in the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil
by Patricia Harding
I visited the beach areas
of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in January of 2002 so I could have first-hand experience
of the Encyclia habitat known as the Atlantic Rainforest.
This environment is a lowland tropical/subtropical rainforest that lies
slightly below the Tropic of Capricorn yet remains tropical due to ocean
currents that keep the climate warm.
I was hosted by Mauro
Peixoto, an internet acquaintance turned friend, and his family.
Mauro picked my daughter and me up
at the Mogi des Cruz bus station and we stayed at his family�s farm for
several days. His home, having lots of beds and space, is equipped to handle
guests. When I envision heaven, I
imagine Mauro�s verandah. I
cannot say enough about the warm welcome his family gave us, but that has
nothing to do with orchids, it just reflects the Brazilian lifestyle.
We made several day trips
specifically in search of orchids, though I was interested in any plant we
found. One day, at a beach named
Guaratuba in the Prefecture of Bertioga, we went to a rain forest just off the sand.
We only spent a few hours there but we found Encyclia
(Prosthechea/Anacheilium) fragrans. E.
vespa, E. patens (odoratissima), E.
longifolia, and E. fausta, are also found there, but we didn�t see any during our
short afternoon there.
The Encyclia fragrans wasn�t in bloom, but it was wonderful to see the habitat, where water was constantly dripping from leaves and collecting in shallow pools scattered about. It rains there every day for an hour or so, sometimes heavily; the humidity was high but not overpowering. There was a pleasant breeze and the temperatures were warm without being uncomfortable. Trees were the prominent vegetation, growing about 20 feet apart, with ferns, bromeliads, and orchids sparsely attached to their trunks. Huge bromeliads grew on the ground. We did scare up a hive of enormous black bumble bees which added some instant excitement and long lasting pain. Then we went the home of a friend of Mauro�s for beer and talking orchids and heleconias (this person was heavily into both, perhaps all three).
Mauro has a greenhouse
(really more of a shade house) where he grows many, many orchids, but you can
tell his current passion is Gesneriaceae.
He has lots of Encyclia, but I saw
only campos-portoi in bloom. He
grows them in clay or plastic mesh pots with tree fern fiber and he controls
pests by hanging almost all his plants.
I loved my trip to Brazil. Though
I don�t think you have to have a guide, Brazil is so big and environmentally
diverse that if you only have a short time to visit it makes sense to have
someone who can show you the habitats. I
found Mauro to be an excellent guide and fun to be with.
He was knowledgeable of orchids and almost all native plants, birds,
animals and insects. I would recommend you contact him if you are interested in
an orchid or natural habitat trip. He
will keep the expenses down yet knows where to go and the easiest way to get
there, and his enthusiasm for sharing Brazilian natural history is wonderful.
He has a web site about tours he offers: http://discoverbrazil.cjb.net/.
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