Dave Looks for Plants

Journal of a plant explorer

Archive for February 26th, 2015

The Old Loja Road and goodbye Zamora

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

My last day in Zamora Chinchipe we drove along the old Loja road that runs along the mountain slopes on the opposite side of the river from the new road.  There is a huge hydroelectric project under construction in this area, so there was lots of heavy equipment moving up and down the road.

Along this road we saw many more plants of the pubescent form of Costus laevis that I had first seen at the abandoned finca in Podocarpus National Park.  Some of them had especially beautiful flowers.



 The road eventually climbs to 1600 meters where it joins the new Loja road.  The river at this point narrows in a canyon and becomes very deep and fast moving.



We returned to Marco’s house to reflect on the thirteen days of searching Zamora Chinchipe for Costus.  We had learned a lot.  We found Costus zamoranus in its various forms throughout the province and learned that it only grows in shady forest understory.  The only other species found in the Mayo Chinchipe area is the terminal flowering Costus aff. claviger.

We learned that the species Costus laevis found in the areas east of the Andes (as with the type from Peru) is quite diverse and is completely different from the Costus laevis found in Central America and west of the Andes.  In Zamora Chinchipe there is the “Podocarpus” form with its huge inflorescences and glabrous parts.  At higher altitudes is a pubescent form.  In the lower Rio Zamora and Rio Yacuambi watersheds is the pendent ‘El Gato’ form.  And finally there is a plant with deep purple undersides to the leaves that is likelyto be yet another form.

We learned that Costus amazonicus is quite widespread in Zamora Chinchipe and apparently it hybridizes easily with other species.

We learned that the Costus aff. guanaiensis in the Nangaritza form has a very limited distribution, as we found it ONLY in the Nangaritza watershed.

And most of all we had solidified our friendship and committed to continue working together in the future.



That evenening I took the night bus to Guayaquil and then on to Caluma in Bolívar Province for the final part of my trip, searching for the critically endangered Costus geothyrsus.