Thursday, July 31, 2008

Colors of African mahogany, continued

Another view of new leaf formation on the African mahoganies (Kaya ivorensis). I'm anxious to see seedpods on these trees. I don't think it's going to be very far in the future.


The seedpod of urucurana (Sloanea sp.) that has split open into a star-like formation. Top image, the seeds inside. Bottom image, the outer side.

Vine flowers

Sometimes it's difficult knowing what's coming from the tree, or from a vine. These flowers fell from a vine that was way up in the crown of the tree. They sure resemble the flowers of a tree also found at Bosque Santa Lucia.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Glacier on a tree

Having lived in Alaska for eight years, I have visions of snow, ice and glaciers, even here in the Brazilian Amazon.

3 nests, 1 tree

We don't see a lot of visitors at Bosque Santa Lucia, but when we're so fortunate, I normally begin the ecological tour right under the tree we see in the attached image. Some people are quite quick to ask what that big black ball is up in the tree, but seldom do they see the other nests. Obviously the black mass is a termite nest. Down to the left is another insect nest quite different than the termite one. It's a tachi ant nest. Then further over to the left is a bell wasp nest, which sort of stands out on its own. The tree is mango, which is an exotic here, but one that has taken over the country. Wherever man has been, you can be sure that there are mango trees. There are many varieties of mango. This one is called "cavalo" because it produces a horse of a mango, a huge thing that normally gets opened up when it hits the ground.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Small butterflies

These butterflies are so small (less than an inch long), they might go by unnoticed by the casual walker. I'm not sure what they've found so interesting on the ground, but that's where they were having their party. We can be sure that it's food. Click on the images for enlargements.

Bug on pajurá leaf

I'm hoping that the small mouth on this bug means that it doesn't eat up a lot of leafs because the seedling is pajurá de Óbidos (Pouteria speciosa). I only have two of these and it's not likely that I'll see more seeds for some time to come. For a blow-to-blow story of tree and my original seeds, search "pajurá" on this blog.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Piririma palm

I planted this piririma palm (Syagrus pseudococos) from a seed I found in the forest. Actually I planted quite a few of them, but few germinated. I was surprised to see the inflorescence (lower image), given that it's not very old. As reported in earlier posts, piririma may be the only palm in the Amazon that's threatened ecologically. The reason is quite simple and logical, it's without thorns, making it an easy prey for decorating streets, churches and other social centers being prepared for festivities.


I'll pull another image from the bin, accumulated from the past rainy season. This one is of Psychotria sp., a hallucinogenic plant in the Rubiaceae family. The local name is "mata vaca", which translates into "kill the cow". I'm told that only a few leaves will kill a cow. There seem to be many different species of this genus. We may have 3-4 at the Bosque.

Leaking tree

We were just beginning the dry season when Cleuson, my caretaker at Bosque Santa Lucia, announced that a waterfall was coming from a nearby tree. Well, it wasn't exactly a waterfall, but there was a constant dripping of water that had wet the ground, as seen in the lower image. Looking closer we spotted the source of the water, some foam nests up at about 10 meters in the tree. Top image. In earlier posts I've shown pictures of foam nests made by spittle bugs, but this was the first time I saw them up high like this. And the were huge ... and they were dripping wet. At 70, I'm not much at climbing trees, so I didn't get a fix on the situation. I've been meaning to have another look now that some time has passed, but I keep forgetting.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Another clitoris

Wherever there's sunlight, we find clitoris vines and flowers these days. They do produce beautiful flowers.

Caterpillars on vanilla

Oh no, more caterpillars? Oh yes, they were caught in the act of eating the leaves of this vanilla plant on the back porch of the Bosque reception center. You can see that this small army is about to finish off one whole leaf. This same type of caterpillar was also responsible for eating on other orchids some weeks ago.

Wild figs, continued

More fruit is falling from this wild fig tree (Ficus nymphacaefolia). Top image, two of the figs I broke open. Bottom image, the tree, better known as a "strangler fig tree". Towards the back of those massive trunks is a mucajá palm (Acrocomia aculeata), which is the host. It's still very much alive, but I imagine that it's beginning to feel the squeeze.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Some well-polished termites are a bit upset with my intrusion into their home. Can't say I blame them. Sorry, but there are some folks who haven't seen your likes.

