Minas Gerais Expeditions: part 10

From: Fernando Rivadavia-Lopes (frl@mtecnetsp.com.br)
Date: Thu Oct 21 1999 - 04:02:04 PDT

Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 09:02:04 -0200
From: "Fernando Rivadavia-Lopes" <frl@mtecnetsp.com.br>
To: cp@opus.hpl.hp.com
Message-Id: <aabcdefg3645$foo@default>
Subject: Minas Gerais Expeditions: part 10


        From there I went to my favorite D.chrysolepis site, hoping
        there'd be lots of seeds waiting for me. I'd passed by
        there the day before, just after sunset, but hadn't been
        able to find a single plant. I though it'd be easy to spot
        the glistening dew on the long leaves with my flashlight,
        but no luck. Strangely, even in broad daylight I was only
        able to find a handfull of D.chrysolepis. Had some botanist
        gone on a D.chrysolepis herborizing spree there recently?
        And worst of all, there were no ripes seeds either, only
        young scapes! Damn, damn, damn!

        I then hiked down to the nearby site of the giant G.sp."Cipo
        giant", where I'd seen some large D.chrysolepis in flower in
        July. I wasn't hoping to find any G.sp."Cipo giant" since
        we hadn't found a single plant there in July, but I sure
        wasn't expecting to see the whole site burned down to the
        ground! It was a really humid area and I didn't think
        wildfires reached it. Unfortunately, the large flowering
        D.chrysolepis I'd seen had turned to ashes as well and I'd
        have to wait for it to grow back from the roots. So no
        seeds there either.

        At least one good result of such extensive burning is that
        the REALLY wet spots are suddenly singled out in the
        coal-black landscape as remnant green patches -- like that
        new site described above which we found in July with
        D.sp."stemless chrysolepis", D.communis, G.aurea, and
        others. Although I'd been to the G.sp."Cipo giant" several
        times over the past few years, I had never realized that
        just a few meters off to the left, there was a fantastic new
        CP site that I'd been overlooking. What a surprise that
        turned out to be!

        I was heading back to the car, having given up on G.sp."Cipo
        giant" and D.chrysolepis seeds, when I spotted some large
        yellow flowers in a remnant green patch slightly uphill, in
        an area which had been previously obscured to me by tall
        grasses (which were now a layer of ashes on the ground).
        Walking over, I realized it was G.aurea! Lots of it too and
        the further I looked the more flowers I spotted. As I
        explored that boggy area, I couldn't believe how much
        G.aurea there was, I'd never seen anything like it! There
        were more G.aurea flower scapes per square meter in that bog
        than at any other I had ever seen. And the inflorescences
        were HUGE: up to 55cm in height -- the tallest I've ever
        found and a new alltime record for this species!

        One of the strangest things about this new G.aurea site I'd
        just discovered was that it was as slippery as ice. Why?
        Well the ground was practically one continuous carpet of
        G.aurea rosettes. Because the leaves of this species are
        coated with a viscous gelatinous mucilage, I was slipping
        and sliding all over. I even fell once -- ironically
        banging my knee hard on the only rock jutting out of that
        whole bog! Well, I guess it was a small price to pay for
        the discovery of such an amazing new site!

        And did I mention that there were tons of ripe seed pods
        too? As I yanked dozens upon dozens of ripe G.aurea seed
        pods off countless inflorescences, I suddenly felt like a
        coffee picker, stripping the branches of coffee bushes clean
        of their coffee beans. Ha!Ha! Having barely "scratched the
        surface", I soon stopped, knowing that the bagfull with more
        or less 30g of G.aurea seed pods I'd collected were enough
        to make seedbanks around the world happy.

        And there's more! Among the G.aurea there were also more
        D.chrysolepis per square meter than I'd ever seen anywhere
        on the Serra do Cipo before. There were plants of all sizes
        and even some seeds available too. I found some growing on
        bare sandstone covered by a film of water -- most unusual
        for this species! But most bizarre of all was the fact that
        most of the D.chrysolepis were growing in very boggy soil
        together with G.aurea! I had never seen these two species
        together before. D.chrysolepis usually grows in much drier
        sandy habitats. In fact, D.sp."stemless chrysolepis" is the
        one that is usually found in peaty boggy areas with G.aurea!
        I guess this only further proves that it is in fact a
        separate species and not an ecotype of D.chrysolepis.

        Fires had reached into certain sections of this bog and I
        got some good pictures of partly or completely burned
        D.chrysolepis. It's a really sad sight to see such
        beautiful specimens of such a fantastic species being killed
        like that -- but it's nature's way. Other CPs in that bog
        were: D.communis, D.montana var.tomentosa "hairless scapes"
        (also unusual since the hairless form usually occurs in
        drier soils and the hairy one in boggy soils), U.nana,
        U.tricolor, and maybe G.repens. I'll have to return there
        during the wet season, when there are probably many other
        Utrics to be seen and hopefully more G.sp."Cipo giant" too.
        What an amazing new location it turned out to be and how
        could I have missed it all these years?!?!?!

To be Continued....

Fernando Rivadavia Sao Paulo, Brazil

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