Dave Looks for Plants

Journal of a plant explorer

Posts Tagged ‘Costus aff. ‘El Gato’’

Quebrada Cuzuntza

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

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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Rio Numbami

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

The next day we started out going to a nearby forested area just outside Zamora to the northwest.  There we found more of the Podocarpus form of Costus laevis at about 1100 meters, but there was not a lot of forest in the area, so we next headed for the higher altitude reserve area of Numbami Alto.

 

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In this area we found many more plants of the pubescent form of Costus laevis that we had seen at the deserted farm at Podocarpus.  This form seems to only be found at the higher altitudes (between 1200 and 1600 meters) whereas the Podocarpus form is found below 1200 meters.  The forms of the flowers and the hairiness of the leaves varies somewhat, but the plants are recognizable and distinguishable by the size of the inflorescence and the various flower parts – especially by the much smaller calyx and bracteole. 

The Podocarpus form…..

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And the pubescent form …..

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Here was a pubescent form found with pale yellow flowers.

 

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In his garden, Marco has a plant of the species Costus erythrophyllus which he collected locally many years ago, but he could not remember for sure exactly where.  Here is a photo I took of this plant during my 2007 visit in Marco’s garden – and one with flowers taken recently by Marco Jr.

 

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He thought it might have been at the nearby Quebrada Tunantza Alto, so we headed there next.  We did find a plant growing there that has purple backed leaves, but it is not the same plant as in Marco’s garden, and I don’t think it is C. erythrophyllus.  It was not in flower so I cannot say for sure but I think it more likely to be another form of C. laevis – possibly the pendent ‘El Gato’ form like the ones I saw in 2013 in Peru.

Here is the one seen at Quebrada Tunantza

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