Studies in Brazil
Darrin Duling, a second year Kew Diploma student, spent the Christmas holidays in the Macae de Cima Forest Reserve in Brazil.
During daily excursions a wide variety of micro-habitats were encountered at 600 to 800 metres altitude. These ranged from high canopy buttress-trunked forest, through stunted ‘Elfin’ forest with epiphytes growing at eye-level, to grassy high mountain fields. Within these areas large tracts of virgin Atlantic rain forest were observed and compared with regenerating forest sites which had been clear-cut and/or burned 10to 50 years previously. This afforded a valuable insight into the dynamics involved in the re-establishment of tropical forest.
A primary goal accomplished during these excursions was a general study of Begonias, which are incredibly rich and diverse throughout the reserve; many species encountered assume gigantic proportions, with some possessing woody stems up to four metres in height and leaves up to one metre across.
A highlight of the visit was the time spent botanising with staff from the Rio Botanic Gardens, who were invaluable for their help in identifying many plant species in the forest.
Sharing in these escapades were Kew Living Collections Department staff Dusha Hayes and Tarja Ravenhall, who were looking at Orchids in the reserve. Together they helped researchers locate and identify seven species previously unrecorded in the area.
All three wish to thank the Kew Guild for its help in funding this study trip. Additionally, Darrin would like to express his gratitude to The Royal Horticultural Society and The American Begonia Society for their encouragement and financial assistance.