Kew Guild

1994, Colin Parberry, Horticultural Techniques, Japan

Alpine and woodland flora studies in Japan

By Colin Parberry

Colin Parberry, third year student, returned in July from a six week visit to Japan, studying the alpine and woodland flora of Northern Honshu and Hokkaido, as well as looking at the methods employed in the commercial production of alpine and herbaceous plants. The visit was jointly funded by the International Plant Propagator’s Society, Alpine Garden Society, Merlin Trust, the Stourhead Summer Events Committee and the Kew Guild.

The visit was centred around the activities of Hokkaido University Botanic Garden, Sapporo. Colin assisted in the monitoring of Primula yuparensis populations and the associated flora on Mount Yubari, which supports many endemics due to the rock’s high chrysotile asbestos content.

Work was also undertaken with Dr. Fujita, (Hokkaido University Botanic Garden), and students from the Faculty of Agriculture, monitoring plant species in a deep snow wetland at Nakayama toge, south of Sapporo. The wetland was reached after half an hour’s hike through Sasa which gave way to a totally secluded area of Hemerocallis, Hosta and Lysichiton camtschatcense, amongst other species.

He also spent time collecting seed of Viola vaginata, uncommon in Hokkaido, and Polemonium careuleum subsp. yezoense var. nipponicum for Hokkaido University Botanic Garden. Several days were also spent working within the alpine nursery of the Botanic Garden.

In Northern Honshu a five day visit to Tohoku Regional Office of National Parks and Wildlife, Aomori, enabled him to botanise Towada-ko, the Oirasse river gorge, Mt. Hakkoda and visit Tohoku University’s research station. Two further days were spent in the Hachimantai area, where visits to Mt. Iwate and Tazawa-ko were made with rangers from the National Park.

The last week was spent in the Tokyo area where he visited temple gardens in the ancient capital of Kamakura. Photographs of bamboo constructions were also taken to assist in the redevelopment of the Japanese Garden at Wakehurst Place.

Throughout the journey he visited several alpine and herbaceous specialist nurseries to study the techniques and materials used in the plant propagation and production.

 

1994, Clive Foster, Study Of Glasshouse Practices, USA

Report of visit to the U.S.A. and Canada to study the glasshouse management of five large public conservatories

By Clive Foster

In October, 1994, I travelled to the U.S.A. and Canada to study the glasshouse management of five large public conservatories. The rationale behind this was to assess the current status of conservatory management in light of the recent spate at new large scale constructions and in relation to the development of modern growing methods.

Since the 1960’s and, in particular during the last ten years, there has been an upsurge of interest in the amenity conservatory due to a variety of technological, social, economic and political factors, I.e. the burgeoning leisure market; corporate or municipality status; engineering developments with glass skinned buildings and increased horticultural and environmental awareness. These are almost identical factors to those present in the heyday at conservatories in the Victorian era when architects such as Joseph Paxton (among his many talents) and Decimus Burton respectively, first designed such magnificent structures as the Crystal Palace and Palm House at Kew. However, as a result at the decline in fortunes supporting many gardens of that time and also the change in tastes to a more naturalistic style of horticulture, that trend did not continue and consequently there have been very few new large scale developments until the recent period. In contrast with this decline, glasshouse management has progressed enormously since that time, as a result at vast post-war scientific and commercial research into plant growth, response and pest control. Additionally glasshouse equipment and computerisation developments have provided horticulturists with tools undreamt of by the Victorians.

Five conservatories were chosen to study methods of environment control, plant husbandry and pest control. The conservatories visited were at Longwood Garden (near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), The Opryland Hotel (Nashville, Tennessee), Montreal Botanic Garden (Montreal, Quebec), the Myria Gardens (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) and Mitchell Paris (Milwaukee, Wisconsin).

The findings from the trip are contained in a more extensive report enabling the description of technical details. However, my overall impression of the management of these structures was of the high standards of excellence achieved within a variety of different contexts. Longwood is a fine display garden; the Opryland Hotel a magnificently landscaped atrium; the Myriad Gardens and Milwaukee Domes are botanic oriented displays within unique structures; and the Montreal Biodome an imaginatively ambitious “environmental museum”. Plant husbandry in particular was of a very high order through a combination of modern environment controls and old fashioned horticultural craft.

The greatest changes in glasshouse management, however, related to the control of pests. Integrated pest management practices are developing across the Atlantic as dramatically as in Europe. The success and increasingly skilled use of such practices by horticulturists has led (as a result of low biocide use) to opportunities to combine flora and fauna in exciting new displays. This was clearly exhibited by the “environment museum” concept in Montreal and to a lesser extent by the Milwaukee Domes and Myriad Gardens which used frogs, lizards and a variety of birds to enhance their displays and educational programmes. As a consequence of this and in combination with new and improving technology, the role of horticulture within conservatories is widening and methods of management changing to accommodate new objectives and possibilities.

