Serra da Canastra trip, part 2

From: Fernando Rivadavia Lopes (
Date: Tue Apr 13 1999 - 20:24:30 PDT

Date: Tue, 13 Apr 1999 20:24:30 PDT
From: "Fernando Rivadavia Lopes" <>
Message-Id: <aabcdefg1334$foo@default>
Subject: Serra da Canastra trip, part 2


        Yet to my distress, I couldn't seem to locate the exact spot
where I'd found these strange plants back in 1991! We drove all
around and I explored all the possible areas, but to no avail. In the
end I arrived at the conclusion that the spot I remembered simply
does not exist anymore. I think it used to be where there is now a
small rivulet flowing through a parking lot of sorts for cars. Well,
that's sadly one mystery that may never be solved now...

        After searching around for the large aquatic D.communis, we
visited a small waterfall where we found several CPs, including a few
common Utrics, D.communis (normal in appearance), D.montana
var.montana, and D.montana var.tomentosa which almost looked like
small D.villosa because of the large reddish-green leaves.

        Our next stop was once again the top of the Casca D'Anta
waterfall. We wanted to explore the trail that went from the top of
the falls to the base. Well, we didn't want to walk all the way down,
but only explore an area about half-way down that supposedly had
sphagnum and normal-looking G.violacea (not the pygmy one found at
the base of the falls). D.montana var.montana was found to be rather
common along the trailsides, mostly on rocks or clayish soil. I was
surprised to find two open flowers at around 3:30pm! Normally they
close around noon.

        As the trail zig-zagged down the nearly vertical cliff, we
arrived at a spot where water seeped from the rocks. Here we found
the sphagnum and a small population of D.communis with G.violacea.
Sure enough, the latter were very normal in appearance, growing only
a few hundred meters distant (diagonally) from the pygmy plants at
the base of the falls. A few meters further along the trail, around
another seepage, we found lots of D.montana var.tomentosa growing
very beautifully on rocks. While fotographing these, I discovered a
few D.sp.'Emas'. I nearly missed them, growing in a wet sandy patch
with U.nana. There were only a few plants, two with flower scapes,
but no open flowers.

        Driving back to town that afternoon, we witnessed an ugly
motorcycle crash a few dozen meters in front of us along the dirt
road. Two guys were badly scratched and began bleeding all over. One
of them actually broke a bone in his upper arm or shoulder, so we put
him in my car and sped off to the nearest hospital, as he howled in
pain at my side. I had never seen anyone break any bones before, it's
not a pretty sight! In this mad dash, I was unlucky enough to pass a
bit too quickly over a large rock, which punctured my fuel tank.
Luckily the fuel lasted until we arrived in town and dropped the guy
off at the hospital. But because of this, we were stuck in town the
next morning while the car was fixed. Although it was Easter Holiday,
we were lucky enough to find people willing to work on the car.

        In the afternoon, the car ready to roll, we headed back up to
the park and explored two other waterfalls just outside the park on
its northern border. At the first one we found plenty of what was
either U.amethystina or U.tricolor (no flowers!) growing around the
base of the falls, as well as something completely unexpected:
U.reniformis! This is simply the most inland location ever recorded
for this species, nearly 400km from the coast! It was growing in a
wet, shady habitat on the rocky walls, where it is typically very
small and flowerless. But it was nonetheless this species for sure.
At the other waterfall we found G.repens, G.filiformis, U.nervosa,
U.triloba, and U.nana. All were in flower, growing in a grassy
seepage area next to the falls. G.repens was typically submerged by
water. I normally don't mention it, but U.triloba and its twin
U.subulata are pretty much all over.

        Driving back to town, we stopped to explore a campo rupestre
area not far from the entrance. To my surprise, I began finding
endless compact mats of huge, wine-red D.montana var.tomentosa in
seepages all around. Beautiful!! Unfortunately it was already late
afternoon on Saturday, our last day, so I didn't have much
opportunity to explore that area. I found lots of G.repens, and
several Utrics, including plenty of U.laciniata. Next time I'll have
to hike around this region to explore a bit more.

