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Volume XVII, Number 4, October 2010
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BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL CHILE: A BRIEF TRAVELOGUE. Manual co-PI Barry Hammel and wife Isabel Pérez attended the 10th quadrennial Congreso Latinoamericano de Botánica in La Serena, Chile, during 4–10 October. The theme of the congress was “Conservation and sustainable use of the native Latin American flora.” Other MO attendees included Rainer Bussmann, Steve Churchill, Alan and Shirley Graham, Peter Jørgensen, Olga Martha Montiel, Rosa Ortiz, Doug Stevens, and Carmen Ulloa Ulloa. Also in attendance was a large contingent of Bolivian botanists, 3 from Steve Churchill's project and 6 from Peter Jørgensen's. The only other INBio representative was Randall García, and as far as we know only three additional Costa Ricans were in attendance: E. García and M. Granados, students from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma, and Julieta Carranza of the Universidad de Costa Rica. Located at approximately 30°S latitude, La Serena was nevertheless much colder than what one would probably find in the springtime at 30°N (e.g., Baja California). The Humboldt Current is still fresh off Antarctica in Chile, and very, very chilly. Likewise, traveling from inland and warmish Santiago ca. 475 km north to coastal La Serena, one might expect still warmer climes, but again the Humboldt Current fooled us northern fools and we were shivering most of the time. Vegetationwise, the area is cactus scrubland, apparently at the cusp between Mediterranean and desert biomes, perhaps for that reason making it one of Chile’s centers of high biodiversity (the highest, according to speakers at the symposium’s inauguration!). This, combined with the peculiarity of virtually constant ocean fogs (even during the rainless summers) and Chile’s biogeographic isolation, makes for a very interesting flora. We did get out for one beautiful and exciting day of botanizing (accompanied by Rosa) in the sun on cactus-studded, rocky hillsides along the clear blue sea. What a strange and beautiful flora; and funnest of all for us of the triste tropics, everything was at eye-level, and much of it in flower! Sedum- and Ipomoea-like Nolana (Solanaceae), tiny Nassauvia (Asteraceae), Glandularia (Verbenaceae) in abundance, cacti, cacti, and more cacti (even here, just at the bottom, outside edge of the Atacama), Balbisia (Ledocarpaceae), Loasa (Loasaceae), Schizanthus (a Solanaceae with outrageously bilabiate corollas), Malesherbia (Passifloraceae), spectacular onion- and Fouquieria-like Oxalis spp. (Oxalidaceae) growing side-by-side, vineyards in Santiago, and the spectacular Alstroemeria (Alstroemeriaceae; see photo montage, in that order), all among the most abundant of shrubs (Heliotropium sp.; Boraginaceae), more familiar Dioscorea (Dioscoreaceae) and Aristolochia (Aristolochiaceae), Loranthaceae-parasitized columnar cacti, and countless Asteraceae in all forms, plus an accumulation of odds and ends as yet unidentified to family—just to mention a few brief moments of wonder. Even the talks and posters were informative. Just a bit of constructive criticism: the poster sessions were in a tent, in a parking lot, with about 1/4th the aisle-space needed during the hour (6–7 PM) programmed for formal presentation. The edges were freezing cold and the center sweaty hot, with hardly enough room for two people to pass in opposite directions. None of this was amenable to the interchange of ideas between viewers and presenters. Anyone interested in seeing some really spectacular photos of the Atacama desert in flower should visit this site:
AND HE DON’T STOP. INBio curator Francisco Morales has been on the road yet again, this time in Europe, from 8–24 September. His principal agenda was participation in a workshop, held 13–14 September at the Catholic University of Leuven (LV), Belgium, as one of 10 prominent Apocynaceae specialists intent on launching a major project involving the entire family. He also seized the opportunity to visit important herbaria in Denmark (C), Sweden (S), and Switzerland (Z), and at the last-mentioned of these delivered a talk entitled “Mesechiteae, systematics and taxonomy.”
HOME AT LAST. Congratulations to our pal Maarten Kappelle, renowned plant ecologist and long-time resident of Costa Rica, who has been appointed Chief Conservation Officer for Biodiversity at the Dutch branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature. Unfortunately for us, this means that Maarten will be departing Costa Rica, returning to his homeland to be based in the city of Zeist, near Utrecht, in the Netherlands. We wish him the best of luck in this new endeavor!
BRIEF VISITS FROM THE NORTH. Andrew Henderson (NY) examined specimens of Desmoncus (Arecaceae) on 30 August; Bil Alverson (F) was in town and annotated material of Bombacaceae at both CR and INB for several days in early September; and Daniel Debouck (Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical, Cali, Colombia) examined and identified material of Phaseolus (Fabaceae) on 20 September.