 

1994, Brigitte Laliberté, MSc In Conservation, Birmingham University

M.Sc. course at Birmingham – Desalination Project in Tenerife

By Brigitte Laliberte. Agr. M.Sc.

Four years ago I came from Canada to work in the Tropical Department of the Living Collection Division. As with most people coming to Kew. being part of this great botanical institution was a fantastic opportunity to learn. In my case, the famous saying of the Tropical Department “It is only once you leave Kew that you realise how much you have learnt’., has never been so true. Kew seems to have made an indelible mark and a definite influence to my career and I can only be grateful that events took such a turn.

I had two years to gel to know as many people as possible involved in horticulture, conservation and taxonomy and this has been the real challenge for me. By the time my work visa expired I was ready and willing to further my education and plant conservation was to become my next career move. The M.Sc. course in Conservation and Utilisation of Plant Genetic Resources, at the University of Birmingham was the perfect choice for me, tying my background in Agricultural Sciences and my botanical experience acquired at Kew. I was not disappointed, even though I had very high expectations.

I am grateful to the crop genetic resources network for setting such high standards in plant conservation. The course has a practical approach to conservation as well as a strong emphasis on plant genetics. which is the real basis for conservation. The course has a three-months final thesis project for which I undertook a survey and analysis of seed banks in botanic gardens worldwide at the office of B.G.C.I. (Botanic Gardens Conservation International) at Kew. Botanic gardens are ideal institutions for setting up wild plant seed banks with the aim of preserving rare or threatened plants and of making available plant material for research.

The results of the survey were revealed to be very interesting, with a good response to the questionnaire sent to the 1,600 botanic gardens worldwide. It was found that 30.7% of those seed/genebanks surveyed have some form of low to cool storage facilities, with at least 255,832 accessions of germplasm stored and 17,096 accessions in field genebanks. Of the genebanks 20.4% were of long-term storage with the majority of their accessions stored at -18’C or less. The long-term seed banks surveyed have an average of 77% of their collections directly collected from the wild. Drying methods and the types of containers used by seed banks, remains a concern and more investigation would be needed to assess this situation. At the present, there is no central register of what their collections contain and it is of primary importance to create a network of seed banks for wild plant conservation.

There is also a great need for guidelines for the management of small collections of wild species with limited resources. From the survey it was also found that botanic gardens have to improve their capacity to store the information generated from the seed bank accessions on computer database systems, in order to create an international database and maintain an overview of botanic garden seed holdings. This survey can be used to prepare a draft strategy for the development of an International Botanic Garden Seed Bank Network, including a list of long-term data requirements and a forum for the exchange of ideas and news, and to help create new institutional links with the crop genetic resource sector.

But how can such training lead meta work on a desalination greenhouse project on Tenerife? The Canary Islands have an amazing flora with a wide range of variation over a very small area. They have more endemics than most islands, with over 500. In Europe, only mainland Spain and Greece have more endemic species, many times greater in area. The Canary Islands, like other arid lands of the world, have a major problem of water for agriculture. The Seawater Greenhouse for Arid Lands project in Tenerife has, for scientific objectives, to design, develop and demonstrate a cost effective means of producing both crops and pure water in hot, arid coastal regions.

The project exploits both the high solar radiation and prevailing wind to drive most of the processes. The pumped sea water is evaporated inside the greenhouse, creating a cool and humid environment suitable for a temperate vegetable crop such as lettuce and French beans. The humid air, carried by the wind through evaporation pads, is then condensed on the other side and fresh water is produced. The greenhouse itself produces enough fresh water to irrigate a crop inside and a shade tent area four times greater. It is hoped that enough water will be produced to support xerophytic plantings as well.

The brackish water generated from the process will be used to irrigate halophyte gardens. Several natural salt tolerant species are found on the site and the project will look into the conservation and re-establishment of indigenous halophytes on disturbed coastal lands in Tenerife. The project is only in its first phase and already exciting results are obtained. Once a gardener. . .

 

1994, Annette Wickham, Study Tour, Arboreta, USA

A study trip to the United States of America

By Annette Wickham

In March, 1994, I applied to the Kew Guild for funding for a study trip to the United States of America. My application was successful and so my proposals were about to be a reality.

My reasons for applying were to look at propagation techniques, facilities and work practices and compare them to those used in the Temperate Nursery at Kew. I achieved this by securing placements for one week in each of the two arboreta recommended to me. being the Morris Arboretum, Philadelphia and the United States National Arboretum, Washington D.C. I also wanted to visit gardens for one third of my travel time.

