Dave Looks for Plants

Journal of a plant explorer

Quebrada Cuzuntza

On Saturday Marco Jr. had some university paperwork to do so Marco Sr. and I set out for Quebrada Cuzuntza, which is on the east side of the Rio Zamora, in the Parroquial de Cumbaratza.  We hiked up the Quebrada to an altitude of 1430 meters.  Along the way we saw several of the same Costus with the purple undersides to the leaves as we had seen along Quebrada Tunantza Alto, but none of them were in flower.

 

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We stood well out of the way while some fresh-cut lumber was being dragged down the quebrada.  Every year, more and more trees are cut down for their lumber, and there is loss of habitat for the rare plants of Zamora Chinchipe.  Marco was teaching me Spanish, and we were singing the following little song as we walked along the quebrada:

Cuando los agricultores talan los árboles, las orquídeas pierden sus casas y hay menos orquídeas para disfrutar.

 

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We continued on to an open area near the top where we had a nice view of the mountains and valley below and saw another fine example of the pubescent form of Costus laevis with the mostly yellow flowers.

 

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We returned to Marco’s house in time for lunch and walked around in his garden during the afternoon.  He has a fantastic collection of orchids and other plants, and also raises several species of sting-less bees.

 

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Marco also uses the Costus plants in his garden (sometimes adding other herbs) to make a “Costus Tea”.    The thick basal stems of any large Costus can be used, but he usually uses the Dimerocostus strobilaceus that is growing in his garden.  The stems are cut into lengths of about 6 inches, then quartered longitudinally, and boiled for about ten minutes, then allowed to steep overnight.  The taste is surprisingly mild and semi-sweet like other herbal teas, and is well known in Latin America as a medicinal drink to prevent or cure kidney stones.

 

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