South American Diary

(page 3)

Monday 21st December....

Woke at daybreak, had coffee in the room, and left at about 8am after paying the bill of 7,500 sucres (3000=£1), so very cheap. Our first stop was after only five minutes, for some tree ferns. They are just so beautiful. Realized we had forgotten to get petrol, so left J & B prospecting and drove back past Baeza where a full tank cost just 19000 suc. (£6). Rest of day was spent driving and stopping and driving and stopping. This place really is a botanist's paradise. Saw many wonderful palms, the most conspicuous was Bactris. Stopped once at a pasture full of hundreds and hundreds of Euterpe species unknown, perhaps E. precatoria. They are quite beautiful, with very fine and delicate leaflets, hanging vertically from the petiole. No fruit or even flowers. At the bottom of this same pasture (which was very wet) we found a Chamaedorea-like plant, maybe Synechanthus? Also, one palm we were quite sure of: Prestoea globosa, with bright pink flowers.

On we drove, stopping for lunch of fried river trout and rice. At this diner, we met a U. S. peace volunteer who is over here building a generator in one of the numerous tiny villages. Somewhere along the way we got a puncture so had to stop and change the tyre. Twp spectacular palms deserve a mention here: Dictyocaryum lamarckianum and Mauritia flexuosa. Don't know which is the most unbelievably beautiful, the first with huge and incredibly neatly cut plumose leaves, or the second with massive fan leaves like exploding fireworks! Made many, many stops along the way, J & B getting very excited by this or that flower, me content to wait for the palms. Came to a small village where we had the chance to use Brad's collecting pole for the first time, with permission, on a huge Mauritia, absolutely laden with thousands of ripe fruit, red/brown, scaly, and the size of a hen's egg. The pole is in 6ft sections, 3 of which we joined together, with a scythe-shaped saw blade at the end. It's not easy to manipulate the thing, as the top, 20 ft. up, tends to flap about a bit, but once it's against the stem of the infructescence, its easy and the sharp blade cuts through it like butter. There are many hundreds of these big seeds on a single stem, and when it comes down - watch out! This tree was in a small walled garden, with chickens and ducks. It's probably been producing thousands of seeds every year for years, with them all being eaten by the hens as soon as they germinate. Finally we arrived at Tena, where we checked into the International Moll Hotel, very nice and clean, with clean rooms and hot showers. Cleaned ourselves up, then had a great meal in the hotel restaurant, of fried chicken and chips with lots of beer. Great stuff! Retired, tired, at 11pm.

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  24-02-20 - 17:18GMT
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An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms
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This german book tells you all about how to cultivate your palms in Central Europe. more...