The Morris Arboretum is part of the University of Pennsylvania and the official Arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The 175 acres offer a wide range of garden developments and design. The collection contains some of Philadelphia’s rarest and largest trees such as Circidiphyllum japonicum, Fagus engleriana, (collected by Wilson), Stewartia pseudocamellia, and Cedrela chinensis.

For one week I had the pleasure of working with Shelley Dillard, Propagator at the Morris Arboretum. Together we experimented using various methods and treatments to propagate Rhododendron bakeri, and Enkianthus perulatus.

After completing my study of the Morris Arboretum I still had four days left to visit gardens in the region. The intern students at the Morris had planned a trip to the Delaware Valley, a region famous for its gardens. That day I visited two very interesting gardens. The first was Mount Cuba, a unique garden of 230 acres privately owned by Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland. Mount Cuba is a safe haven for Piedmont flora. The Piedmont is an expanse of land which extends a thousand miles from the Hudson River, south to central Alabama. It is bordered on the west by the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains, and to the east by the fall line and coastal plain. Mount Cuba cultivates many of the 3,000 species, half of which are considered to be of ornamental value. It became a centre for Piedmont flora in 1983 and is a woodland garden with many wonderful specimens including the native American Liriodendron tulipifera providing shade for such plants as Aquelegia canadensis, Astilbe biternatum, Corydalis lutea and Trillium grandiflorum, to name but a few.

Another garden very close to Mount Cuba was the Frederick Stroll Garden. It was very different to anything I had seen before. I think the best way to describe it was, many gardens within a garden. What I really liked about the garden was the scale of planting and, for a change, clashing plant colour associations. Bold and daring. Frederick had a novel way of growing his Wisterias. Supports in the shape of a branching tree supported superb specimens which, I believe, are a spectacular sight in spring. Unfortunately, I was a few weeks too late.

Having spent nine very enjoyable days in Philadelphia, it was now time to make my way to Washington D.C. My remaining nine days were spent at the United States National Arboretum, working in close association with the Propagator of the Shrub Research Programme, Ruth Dix, and visiting other places of horticultural interest. The U.S. National has long been a leader in the development evaluation and distribution of new shrubs and trees for landscape use. My time was spent trying various methods of propagation of selected plants as a result of controlled pollination. We needed to see if selected plant forms such as Liriodendron tulipfera, Viburnum rhytidophyllum and Lagerstroemia fauriei could be propagated asexually with a high percentage of rooting. Commercial growers are not interested in new introductions unless rootability is high.

In between my work at the U.S. National Arboretum, I took In some more gardens such as Mount Vernon, home of the late George Washington. Washington was a keen gardener and even had his own botanic garden at Mount Vernon, which he tended to himself. My favourite feature there was a lovely red-brick Orangery, built to house exotic fruits, trees and plants. Other gardens visited were the William Paca garden in Annapolis. A recently developed two-acre garden with a very attractive Pavilion. Last but certainly not least was Dumbarton Oaks. Gardens designed by Beatrix Ferrand. It incorporates elements of the traditional French, English and Italian gardens which the owner, Midrid Bliss, admired. I was impressed by the formal features, especially the Pebble Garden. My three weeks were up and it was now time to return to Kew. I was very happy in the knowledge that I had achieved most of my aims and objectives, except for one very important objective. A proposed reciprocal visit to the Arboretum Nursery, Kew, by the Propagator of the Morris Arboretum, Shelley Dillard. One week after my return Shelley arrived and spent a week at Kew studying our methods and facilities, and some time learning about ferns in preparation for the newly built Victorian Fernery at the Morris. Shelley’s visit was a great success and it gave me the opportunity to return some of the hospitality afforded tome during my trip.

My study trip to the United States has been a highly enjoyable and satisfying time. I am very grateful to Barbara Allen, Shelley Dillard, Ruth Dix and Sylvester March and all the other contacts and friends I have made, for their generosity and kindness. I strongly recommend travel, wherever, whatever.

 

1993, Darrin Duling, Study Tour, Brazil

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.

 

1991, Terry Sunderland, Work Experience, Limbe Botanic Garden

Limbe Botanic Garden and Rainforest Genetic Conservation Project

By T. C. H. Sunderland

I am currently a little over three months into a 12 month student internship at the Limbe Project in Cameroon, West Africa – a year’s experience between graduating from the Kew Diploma last September and undertaking further study (M.Sc. in Forestry at Oxford University).