        We woke up early on Sunday, to once again be one of the first
cars inside the park and hopefully see some animals. Giant anteaters
unfortunately we saw none, although everybody we talked to that
weekend had seen one. But we did see a few deer finally. We'd seen
two when leaving the park the day before, but they weren't close
enough to the car to be photographed. But this time I got out of the
car, walked towards them, and they actually let me get very close,
seemingly accustomed to human presence. The only other interesting
animal we saw was a snake locally known as 'caninana' on the road
which inflated its neck almost like a cobra. Very impressive for a
non-poisonous snake!

        That day we crossed over the Serra da Canastra, from east to
west (which I hadn't done in 1991), nearly 100km of dirt road,
stopping a few times along the way to check for CPs. After endless
savanna without CPs, we finally arrived at campos rupestres near the
western entrance/exit of the park. At one rocky area we found lots of
D.montana var.montana with nice and large bright pink-lilac flowers
and a few Utrics growing in humid sandy soil. But the biggest
surprise was G.pygmaea, which we hadn't seen elsewhere at the park,
but which was rather common at that spot.

        It's interesting to notice how in 1991 I saw so many fewer
species of CPs at the Serra da Canastra than on this most recent
trip. In part this was because in 1991 I was there in December, which
isn't the best season to see CPs since it is the beginning of the wet
season, when most of the annuals have not appeared yet. But the main
reason I didn't see many CP species was because back then I was still
not very familiar with native Brazilian CPs and their habitats. I
simply didn't know where to look for them, what habitats each species
prefered. Nowadays I can usually guess which species will be found in
each habitat as I approach it.

        But wait, don't shut your computers off just yet, there were
still more CPs outside the Serra da Canastra! Other than to see the
animals, plants, and views, we drove across the park so that we'd be
close to another area I wanted to explore for CPs. I wanted to check
out a spot near the border between the states of Minas Gerais and Sao
Paulo W of the Serra da Canastra. I'd seen a herbarium specimen from
there of what was possibly D.hirtella var.lutescens, collected near a
small town called Rifaina in the state of Sao Paulo. This had caught
my attention since it was the first collection of something from the
D.hirtella-complex for this state, so I was dying to go there to take
a look myself.

        Almost as soon as we arrived at the asphalt (FINALLY! I
couldn't stand dirt roads anymore!), I saw a savanna area that
reminded me very much of the CP-rich savanna areas of the Chapada dos
Guimar\343es (Mato Grosso state). I stopped the car by the road and
headed out into the field, passing under and over barbed-wire fences.
Mauro stayed in the air-conditioned car -- a bit exausted from the
trip and not wanting to face the fierce midday sun, as well as those
damned clouds of tiny bugs that always insist on buzzing inside your

        It didn't take me long to find D.hirtella var.lutescens
(which is curiously enough a very common species on the Chapada dos
Guimar\343es) growing among the grasses in clayey-lateritic soil. These
were more typical in appearance than those at the Serra da Canastra.
The rosettes were wine-red and the scapes a brighter yellow in color.
I also found G.filiformis and U.triloba. I didn't spend much time at
this site, but have a feeling that if I had, I might have even found

        Before leaving this spot though, I collected an orchid, a
nice Habenaria sp. with large yellow flowers for a friend that
studies taxonomy of this genus. When I arrived at the car, Mauro
hardly looked at the D.hirtella var.lutescens I'd found, he only had
eyes for the orchid. He said it was H.glaziouviana, a species native
to Bahia state in NE Brazil, and demanded that I take him to where
I\222d found it before we moved on.

        After he'd gawked at a few plants, we returned to the car and
moved on, thinking there would be more areas to explore before
heading back to the city of Sao Paulo, around 400km away.
Unfortunately we didn't see any other really interesting areas and I
couldn't find the spot where D.hirtella var.(?) had been collected
near Rifaina. Well, it was most likely D.hirtella var.lutescens,
since that's what was growing where we\222d stopped just over the border
in Minas Gerais. At the end of April I'll be heading back along this
way, so maybe I'll stop by briefly for another look.

        That's it!!

Best Wishes,

Fernando Rivadavia
Sao Paulo, Brazil

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