Spider on tree trunk

The light-colored fungus on this tree provides a spotlight for a spider normally not anxious to be seen.


It could be the first year that this unidentified tree has produced seeds. As you can see from the attached image, they are really quite large, much like Lima beans. To be honest about it, I would never have expected to see this kind of a seed come off a tree. I've included images of the tree trunks and also the new leaves. The trees are located very close to the Bosque reception center. The readers of this blog may find it strange that we don't know the name of a tree right in our backyard, but that's what makes tropical biodiversity so challenging. In a relative small area of less than 300 acres, it's estimated that there are between 400-500 different species of trees! If you click on the Botanical Listing label of this blog, you can see data on those trees, which were classified by professional foresters about a decade ago. This list is in the neighborhood of 150 species, most of which are found along the walking trails of the Bosque. My dream is to get a grant to do a complete survey. Can you imagine what we might find?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Colors of African mahogany

New leaves on the African mahoganies (Kaya ivorensis) have made their way to the stage of beauty. It's interesting that the new leaves on the Brazilian mahoganies (Swietenia macrophylla) are light green, not red.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

From caterpillar to ....

Alright, no more caterpillars for today, but I insist on posting images of a butterfly. Wish I knew what the caterpillar looked like.

Another caterpillar

I promise, this will be the last caterpillar for now. They are interesting creatures because of the variety. It's been estimated that we may see as many as 300 different species of butterflies over a period of a year at Bosque Santa Lucia. Obviously there's a caterpillar for each kind. Look at this one. It's so different than the others I showed today. Can you figure out which end of the caterpillar is the head and which is the tail? We're used to see antennas on the heads of animals, but it's contrary on this one.

Pink caterpillar, continued

And here is a picture of our pink friend in a rolledup position, much like a centipede. Look at the hair on it. It's so fine, it could pass for dog hair. I suppose the acid test to determine whether or not it's a caterpillar would have been to cuddle it. Most caterpillars will leave you in miserable pain from the poison injected via the hairs. I'm reminded of an article on the potential dangers of caterpillars sent to me by Gene Whitmer down in Goiania, Goias. According to the report, a Canadian visitor at some jungle camp in Peru died from stepping on five caterpillars as she left her tent barefooted. Read the article for the details. Not all caterpillars are life-threating, but there are some you don't want to cuddle. Keep your distance and be careful of touching surfaces where they have tread. A discarded hair on the side of a tree can be as poisonous as the ones on the insect.

A pink caterpillar

Is it really a caterpillar? I asked myself this question because I've never seen a pink caterpillar. Secondly because the little creature rolled up like a centipede when I got close to it. Otherwise, it has all the characteristics of a future butterfly. It certainly was a hairy thing and not those spiney type hairs we see on the previous image.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Save that caterpillar

Just yesterday we made a stop at Bosque Santa Lúcia, mainly to satisfy the curiosity of local friends. I'm always a bit apprehensive when taking friends to the Bosque because I never know how much they will appreciate the place, or not appreciate it. On the otherhand, when I conduct tours with clients, I know exactly what their expectations are and I know how to satisfy their needs for an ecological experience. I had hardly opened the reception center when my friends spotted the caterpillar you see in the image. It was slowly climbing up the side of a chair on the back porch. Immediately one of the guests brought it to my attention and quickly removed one of his sandals to kill it. I pleaded for the life of the little devil on the basis that it was a future butterfly, and besides, I wanted to take a picture of it. Eventually I was able to remove it to the edge of the forest where nobody would see it. Obviously I got a lecture on how dangerous caterpillars can be, as though a gringo wouldn't know about these things. All ended well. The caterpillar got away alive, I got a picture of it and my guests had a good time.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Greek butterfly

I gave this image the name of "Greek butterfly" because I was with an Greek biologist and her mother at the time we encountered it on the trail. The butterfly was very patient with all of us wanting photographs. Only after I got within an inch or two of the insect did it fly off.