Despite there having been a botanic garden at Limbe for the past 100 years (we will celebrate our centenary in November of this year), there have been many changes in the management of the garden, mirroring the changes in colonial control of the country as a whole, and this has led to a distinct pattern of development and decline throughout its history. However, in 1986 the Overseas Development Administration (O D A), with the favourable results of a feasibility study undertaken by Kew personnel, committed itself to a bilateral aid programme (with the Cameroon government) to a five year programme of restoration and development of the botanic garden and the initiation of two associated forest reserves, which took effect from 1988.

The botanic garden is based on the coast at Limbe and the area is dominated by Mount Cameroon (4,079 metres), an active volcano that last erupted in 1982, which rises dramatically and imposingly behind the town. On the slopes of the mountain lies the Etinde Reserve, a 300 sq./km area of unbroken forest and subsequent Afro-montane vegetation in its complete altitudinal range from sea level to the summit of the mountain. The Mabete-Moliwe Reserve on the other hand, is a much smaller area (40 sq./km) and is essentially an area of lowland forest which has undergone a certain amount of timber exploitation and subsequent encroachment by both commercial and subsistence agriculture, yet is still of considerable botanical importance.

My role within the project is essentially split between providing technical assistance within the botanic garden and undertaking extensive plant collections, of both herbarium and live material, within the two reserves.

In the gardens I am responsible for the initiation and training of selected staff in arboricultural techniques (with much of the essential safety equipment kindly donated from R.B.G. Kew) in order that there will be a fully operational “tree gang” functioning when I eventually leave the project. Whilst the work is not without its difficulties, not least of which is due to climatic stress, we are progressing well and those staff selected have shown considerable aptitude for the work methods involved, despite having little previous experience. I am also involved in certain other technical aspects of the management of the botanic garden, such as the updating of the plant records system, labelling, propagation and the development of planting themes within the remit of the gardens future development.

The botanic garden, whilst not instantly aesthetically pleasing as an amenity area, houses a number of wonderful individual specimens, many of which are obvious relics of a colonial past. Consisting of three distinct areas, a central field that contains the majority of the exotic collections and amenity plantings, and two hills at either end of this central area; Bota Hill, an area supposed to represent the last vestige of Biafran forest in the area, but in reality is rampant with many exotic weed and indigenous pioneer species, and SDO’s Hill, an area of both “wild” and amenity areas. The more notable specimens within the amenity collections are huge individuals of exotics such as Cycas revoluta and Ravenala madagascariensis, and representative samples of local megaphanerophytes (trees above 30 metres) such as Chlorophoraexcelsa, Lophira alata, Ceiba pentandra, and an extensive collection of West African Ficus sp. There are also many useful plants displayed, such as a collection of tropical fruit trees, the majority of which are fairly common but nonetheless of interest, and a wonderful collection of different Musa cultivars and species highlighting the incredible phenotypic variability of this group and the amount of breeding and selection that has occurred in the past.

One of the most impressive areas of the gardens is Jungle Village, a natural amphitheatre recently renovated by Operation Raleigh, that is set within a semi-wild area between the central field and SDO’s Hill. It is basically an amenity site where many local dances, meetings and concerts are held, the diversity of which is staggering. The last dance festival I witnessed there culminated in the sacrificing of a goat and the drinking of its blood by the participants – and all of this just before lunch!

Under the auspices of Dr, Martin Cheek of the Herbarium at Kew, who is compiling a floristic checklist of the reserves and the surrounding area, I am involved with undertaking systematic herbarium collections and vegetation sampling within the designated forest area, It is apparent from such collections that there is a vast diversity of forest structure, dynamics and speciation within our reserves and, along with the Korup National Park (which I have also had the good fortune to visit), the forest around Mount Cameroon may be some of the richest in West Africa. The reasons for this lie with the fact that this area is part of the Cameroon-Gabon configuration; a notable Pleistocene refuge and hence an important centre of botanical and faunal diversity.

Since my arrival over 400 specimens have been collected and, given the relative paucity of flowering material during the dry season, which we are experiencing at present, this is a good start. Although with over 8,000 flowering plants present here (that have been formally described), we still have along way to go. The collection sites have varied from the lowland forest, dominated by huge canopy trees such as Irvingis gabonensisStaudtia stiptata and smaller understorey trees such as the wonderful African orchid nutmeg (Monodora myristica) of which we made the first herbarium collection of fertile material by the project, to mid-elevation forest dominated by Schefflera spp. and Syzygium staudtii, interspersed by dense monospecific stands of the tree fern Cyathea manniana, right up to the windswept and freezing summit of Mount Cameroon, where only a few small herbs such as Helichrysum mannli and Crepis cameroonica and a grass, Pentaschistus mannii, retain a precarious foothold.

