The next morning René suggested we try some higher elevations and take the old Guaranda road toward Pasagua. This road climbs to about 1000 meters before it descends to the village of Pasagua.
Along the road we saw many more plants of the white flowered Costus guanaiensis var. tarmicus. Then at about 800 meters we saw one of the most beautiful examples of Costus lima that I have ever seen with larger than normal flowers. DETAILS ON THUMBNAIL SHEET HERE
There were also several plants seen of Costus pulverulentus – a very common species along the western slopes of the Andes foothills and the plains below. This made it clear to me that Costus geothrysus is distinctly different from its closest described species, both in flower form and vegetatively. The C. pulverulentus here has a distinct nectar callus and does not have the broad plicate leaves.
Then we drove back down through Caluma and took another road that passes through the town of El Mirador – which is not really a “mirador” at all. René told me the town was named after a family with that surname. This is on the south side of Cerro Semamana and the entire area was deforested and planted with cacao and bananas.
Along a small creek, just east of El Mirador, we found a yellow flowering form of Costus guanaiensis var. tarmicus. DETAILS ON THUMBNAIL SHEET HERE
Eventually we came to another guard station for the Hacienda Clementina and René was able to talk the guards into allowing us to walk down the road that leads to the Hacienda – all virtually flat land at an elevation of 100 meters or less. This area also was mostly deforested but there were a couple of patches of “jungle-like” secondary growth forest so I went in and investigated. There were also several rows of cultivated teak trees and overgrown brush. Not a single Costus plant was found in that entire area.
Here is the view of Cerro Semama looking to the west from where we were in the Hacienda Clementina. There was no trail or entrance – at least nothing that René knew about – to get us into that good forest in the reserve.
We returned to the Hosteria and I walked around the gardens there, talking with the proprietor, Nelson Jimenez. There was only one Costus plant and it was not in flower, but to my astonishment it looked like the same one with plicate leaves that I had seen in the reserve and was in Dr. Stahl’s photo – the sought after species Costus geothyrsus!
Somehow it seems fitting that I would end my time in Caluma finding the plant I was seeking right there at the place I was staying. (Like Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz?). Anyhow, the next morning I took the bus back to Quito, then my flight home the following day. This had been one of my best trips ever.
I had gone with a specific goal to find two rare and relatively unknown species of Costus and I had succeeded in finding them both albeit one of them not in flower. I had learned much more about their habitats and distribution giving me valuable information to update my IUCN Red List assessments. I had learned more about the eastern Andes form of Costus laevis and developed a new theory on that species. And most of all I had made some new friends and solidified other friendships in Ecuador, which has become one of my favorite countries to visit.