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Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica

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The Cutting Edge

Volume XV, Number 3, July 2008

News and Notes | Leaps and Bounds | Germane Literature | Season's Pick | Annotate your copy

THE OTHER SIDE OF GUANACASTE.  The second and final botanical inventory of the higher portions of Cerro Cacao and Volcán Orosí (Cordillera de Guanacaste), funded by the National Geographic Society (NGS), brought Manual co-PI Mike Grayum to Costa Rica from 24 March–6 May.  This time we worked mainly on the high plateau between the two summits, approaching from the Atlantic slope.  The first week found our crew camped at about 1200 m elevation near the headwaters of the Río Mena (nearer to Volcán Orosí), following a stiff hike from Estación Pitilla of Parque Nacional Guanacaste.  Joining the collecting effort during this phase were INBio curator Francisco (“Chico”) Morales and Jardín Botánico Lankester pteridologist Alexander Rojas, as well as Área de Conservación Guanacaste field biologists Roberto (“Lupo”) Espinoza, Adrián Guadamuz, and Jorge Hernández.  We were also ably assisted from time to time by “gusaneros” (and former parataxonomists) Calixto Moraga and Petrona Ríos, based at Pitilla.  From plush Pitilla we headed (sans Chico) to a small, abandoned, collapsing, and bat-infested hovel known as Finca Montecele, incongruously situated on the Prov. Alajuela side of the idyllic Río Colón (also known, at least on maps, as Río Las Haciendas), which serves as the provincial boundary.  This was to be our jumping-off point for the upper slopes of Cerro Cacao, but the going proved rough.  Here we were joined, for a few days, by photojournalist Stefan Lovgren, on assignment from NGS, who recorded for all posterity one of our failed attempts to gain the high plateau.  A few hours after Stefan left us, Adrián was bitten on the forearm by an eyelash viper, while climbing a tree to get his bearings, and had to depart, though he recovered and is now fine; however, he did suffer an allergic reaction to the antivenin, and could not rejoin us.  On the following day we pitched camp at about 900 m elevation near the headwaters of the Río Colón, having followed a route that was finally established through the persistent efforts of Adrián, Lupo, and project co-PI (and Área de Conservación scientific liaison officer) María Marta Chavarría, who was with us for the entire month.  Project and Manual co-PI Nelson Zamora hiked in the next morning, replacing Grayum, who returned temporarily to INBio.  Nelson’s arrival ushered in the rainy season, and the remaining days on the Atlantic slope were soggy ones indeed; but despite the inclement weather, our crew nearly attained the summit of Cerro Cacao.  At that point, Alexander called it a day, while the rest of the group changed venues to posh Estación Maritza, on the Pacific slope (though just barely!) of the Cordillera.  They exploited a day off to thoroughly inventory nearby Laguna Mata Redonda, then pioneered a new route to the high plateau, striking camp at about 900 m elevation along the ridge to the east of the Río Tempisquito (not far, as it turned out, from our first campsite).  For the fourth and final stage of the operation, Grayum and Zamora again traded places, the latter returning to INBio while the former joined in the terminal assault on the Cerro Cacao summit from the easier Pacific side.  As usual, none of this would have been possible without the dedicated collaboration of María Marta, Adrián, Lupo, and everyone associated with the Área de Conservación Guanacaste.  To them we owe a heavy debt of gratitude, as also to cheerful and hard-working porters José María Alcócer, Cristián Guzmán, Dinier Méndes, and Santos Obando (Cristián and Dinier having also served on our Santa Elena excursions).