The advent of the rainy season from March/May will see a considerable change in emphasis of the work undertaken for the project and will hopefully enable me to gain a wide range of experience of tropical botanic garden and forest reserve management. Whilst I am here in Cameroon, it is envisaged that I shall be involved with other natural resource projects; I have recently attended an agroforestry seminar at Korup which was very rewarding indeed, I will travel to the Mbalmayo Forest Project in S.E. Cameroon next month to undertake some vegetation sampling for the O.D.A. and will also take a team from Limbe to the Mount Koupe Forest Reserve to undertake research for Herbarium and Living Collections there in June.

I am exceptionally grateful to the Guild for their continual support of my activities and look forward to returning to Kew as a Horticultural Research Fellow in 1993.

 

1991, Sarah Fraser, MA Conservation, University Of York

Learning the gospel of garden conservation

By Sarah Fraser

At the time of writing, this Guild member is deeply immersed in the issues concerning the conservation of historic landscapes, parks and gardens. Yes, I have abandoned the real world for the joys of Academe, also forsaking my long-suffering husband, the smelly spaniel, two heartbroken guinea pigs (all on a temporary basis, though!), and a steady job (I don’t think my employers were too sad to see the back of me!).

This over-age student is spending a year at the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies – part of York University – looking at ways of conserving, managing and restoring that vital part of things which architects and engineers so often overlook: the designed landscape which happens to be of historic interest. The M.A. course is run side by side, and sometimes together with, a buildings conservation course. This results in lots of exchange of ideas and comments from architect types such as “I didn’t realise that as much care and attention went into the design of the historic landscape as the design of the buildings”. I feel a mission coming on – to preach to the uninitiated the word of landscape and plants, especially historic ones!

My ultimate aim is to be useful in the world of historic landscape conservation, perhaps working with historic parks and gardens as a specialist, advising on management and restoration projects. This is a great course for enthusing the student (exceptions including when one is trudging round a freezing cold, rain-drenched garden with a Siberian wind cutting through, trying to produce a coherent, workable plan for opening to the public), giving plenty of information and practical exercises, and meeting anyone who is someone in the historic landscape conservation sphere.

The whole course is good for putting practical experience together with theory and research in order to solve conservation problems. So far we students have taken part in modules covering Garden History, the Conservation and Management of Historic Gardens, a week devoted to the uses of lime on buildings, walls etc. (it is wonderfully versatile stuff; put it in your tea, on your cornflakes or wherever else you feel appropriate), Garden Archaeology and many other similarly useful themes. The year consists of two terms spent on lectures, study exercises “in the field”, and student seminars; the third term and summer holidays mainly devoted to research and writing up a dissertation on a self-selected subject, with some lectures slotted in too.

Overall this year should prove very worthwhile as a launch pad into the Conservation World, with a good academic grounding and bags of enthusiasm to return to the Real World and work with historic landscapes, parks and gardens. I am especially grateful to the Guild for their donation to my funds for this course, which has enabled me to buy much needed books and lead a little less Spartan existence than might otherwise have been the case. Floreat Kew!

 

1991, Madeleine Groves, Study Tour, Carnivorous Plants In South West USA

Sarracenias as American cut flowers

By Madeleine Groves

With generous funding from the Tom Arnold Bursary and the Bentham-Moxon Trust, I was able to return to the Atlanta Botanical Garden on a six month internship to continue my research into the conservation of endemic carnivorous plant species. Having first visited and worked at A.B.G. whilst on a travel scholarship in May 1990, my interests this time lay with the use of the pitchers of Sarracenia leucophylla in the American and international cut flower industry.

The full effects of this practice on the regeneration of the Sarracenia populations is as yet to be determined. However, together with land conversion from forestry practices, housing and draining, and the suppression of the natural fires that are necessary to these habitats, it is obvious that population numbers, plus the genetic diversity of these wetlands, is decreasing.

During my six month internship I shall be working with various State and private natural resource organisations (e.g. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy) and hope to set up a number of experimental plots to measure the long-term effects of harvesting on various Sarracenia populations in Alabama and Mississippi. All data collected will be passed on to the appropriate organisations to assist them with their policies for issuing export permits for the harvesters, or the need for a recovery plan for this species.

The use of carnivorous plants in the international plant trade is continuing to cause concern, and is reflected in the establishment of the I.U.C.N./S.S.C. Carnivorous Plant Specialist Group and the placing of Sarracenia species on either A.P.P. I or II of C.I.T.E.S.

I would also like to thank The Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust, The Fauna and Flora Society and the staff members of R.B.G. Kew who have assisted me in my funding and preparation for this study trip which is from November 1991 to May 1992.

