Neblina Expedition part 7 -- THE END

From: Fernando Rivadavia Lopes (
Date: Tue Mar 02 1999 - 12:15:58 PST

Date: Tue, 02 Mar 1999 12:15:58 PST
From: "Fernando Rivadavia Lopes" <>
Message-Id: <aabcdefg638$foo@default>
Subject: Neblina Expedition part 7 -- THE END


        The next day, Friday morning, we returned to Boa Vista, hoping
        to have
some time in the afternoon to explore around for CPs before catching the
bus to Manaus where we had to catch a flight to S.Paulo on Saturday the
24th. Once past the border and customs -- relieved we'd gotten out of
Venezuela without being bothered because of the plants we\222d collected
-- it all of a sudden struck us that we'd gotten the dates mixed up.
The 24th was a Sunday, not Saturday as we'd thought, meaning we actually
had one more day left. It also meant that we could've climbed
Mt.Roraima!! AAAAARRGH!! We couldn't believe it! We almost turned
around and headed back to Venezuela to explore the Gran Sabana a bit
more, but decided to use this time to explore the B.Vista area. We were
sad we hadn't climbed Mt.Roraima, but if we had made it up there, maybe
we wouldn't have seen as many CP species as we did during the 3 days we
ran all around the Gran Sabana. We would\222ve had to rush up and down
Mt.Roraima to make it on time, having little time left to enjoy the
views, not to mention explore for CPs. I guess it was better this way,
leaving Mt.Roraima for a future trip, when not every CP we see will be
new, allowing us to enjoy the views more, and plan to spend several days
going up and down the mountain.
        All this we spewed out as we headed south to B.Vista. Once
        again we
stopped at the same roadside bar where we'd found D.biflora(?) and
U.simulans a few days before on our way up to Sta Elena. After eating
and drinking something, I calmly went to see if I could find any more
CPs, but without much hope. What I really wanted to see was
D.sessilifolia, which I knew from herbaria was more or less common in
the lowland savannas around B.Vista. I checked a few different habitats
around the river, but only saw the same D.biflora(?) and U.simulans.
Then I went to take a leak by a tree which I\222d passed by a few times
while zig-zagging along the grassy areas between the river and the
buriti palm-lined river. And that\222s when I spotted it:
D.sessilifolia! I only found a few plants, the yellowish rosettes
hidden under the semi-shade of grasses, nearly invisible.
        Although D.sessilifolia is one of the most widespread Drosera
        spp. in
S.America, it\222s frustratingly rare, occurring in very specific and
restricted habitats. It\222s also an annual and extremely difficult to
catch during its brief flowering period. As with most Drosera spp.,
D.sessilifolia will only open its flowers for a few hours in the
morning, but like its close cousin D.burmannii, it\222s exasperatingly
shy to flower, hardly opening up its petals completely. If a single
cloud wandering accross a bright blue sky crosses paths briefly with the
sun, it can result in closure of all the D.sessilifolia flowers. I was
very fortunate to witness an open flower of D.sessilifolia the very
first time I saw this species in the wild, in July 1992 when visiting a
vast floodplain in western Brazil called the Pantanal. Unfortunately
that had not only been the first time I saw an open flower of
D.sessilifolia, but also the last.
        Over several years I was only able to find about five very
D.sessilifolia populations in the wild \226 all between 1000-1500km
away. On several occasions I made careful plans to travel all the way
to one of these sites at the right time of year with the intent of
catching open flowers of D.sessilifolia, only to find that the rains had
arrived too late or too early that year, shifting the short flowering
period backwards or forwards in the calendar. I was even kept from
seeing flowers on a few occasions due to cloudy weather or unpredictable
situations which caused me to arrive at the sites too late in the
afternoon, only to find all flowers had already closed. All these
difficulties over the years turned D.sessilifolia flowers into an
obsession for me.
        Although it appeared to be the wet season on the Gran Sabana, it
seemingly early to mid dry season in the grasslands around B.Vista,
which is odd since these are right next to each other, separated only by
about 1000-1500m altitude. Anyways, early to mid dry season is a good
time to search for D.sessilifolia flowers, so I had my fingers crossed
-- for the \223Nth\224 time. And this time it seemed like luck was on
our side: almost all the D.sessilifolia Gert and I found by the road to
B.Vista had flower scapes. Too bad it was already early afternoon, so
there was no chance of catching any open flowers of D.sessilifolia that
day. Maybe tomorrow?
        Although no open flowers were found, it was still great to find
rare species again, to have another chance to study it in the wild and
understand better what makes it tick. I noticed that most
D.sessilifolia had very short stems 1-2cm high covered in old leaves.
Some plants had already even dried out completely while the ones that
were still alive often only had a few very small, nearly glandless live
leaves left. The dead leaves underneath the live ones showed that the
plants had been previously larger and were already shrinking, dying.
        We soon headed back to B.Vista, checked into a hotel, changed
        our bus
tickets to Manaus for the following day, and then decided to hang around