VISITORS DOWN SOUTH.  During the second week of April (9–12), botanical globetrotters and benefactors par none Chris Davidson and his wife Sharon were with Manual co-PI Barry Hammel, to continue their amazing tour de force of the world's families of flowering plants. Their aim is to see and help collect them, documenting the great diversity and beauty of the angiosperms by personally taking thousands of photographs to be placed on a Web site, bound to be a great tool for educators and researchers around the world.  From their list of desiderata, Hammel choose those genera he knew he could easily find in the allotted time—Metteniusa, Peltanthera, Pelliciera, Polypremum, Prosopanche, and Ticodendron—and the trip was a success, yielding flowering and/or fruiting material in each case.  Hammel's better half, Isabel Pérez (INB), joined the crew on the Metteniusa leg of the trip, where lots of good collecting was done at the Rio Bananito Lodge, in the Caribbean foothills of the Cordillera de Talamanca.  The day after returning to San José, Chris and Sharon left immediately for the Península de Osa, to hunt Ruptiliocarpon and other interesting taxa with Reinaldo Aguilar (see under the heading New Osa Project), whose funding this year is, at least in part, thanks to the Davidson’s.  We are glad to have been of help to the Davidson’s, and thank them for their handsome contribution to our project.

From ca. 3 to 21 June, Lynn G. Clark (ISC), accompanied by students/postdocs Amanda Fisher and Christopher Tyrrell, traveled in Costa Rica in connection with Lynn's continuing work on the systematics of American bamboos.  Their trip was very much a success, as they found nearly all of the taxa they were looking for, and one (a new, mid-elevation sp. of Chusquea) they weren't!  Lynn is the first person we know of to have recently gotten permits through INBio to collect and export DNA samples for systematic studies.  It would appear that, while tedious forms and regulations are involved, such permits are finally being issued.

Finally, we (at least one of us) have personally met our collective "tocayo" (person with the same name), Senior Biologist Mike J. Barry of the Institute of Regional Conservation, Miami, FL.


with whom we have been corresponding for almost a year.  Mike has been taking yearly working vacations in the Manzanillo/Gandoca and Bocas del Toro (Panama) regions for about 10 years now, but only recently got in touch with us.  Presently his main interest in the area is the Manzanillo wetland, a small patch of bog (Sphagnum included, he reports) bordered by a dense, ca. 200 m-wide band of yolillo [Raphia taedigera (Mart.) Mart., Arecaceae], virtually unexplored botanically, except by him and his friends and associates.  His goal is unassailable:  bringing it to the attention of the local and scientific community, trying to save it from development.  Among other things, we noticed on his unvouchered list from the area the name Cyrilla racemiflora L.!  He definitely has our attention; the family Cyrillaceae, heretofore unknown from Costa Rica, would go into our next volume, so it behooves us to verify, and voucher, that report.  By the way, the monospecific Cyrilla, with its interesting bimodal distribution in coastal forest and low- to mid-elevation mountaintops, is known from nearly every country within the Caribbean basin except Costa Rica, and in Nicaragua from as close as Cerro El Gigante, just 4.5 km from the Costa Rican border.  Mike will be in the country with his wife Sara for an entire month (8 July–8 August).

NEW OSA PROJECT.  A new digital flora of the Península de Osa has recently been launched by resident field biologist  (and former parataxonomist) Reinaldo Aguilar, together with Xavier Cornejo (NY), Scott Mori (NY), and others.  For additional information and resources, check out the following Web site:


CACHO NEGRO CONQUERED!  Few have ever been near, let alone on, Cerro Cacho Negro (2150 m), a remote and mysterious Atlantic subsidiary peak of Volcán Barva.  But now Cacho Negro has been conquered, or very nearly, by a crack team assembled by Costa Rican orchidologist Carlos Ossenbach.  Among the other nine participants were park guard (and experienced plant collector) Miguel Ballestero and orchidologist Diego Bogarín, Ossenbach’s colleague at the Jardín Botánico Lankester.  The four-day expedition was accomplished by helicopter, from the base of operations at Las Horquetas de Sarapiquí.  Although the summit itself was not attained, and only orchids were collected, the caper was pulled off without mishap, and much valuable information was obtained.   This is all compiled in a glossy, 51-page report produced by the group, which includes numerous, often stunning photos, as well as a list of all the orchids collected (most of which, at this point, are identified only to genus).

ANOTHER MILESTONE.  Congratulations to former INB curator and current La Selva digital flora mainstay José González, who pressed his 10,000th number on Thursday, 3 July.  Welcome to the union!


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