 

1991, Dusha Hayes, Orchid Studies, Papua New Guinea

Report of a study visit to mountain cloud forest in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

By Dusha Hayes (R.B.G. Kew Orchid Unit)

In October 1991, I was sponsored by the Stanley Smith Trust, R.B.G. Kew, Kew Guild and the R.H.S. to go on a study visit to the Mountain Cloud Forest in the state of Rio de Janeiro, to study orchids growing in their natural habitat.

Study orchids growing in their natural habitat

My visit was arranged by Dr. Richard Warren, of Equatorial Plants Co. in Edinburgh. My guide and host in Brazil was David Miller, Dr. Warren’s partner. The property, consisting of two sites, Sitio Bacchus and Sitio Sophronitis, is part of “Mata Atlantica Conservation Project”. This project is financed by Shell Oil, the National Research Council and the Macarthur Foundation. Further support is given by the local municipality, the Pro-Natura Environmental Research Institute and by David and Isabel Miller. The site is also used by a group of botanists from Rio de Janeiro Botanic Garden for research work on native trees and shrubs.

Sitio Bacchus is located some 100 miles north of Rio de Janeiro and four miles from Nova Friburgo, the nearest town. It covers approximately 1,000 acres, with boundaries well defined by mountain ridges rising from 1,000 to almost 2,000 metres above sea level.

On a small hill near the house at Sitio Bacchus is the “Intensive Care Unit” where the plants that need special care are kept; plants that have been picked from fallen trees or ones knocked down in storms.

Here we carried out a survey of Laelia crispa re-establishment and seedling distribution. The mature plants of Laelia crispa were brought from the Pireneus Valley over a period of 14 years, hand pollinated and the seeds allowed to spread naturally to assess their capability for re-establishment. However the main conclusion of the survey was that the seeds do not germinate far from the parent plant but favour the area around its root system. So Laelia crispa is a species which is as endangered as its original forest environment.

Besides Laelia crispa there were many epiphytic orchids growing here – Miltonia cuneata, Pleurothallis sclerophlla, Pleurothallis miersii, Pleurothallis handroi, Bifrenaria atropurpurea, several Stelis sp. and Barbosella sp.

There are eight walks which criss-cross the property. They are of varying difficulty and take from two to five hours. Walk 1 is situated in the part of the forest that was burnt about 30 years ago. This is now regenerating and has the characteristics of a mountain field – warm, dry and light. This is what David calls “Zygo” country. Here we saw Zygopetalum crinitum growing terrestrially. There were a few colonies doing quite well, but we saw many plants which were beginning to suffer. Normally these plants grow epiphytically as they need light to flower well. Here, as the forest regenerates, it is getting too dark for them, so only those in the tree tops survive.

We saw a lot of orchids along this trail such as Encyclia vespa, Encyclia calamaria, Grobya amherstiae, Pleurothallis sclerophylla, Pleurothallis pectinata, Laelia virens, Laelia cinnabarina, Gomesa crispa, Oncidium marshallianum, Oncidium forbesii, Maxillaria ubatubana and Maxillaria cerifera.

As elsewhere there were many gesneriads, aroids, bromeliads, begonias, ferns and dwarf mountain fuchsias.

In comparison to Walk 1, Walk 2 is situated in the part of the forest that regenerated much quicker than along Walk 1. Here the forest was warm, dark and humid, David’s “Colax” country. Consequently we saw several colonies of Colax (Pabstia) jugosa, various species of Stelis, Pleurothallis, Cirrhaea dependens, Epidendrumkleuppelianum, Bulbophyllum camposportoi, Oncidium hookeri and Oncidium crispum.

The other walks were similar but on Walk 7 we saw a lot of Sophronitis coccinea. It was the end of their flowering season, so only the ones quite high up in trees were still in flower. Some were in pod, which means that their natural pollinators were nearby. The top of this walk is 1,700 metres above sea level.

One week was spent at the second site, Sitio Sophronitis. Sitio Sophronitis is situated some 10 miles southeast from Sitio Bacchus in the Rio dos Flores valley. (The Flowers River Valley) The Flores River is well named as the river’s moss covered boulders are host to a red flowering gesneriad.

As in all tropical and sub-tropical rain forests the variety of plant life in general and the exuberance of epiphytic plants in particular, are striking features. More than 180 species of epiphytic orchids have been identified in the valley. There are also myriads of unidentified micro-orchids here, while from August to November the ridges and high tree branches simply glow with the flowers of scarlet Sophronitis coccinea, so giving the name to the site.

Two outstanding trails still live with me; one by the “Flower River” and the other a long and strenuous climb to the spectacular mountain peak, “Pica de Bicuda” some 1 ,600 metres above sea level.

Along the river we saw several colonies of gesneriads and Pitcairnia in flower and, half-way up “Bicuda”, on a tract of bare rock face we discovered a large colony of Maxillaria species.

