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Home > Begonian > Volume 67 (March/April 2000, pages 59 - 62)

Begonia glabra in the Amazon Lowland Forest in Peru
by Jacques Jangoux

In the previous issue we published two articles where growers from the Northem Hemisphere gave details of the problems they had experienced with mildew during their recent summer season. As it will not be too long before similar problems may well beset us here in the south and we have not dealt in depth with this for some time, I would like to examine some of the aspects relating to it.

At the end of September, 1998 1 did a trip to photograph the rainforests of Peru. I was especially interested in the ACEER (Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research) field station (http://www.aceer.org/) where a canopy walkway 400 m. (about 1200 ft.) long has been built (to see a panoramic view of the canopy walkway, go to http://www.eds.com/community_affairs/jason/jX_vr_canopy_walk.shtml. You will need Quick Time, which can be downloaded at http://www.apple.com/ - images take a long time to load, so be patient! It can take many long minutes.)

It turned out that the ACEER field station is a combination research and education station/tourist facility. An e-mail sent to the address I had found in Tropinet, the newsletter of the Association for Tropical Biology, forwarded me to International Expeditions Inc., a tourist agency in Helene, Alabama (http://www.ietravel.com/; 800-633-4734). They were very efficient at organizing an individual trip for me (They normally work with groups.) that took me from Iquitos to 3 forest lodges down the Amazon and up the Napo River: Explorama Lodge (50 miles, about 3 hours by boat), Explonapo Camp (another 50 miles down the Amazon and up the Napo), and ACEER (1 hour hiking). (I usually plan my trips myself, but this time my time was too short for it.) I highly recommend this trip if you want to see the Amazon rainforest.

A funny thing is that to go from Belem at the mouth of the Amazon, where I live, to the Peruvian Amazon I had to fly to Miami. There used to be a combination flight Belem-Manaus-Tabatinga-Iquitos, but for some reason (probably economical) it was cancelled. Anyway I was able to do some shopping in Miami!

b. glabraI found beautiful forest at all three places with large trees and a rich palma flora, surprisingly little disturbed by the constant flow of tourists, but no begonias. (Contrarily to the Atlantic rainforest where I did most of my begonia photography in the past, begonias are not abundant in the Amazon rainforest.) Until the next to the last day at ACEER, that is. After a whole morning hiking in the forest with my guide and taking pictures, I was gettmg back to the camp; about 200 m. before reaching the camp, I finally ran into a scandent begonia, which I first thought looked somewhat like B. convolvulacea (but it was out of the Atlantic rainforest range, where I had seen and photographed it); however, after research in the Smithsonian book, Begoniaceae by Lyman B. Smith et al. (Smithsonian Contributions to Botany, No. 60) turned out to be B. glabra. The identification was further confirmed by consulting the Florula de las Reservas Biologicas de Iquitos, Peru by Rodolfo Vasquez Martinez (Missouri Botanical Garden, 1997). Of course I photographed it, and as I was close to the lodge I went back the next morning before my departure to take a few more photographs in a different light.

In the past I used to send actual slides to the Begonian editor. This time I scanned my slides (using the Olympus ES-10 film scanner; it's the cheapest model, but for properly exposed pictures it does an adequate job) and I e-mailed the scans to the editor. So here you have a mixture of one of the oldest forests in the world with some of the most recent technology.

b. glabra flowers

b. glabra flowers (close up)

Jacques Jangoux has provided additional begonia photos from his travels in Brazil and other locations.

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