Dave Looks for Plants

Journal of a plant explorer

Archive for February 17th, 2015

Rio Numbala

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Marco has lived in Zamora Chinchipe all his life and has been trekking through the forests and jungles there for over 25 years with a serious interest in the plants of the region.  Much like me, he is not formally trained as a botanist but he probably knows more about the plants of the region and their habitats and locations than just about anyone else alive.  He is now retired from a career as a public school administrator.  His son told me his job was to “make sure the teachers were working”.

Marco, Jr. has followed in his father’s footsteps with his interest in plants.  They co-authored the first volume of Las Orquídeas de Zamora Chinchipe – a beautiful volume of photos of orchids from the region with their descriptions.  The book has an old photo of Marco as a young boy going with his father to look for plants.  He studied in the UK a few years ago as an exchange student and is now starting his 4th year at the university in Loja where he is studying environmental engineering.

Our plan for the day was to cross the river from Palanda to the east and travel over a ridge to check out the Rio Numbala – one of the main tributaries leading into the Mayo River complex.  I should warn you ahead of time that these names are going to be confusing, with three different “numb” rivers.  Rio Numbala today, then Rio Numbami, then later Rio Numbaime – at least I am hoping I now have all the names straight.

We parked the truck at the river and then followed a trail to a small creek where we found this.



A beautiful full flowering plant of Costus zamoranus.  If you are interested in seeing more photos of the C. zamoranus we found here, check  out my THUMBNAIL SHEET.  By then we had a good understanding of this species in its variable flower and bract colors and the deeply shaded habitat, usually growing in soil based in coarse sand.  It was only found in the northern part of the region which is more humid than the area to the south around Zumba and the Peruvian border.

The only other species of Costaceae we found there was the same Costus aff. claviger.  As in most of the region, there were only a few patches of forest remaining, and the Costus zamoranus I was seeking was only found in those relatively undisturbed areas.  I will be updating my Red List assessment of this species, and it may be upgraded (or downgraded, I should say) from “vulnerable” status to a more endangered status.

Would you use this bridge?

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After leaving the Rio Numbala, we drove back north to Loja and then over the mountains and back to Marco’s home town of Zamora, the capital of the province.  One of his relatives owns the modern Hotel Samuria there, the nicest place in town with AC and flat screen TV – a bargain at $30 per night.

The town of Zamora and most of the province seems to really be bustling since I was last there in 2009.  It is my favorite place in Ecuador.  Don’t believe the guide books that say it is uncomfortably hot there.  I have been there three trips now and although it is warmer than the high Andes tourist areas, it is not bad at all as it is situated between the mountains.  I have always found the people there to be very friendly, although my first trip in 2007 they seemed a little shy about foreigners.  It seems to be coming more and more a tourist destination with the Podocarpus National Park being the main attraction.

The most famous landmark there is the giant clock on the hillside overlooking the bus terminal.  It is an actual functioning clock and is lit up at night.  Photos below taken the next morning from a hotel window.




 For the next several days our adventures would take us to a variety of habitats from the mountains around Zamora to the Rio Nangaritza and Cordillera del Condor.  Here is a map showing several of these places we went.