One day was spent in the Pireneus Valley, the original home of Laelia crispa used in our re-establishment project. Efforts were being made to add this valley to the conservation area. Although many trees here have been cut down over the years, we found three large trees that have been spared, with colonies of Laelia crispa still growing happily.

During my visits to both sites we saw about 90 different species of orchids in flower.

At the end of the study visit three days were spent at two large local orchid nurseries, Binot’s and Floralia and at Rio Botanic Garden.

 

1991, Charlie Butterworth, Study Tour Of Ecuador

Ecuador trip – Summer 1991

By Charlie Butterworth

It was raining heavily as I left the airport and looked for a taxi to transport me and my baggage to the hotel. Quito felt cold after the heat and humidity of Caracas. It was almost five years since I was last in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and it felt quiet and familiar. I knew that, although at this time at night Quito felt deserted, by day it would be a bustle of people and motor vehicles. This was the start of my three month visit to Ecuador and I was looking forward to travelling the country looking at the botanic gardens and nursery projects, and doing a short ethnobotanical study.

Ecuador is the smallest and most northerly of the archetypal Andean countries and lies on the equator with Colombia to the north, Peru to the south and east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The Andes form a single chain running north-south, bisecting Ecuador, in a similar way as the Pennines do in England. The Andes are, however, much higher and reach 6,000 metres. This has quite an effect on the climate. As one travels eastward from the coast the climate is initially hot and humid, but this gives way to temperate cloud forest which hangs on the steep slopes of the Andes. The central highlands have an average altitude of around 3,000 metres and are the most densely populated areas of the country having a pleasant temperate climate.

It had been my intention to study aspects of the ethnobotany of the Shuar and Colorado Indians of Ecuador and after speaking to staff at the Herbarium of the Catholic University, I realised that three months was too short a period and that recent transport problems made travelling to some of the more remote parts of Ecuador difficult. Instead, it was suggested that seeing as I was intending to spend some time at the Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve in Amazonia, a short study of the medicinal plants used by the Quijos-Quichua Indians would be much more viable.

Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve has only been established for about five years and is directed by Dr. David Neill, a botanist from Missouri Botanic Garden. It is located to the east of the Andes in the upper reaches of the Amazon drainage basin. The forest in this area has mostly been felled, but remnants prove to be extremely rich in both flora and fauna, with 1,400 vascular plant species identified so far, of which 160 species are orchids, and around 350 species of birds. The reserve itself comprises of just over 300 hectares of primary forest and 100 hectares of secondary forest and, lying at 450 metres above sea level, receives 4,100mm of precipitation annually, which is distributed more or less evenly with a slight maxima from April to June and a drier period from November to January.

The area around Jatun Sacha is populated mainly by Quijos-Quichua Indians who live in small, widespread communities, many only reachable by canoe. At a guess, I would say that disease is not quite the problem as it is in many of the hotter areas of Amazonia. However, diseases such as Malaria and Tuberculosis appear to be reasonably common, judging from the amount of plants used to treat these ailments. Modern medicine is available throughout Ecuador, although it is quite costly, and antibiotics are popular along with medicines that are banned by many countries. This being the case, Shamanism is still one of the most widely used methods of medical care in this area.

I had two Shaman informants: Domingo Andi and Sebastian Albarado (Shahuaco). Domingo Andi lives about 4 kms from Jatun Sacha, whereas Sebastian Albarado lives on an island in the river around 8 kms from the reserve. Sebastian only knew the Quichua language and an interpreter was required to translate into Spanish. On my visits to the Shaman I was accompanied by Magdalena Ponce-Martinez, an enthusiastic final year botany student from Quito, whose main interest was the use of Palms by the Indians of the area. One thing that I learned from my visits was the importance of getting out of bed early as, in order to reach the Shaman before they left their house meant getting out of bed well before 6 a.m. and setting off on the hour or so walk to their abodes as promptly as possible, often in the pouring rain!

I managed to identify around 25 species of plant used by the Shaman and I am hopeful that by delving into literature regarding the ethnobotany of Ecuador, I may be able to tentatively name quite a few others. With many of the plants the Shaman used, parts of the plants were available from which to make an identification, but many were just mentioned by their vernacular name and their uses. Amongst the plants used were Laurus gratissima known as Palta Cara which is used as a general health tonic, Myroxylon balsamum locally called Balsamo and is reputed to be good for spots and pimples, Minquartia guianensis known as Huambula, the bark of which is crushed and used alongside tobacco as treatment for Tuberculosis. I was also shown the renowned Aya Huasca, Banisteriopsis caapi, a liana which is used to make an infusion, which when drunk by the Shaman causes hallucinations. In this way the Shaman can communicate with the spirit world. Domingo Andi uses this liana as an ultra scan method for pregnant women. He can examine the unborn baby in the womb and if there are problems can either call in the midwife or send the mother to the local hospital.

