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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Orchids of Southern Peru 2; the eastern slopes

As I mentioned a few days ago we've been having some serious health distractions in our home this week; the patient (not me!) came home today, to my immense relief, so it's time to make you another offering. I'm feeling pretty wrung out, so maybe a gentle return to the orchids of southern Peru is in order. We began this exploration here, a few weeks ago.

From the Acjanaco Pass the road to Manu begins a huge winding descent of the eastern Andes into the Amazon Basin, ending at the somewhat wild little town of Atalaya on the Upper Madre de Dios River where the journey continues by boat. There is so much to see en route however that you are likely to make a couple of overnight stops before beginning your Amazon experience. If you are lucky and well-informed, the first of these might be at the Wayquecha Research Station run by ACCA, the Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (Association for the Conservation of the Amazon Basin). The station, at 3000 metres in the rich dripping cloud forest, also provides basic accommodation for visitors who can use the reserve walking tracks and learn something of the research being carried out at the time by visiting scientists from all over the world.
Cloud forests at Wayquecha, in unusually clear conditions!
 

The views from the balconies are superb.
However, this is a post about orchids, so having set the scene, I should show you some orchids! Yet again I will plead for any help you can give me with any of these identifications - inevitably there are species and even some genera I can't put a name to.

Cyrtochilum is a genus of nearly 150 species of the high Andes, from Venezuela to southern Peru. Many of them have huge sprays of flowers, a metre or more long.
Cyrtochilum sp. Wayquecha.
Full raceme above, and close-up below.


Odontoglossum is another commonly-met genus of the cloud forests; once its members numbered in the hundreds, but taxonomic reallocation of many of them leaves us with only 100 or so select from!
Odontoglossum spp., above and below, Wayquecha.
 

Pachyphyllum ('thick leaf') is a genus of some 50 species found from northern South America to Mexico; we found two species along the research centre forest walking tracks.
Two Pachyphyllum species, Wayquecha, above and below.
 

Habenaria is a vast genus of some 800 species, found in much of Africa, southern Asia, tropical Australia and North and South America. It is believed that it arose in Africa and only reached South America relatively recently; tiny dust-like orchids seeds are very suited to being distributed by winds over huge distances.
Habenaria sp., Wayquecha.
(Though Richard Hoyer - see comments below - suggest that this could actually be Epidendrum fimbriatum.)
Maxillaria is yet another huge genus - nearly 600 species - but this one is limited to the tropical and subtropical Americas.
Maxillaria sp., Wayquecha.
Perhaps we can almost see the resemblance to a jawbone referred to in the name.
Maybe if you squint??
Stelis is yet another massive genus, of at least 500 small-flowered species, over 40 of which are found in Peru.
Stelis sp., Wayquecha.
If the identification is correct, it is atypical in that most Stelis have white flowers.
And inevitably there were a couple I couldn't even get to genus level; I really would be grateful if you can help!
Unidentified orchids, above and below, Wayquecha.
 
Much lower down the mountain, but still within the cloud forest zone, the San Pedro area is at around 1200 metres above sea level. The orchids are not as obviously abundant here as in the high elevation forests - perhaps just because the trees are higher - but there are some delights, notably among the Sobralias which, unusually for tropical orchids, are terrestrial. These are big plants; in some remarkable species the flower stems can be 10 metres tall!

We found two of the 120 or so Sobralia species along the roads near the lodge.
Sobralia virginalis, San Pedro area.
Sobralia sp. San Pedro area.
I hope you've enjoyed this little orchid ramble; I've found it decidedly therapeutic! I look forward to my next visit to this most wonderful part of this wonderful world.

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4 comments:

Flabmeister said...

Excellent memory provoking post! Thank you.

Very pleased to hear the patient is home.

Martin

Richard C. Hoyer said...

Thanks for the nice post. Your "Habenaria sp." looks like what I've had identified as Epidendrum fimbriatum, though a more spotted form, in Bolivia.

Ian Fraser said...

Many thanks for this feedback Richard - I make no claims to expertise on South American orchids and always gratefully accept suggestions and corrections. I thought I had Epidendrum reasonably in my head, but it seems that I'll have to expand my image of them!

Ian Fraser said...

PS, I've enjoyed reading your blog page too Richard!