Wasp on palm leaf

On the other side of the reception center, I found other visitors on a licuelo leaf. I would never have seen them, but I was pruning off some old leaves on the palm. I'm surprised that I didn't get some stings for my efforts because I was right on top of them. Click on the image for an enlargement of the image.


I had to look twice to confirm that I was looking at a katydid on palm frond. It's amazing how well the insect has come to mimic a leaf. That granulated material on the palm is probably pollen from one of the nearby trees.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Decorative bananas

This musa plant is quite small. Less than two feet high and its fruit, the bananas, are tiny little things. No more than two inches long. I only have one of these plants, but I plan on saving the seeds for planting. Sort of odd that the banana, as we know it, has only vestiges of seeds. It can only be propagated by planting off-shoots. These decorative bananas have some very well formed seeds, which germinate quite well.

Helioconia, rostrata

There are many different kinds of helioconias, but I think the rostrata is the most decorative of all. The flowers are being used more and more for parties and receptions in Santarém. As a matter of fact, they were part of the decor for a birthday party we attended last night. The flowers were put in tall glass vases along with some stems and other kinds of helioconia flowers and then the vase filled with water. All very pleasing to the eye. The attached image is of one of the flowers at Bosque Santa Lúcia.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Morning glories

And speaking of morning glories, there are plenty of them around, especially along the roads, where they get the morning sun they like so much. I took this picture yesterday right from my car window as I drove through private lands to avoid my favorite mud hole, Lake Maria. It's easy to get through these lands now because all the soybeans have been harvested and the muddy areas have dried up.

Yellow flowers

More wild flowers without a name. The plant is a vine, so I wonder if they might not be morning glories? Probably not, but in any case, they put on a show.

Five-star fruit, continued

I've had this image of five-star fruit in the "bin" for some time. The perfect time to post it!

Five-star fruit

Seems to be a lot of things blooming these days, including the caranbola trees (Averrhoa carambola), alias 5-star fruit.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Yellow ixora

Here's the yellow variety of ixora, a cousin of the red one shown on the previous image. I took this picture this morning before the sun got too hot. We're also getting some dust from the road now with all the soybean trucks. Things were still fresh at this time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Red Ixora

Red ixora is another plant that likes plenty of sun. I guess that's the reason it does so well in Santarém, where it's seen everywhere. There's also a yellow variety that's just as beautiful as this one.

Russelia flowers

Russelia plants love lots of sun and water. My thought was to attract butterflies and humming birds, but most of these aren't getting enough sun.

Helioconias, continued

A single helioconia, alias "bird of paradise" flashing its color to the world. I remember when I took this picture. I was standing in about a foot of mud and water. Yes, I was wearing rubber boots.


I feel the need to use some of the pictures taken during the rainy season because the ambient is changing fast. I did a walking tour day before yesterday with a mother and daughter team from Greece. It had to be an afternoon tour for them because of other commitments. That was a mistake in a way because it was hotter than Hates and I was more than surprised how fast things were drying out. The weather is now marked by long, sunny days with clear blue skies! I'm sure that the dust is right around the corner. The attached image is of helioconias at their best.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wild flowers

I spotted an all yellow bumble bee visiting these flowers, but couldn't get it in focus. It would have been a beauty, for sure. I just didn't have time to wait, so it'll have to save it for another opportunity. These flowers are from a vine that makes its way into smaller trees and shrubs. I see them on the planalto, as well as the tropical savanna near Alter do Chão.

Orchid and bees, continued

The orchid flowers without the visitors. The bumble bees shown on the previous image are easily scared away, compared to the mangangá bee, which will dive bomb me to get back to the perfume. I've never been stung by one but I'm told that they are capable of the act.

Orchid and bees

I was not only surprised at the number of bees visiting this Catasetum orchid, but also by the kind of bee. This one is different than the big black bee (mangangá) on which I reported a few days ago. I would assume that these bees are also classified as orchid bees, but I'm not sure. I never saw more than two mangangá bees at a time. As you can see from the image, there are at least half a dozen here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Psygmorchis pusilla orchid, continued

A closer view of the same Psygmorchis pusilla. Some trees and shrubs around the Bosque are full of these small orchids.