The area around Jatun Sacha has been settled for quite a period of time and forest is still being cleared. Deforestation in Ecuador, although not as high as countries such as Brazil, is still at an alarming rate. FA.O./U.N.E.P. estimate rates of deforestation to be around 3,500 ha yr’. Environmental education seems to be one of the major factors involved in creating an awareness of the need to use forests sustainably. I stress the word sustainably as I feel that forest reserves that are not used can only lead to the creation of wildlife islands amidst an ocean of deforestation. It has been shown, by Gentry amongst others, that natural forest ecosystems can be managed and used in such a way that a viable economic return can be made without too much disturbance of the wildlife.

Botanic gardens can playa very important role in education and conservation. In Ecuador there are only two established botanic gardens. The first one that I visited is located near the Pacific coast, a few kilometers from the city of Esmeraldas. The Luis Vargas Botanic Garden is co-ordinated from the university of the same name. The garden itself is quite small, less than 50 ha. The Director, Senor Arevalo, explained to me that there are 50 families represented in the garden with special collections of Palmae, Bignoniaceae, Leguminosae, Musaceae and Apocynaceae. The garden feels to be quite open, which in the hot, humid climate of the area is a bonus, yet at the same time the garden does not feel to be sparse and there are many new plantings. Five gardeners are employed along with five “professionals” and a student from the university.

Probably the most impressive aspect of the garden is the backdrop of 500 ha of primary dry forest. I was taken around the forest by a forester employed by the garden. It was the first time that I had ever set foot inside a tropical forest and I was at a total loss for words. There was such a profusion of growth to the extent that I literally could not see the wood for the trees. Alfred Bone, my guide, obviously felt quite at home in the thick forest and could see many things that I couldn’t. As we walked along he would suddenly brush aside a shrub to point out a herbaceous plant, usually Acanthaceae, although there were quite a few Piperaceae, or he would move a dead leaf to reveal a tarantula, which would scurry off for cover as ” in fear for my life started shinning up the nearest tree.

The forest has a small network of paths around which local schoolchildren are led in a effort to instill a sense of appreciation of the forest ecosystem. There is very little of this type of forest left in the area. Yet, although the forest is a reserve, such a status does not mean that it is safe. Whilst I was being shown around we came across a large stump, probably 3 metres in diameter. The remains of the tree were lying next to the stump and these I’m sure were large enough to provide enough firewood for years. These remnants of a once large forest tree were actually the bits that were considered excess to requirement by the tree poachers!

In the far south of Ecuador, near the border with Peru, is the provincial town of Loja. This town is quite small yet boasts two universities, one of which is the home of the Reinaldo Espinosa Botanic Garden. The day I visited the heavens opened (much like every other day I spent in Loja). The garden has been designed to some extent on the classical style, and has some interesting collections of temperate Ecuadorian flora, including temperate Orchids and Bromelliaceae. The Garden, however does not seem to be tended to the same extent as the garden in Esmeraldas and appeared somewhat bedraggled – maybe If I had seen this garden on a day that was not quite so wet it may have had a totally different atmosphere. One of the main problems with botanic gardens in Ecuador is that funding is a large problem. I am pleased to say that after my meeting with the garden Director, Francisco Vivar, a link has been established between the garden and Botanic Garden Conservation International, based at Kew.

Botanic gardens are of no use in environmental education if “wild” areas no longer exist. in Ecuador there is a system of national parks – the degree to which they prove successful I shall not discuss here. I was fortunate to visit Las Cajas Park, near Cuenca. The park is situated in the Andes and is very popular for walking and other outdoor sports. Access is difficult and as a result the park does not become too busy. There are two buses daily, in the early morning, which return to Cuenca during mid-afternoon. The flora of the area is alpine, the park being at high altitude (3,000 to 4,000 metres) and flowers that I saw included Werneria nubigena in the Compositae, and Halenia weddellana and Gentiana rupicola, both in the family Gentianaceae. Besides the herbaceous alpine flora, there are remnants of Polylepis and Buddleia incana forest. This area is a beautiful part of Ecuador, reminiscent of my favourite part of England, the Lake District.

Ecuador is a country that I would recommend anyone to visit. I have never felt to be in any danger whilst travelling there (commonsense suffices), in fact Ecuador is reputed to be one of the safest Latin American countries in which to travel. I am very grateful to the Kew Guild who assisted with the funding of my trip. I would also like to thank the Explorer’s Club, Merlin Trust, Rob Thompson Memorial Fund and Rochdale Ancient Parish Education Trust.