the hotel, resting all afternoon. Every night for the previous week or
two we\222d been getting 6h or less of sleep. The hikes around the Gran
Sabana were all relatively short, yet we\222d quickly become exausted
and our legs ached badly \226 mine still ached over 2 weeks after
returning! We were simply feeling physically wasted from the highly
strenuous hikes at Neblina and Araca. So I took the opportunity that
the B.Vista area is blistering hot (I don't know how D.sessilifolia and
others survive there!!) to finally take a fantastically delicious cold
shower, long and thorough, to remove all the grime I hadn't been able to
remove over the 2 previous weeks, when either the streams were too icy
or the weather just too cold for a long cold shower.
        The next day we had to be back at B.Vista to catch the 4pm bus
Manaus. That left us little time to explore in the morning. We ended
up going back to the same roadside bar, knowing that it would at the
least be a good place to hitch a ride back as it seemed to be popular
with the drivers, and at the most present us with open D.sessilifolia
flowers. It was another hot sunny day on the vast grassy plains and we
had all our fingers crossed. Would I finally see those damn flowers
open that day, for only the second time in my life?
        After some careful searching around the thick grasses where
        we\222d seen
the yellow rosettes the day before, to my relief we finally uncovered a
single, tiny, wide-open, pink-lilac D.sessilifolia flower! What joy!!
I was finally \223face-to-flower\224 again with this rare gift of
nature! I just hope it doesn\222t take me yet another 8 \275 years
before once again catching wild D.sessilifolia in flower!
        I began clicking away with my camera, happy that I would finally
some clear shots of those curious multifid stigmata. It took us a while
before we moved on again to look around for more plants, but once we did
we quickly found a larger D.sessilifolia population right nearby.
Unfortunately a cloud had been obstructing the sun for the past 15
minutes or so and although it was only about 9:30am, the 2 or 3
D.sessilifolia flowers I found had obviously just closed. No more open
flowers left. Still, I was more than happy to have been lucky enough to
see one at all.
        We explored further dowriver for a km or so, on both margins,
        but found
nothing interesting except a large terrestrial turtle. I checked again
before we left and could find no open flowers of D.biflora(?) either.
The closed ones seemed to be a light pink-lilac. Curiously, this
Drosera seemed to occur only around D.sessilifolia, in slightly more
humid soil.
        It took us quite a while to get a ride back to B.Vista, like
        when we
were hitching from Luepa to Sta Elena. There just aren\222t that many
cars passing by either road \226 actually the same road. The guy who
finally gave us a ride was kind enough to stop for us at a buriti stand
and a quick look turned up U.simulans as well as more D.biflora(?), but
no D.sessilifolia. These were the last CPs we saw on that trip. Gert
and I caught the bus to Manaus that afternoon, arrived there 12h later,
then caught our plane to S.Paulo, where I stayed while Gert continued
his long trip home.
        I\222ve now developed my 20 rolls of 36-film and have obtained
        some great
shots of CPs. Hopefully I\222ll soon be sending out some articles on
this expedition to different newsletters, with photos. Almost all the
CP species collected fortunately made it safely back to cultivation. I
also heard the good news that Joachim\222s extra week in southern Brazil
was very successful. I\222d suggested he try to visit at least one of
the 3 best CP areas in Minas Gerais (if not Brazil): Itacambira,
Diamantina, and Serra do Cipo. I gave him all the tips, directions, and
even drew maps. He decided to run a marathon and went to all 3 places,
but nonetheless found almost all the more interesting species as well as
some species which not even I had ever seen! Shows how much there still
is to be explored! And he still had time to visit a nice road I
suggested to him on the Serra dos Orgaos near Rio de Janeiro, which has
some nice D.villosa and Utrics, including the one and only
U.nelumbifolia \226 which he found. What luck, huh?
        It\222ll take a while before I can stop daydreaming about this
expedition 24h a day. I keep sifting all those wonderful experiences
and plants through my memory. The taxonomical, ecological, and other
questions raised are like glue to my brain. So as a closing paragraph
or a post script, I\222ll philosophy a bit on D.sessilifolia.
        I just can\222t stop thinking about how restricted
        D.sessilifolia and even
D.biflora(?) seemed to be in the wild and I keep wondering why. I was
remembering how in cultivation D.sessilifolia is always a glimmer of
what it is in the wild, always remaining tiny in all aspects. The only
thing that occurs to me is that maybe D.sessilifolia needs
fertilization. At the place where we found them near B.Vista, they grew
only in 2 populations not too far from the road and the roadside bar,
where there were even some cows and horses. Why didn\222t we see any
further away along the river? Maybe D.sessilifolia is dependent on more
fertile soils, which may explain why it\222s so rare. Well, even if
this is all wrong, it\222s still valid as a tip for those of you trying
to cultivate D.sessilifolia. FERTILIZE IT!!

                   THE END

Hope you all enjoyed it,

Fernando Rivadavia
Sao Paulo, Brazil

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