite place for hanging out is in the toilette vases, which can produce surprises for visitors wanting to use a bathroom. Some women folk have been known to jump higher than the frogs when they discover moving bodies under their rear ends. I get the feeling that most people are psyched up for unknown adventures because I haven't heard any screams coming from the bathrooms. But people do talk about the happenings, as one lady did. I asked her if the frog scared her, or did she scare the frog? Some jungle humor!
In a post only a few days ago I showed images of massive amounts of foam produced by frogs for the purpose of protecting their eggs. This lowland area was wet but there was no water under the bridge. Since that time it's rained a lot and I wondered what happened to the foam nests and the eggs in them. Some people are natural researchers. Ginger is one of them. She did the research and then sent me some links, which explained most of what I wanted to know about the subject. The most surprising facts, as far as I'm concerned, is that tadpoles hatch from the eggs in as few as three days. With the advent of rains and rising waters, the tadpoles simply swim off, as they like to do. Not to simplify things too much, I wonder if the frogs might have some innate ability to predict rain. Those foam nests I showed were produced about three days before the rains started. Coincidental?