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Tom Croat's summer 2000 trip report


Aroiders,

Tom asked me to forward this to the list. It is fascinating to read -
between some of these trip reports and various conversations with Tom, I
know he has a good book waiting to be written just on his plant-hunting
experiences. 

Here it is:

	Trip to South America (June 14-Aug. 25, 2000)
 
	Thomas B. Croat, P. A. Schulze Curator of Botany
			Missouri Botanical Garden	
 
	This summer's collecting trip to South America 
was a productive one.  The trip began in Colombia on 
June 15th where I was met by Marcela Mora who is 
working on a thesis with the Araceae of Cabo 
Corrientes, a peninsula located midway between the 
Panamanian border and the port of Buenaventura.  This 
is a remote region in Chocs Department, located along 
the Pacific Ocean.  It is a species-rich area with 
over 100 species, many of which are new to science.  
It was exciting to collect in this region for the 
first time.  Though Marcela had collected there for 
several months we managed to find a number of new 
species.  We flew to Nuqum in a small plane, then went 
by launch to the village of Arusm and finally by 
dugout canoe to the field station.  The field station 
"El Amargal" lies high on a cliff over the ocean in a 
funnel-shaped gulf which caused the tides and the wave 
action to be severe so landing and retrieval from the 
beach is hazardous.  
 
	There are a series of trails leading out from the 
field station and we covered most of them but had our 
greatest success in areas along the Rmo Arusm where 
open areas along the river enabled us to collect in 
trees and in areas where trees had been felled with 
epiphytes still viable in the branches.   
 
	The field station itself was a two story thatch 
covered building with a few solar-powered lights and a 
gravity water system coming from a nearby stream.  The 
water system often plugged up after a rain but the 
station manager always managed to get it up and running 
again promptly.  It was an area of heavy rainfall and 
one day it rained all day.  Fortunately we had 
collected so much the previous day that we had to 
spend the entire day inside collecting anyway.  
 
	The region had its share of Central America 
species including such species as Anthurium 
acutangulum, A. brownei, A. clavigerum , A. colonense, 
A. cucullispathum, A. friedrichsthalii, A. formosum,  
A. hacumense, A. lancifolium, A. michelii, A. 
obtusilobum, A. obtusum, A. paludosum, A. panamense, 
A. propinquum, A. ramonense, A. ravenii, A. salviniae, 
A. subsignatum, A. tonduzii, Dieffenbachia 
nitidipetiolatum (an unpublished species that ranges 
as far north as Costa Rica but had never been found so 
far south in Colombia), D. davidsii, D. longispatha, 
D. nitidipetiolatum (undescribed), D. tonduzii, 
Dracontium spruceanum, Spathiphyllum laeve, Homalomena 
erythropus ssp. allenii, Homalomena wendlandii spp. 
wendlandii , Monstera adansonii var. laniata, M. 
dubia, M. pinnatipartita, M. spruceana, Philodendron 
alliodorum, P. grandipes, P. grayumii, P. hebetatum, 
P. hederaceum (Jacq.) Schott, P. helleniae Croat
P. ichthyoderma, P. immixtum, P. jodavisianum, P. 
ligulatum,  P. opacum Croat, P. panamense, P. 
platypetiolatum, P. pseudoauriculatum, P. 
sagittifolium, P. scalarinerve, P. senatocarpium, P. 
tenue and P. tripartitum.  Many of the remainder in 
the region are new to science.  See appendix 1 for a 
preliminary list of species from the Cabo Corrientes 
region. 
 
	Since we accumulated so much material during the 
two weeks at El Amargal we feared we could not leave 
by plane (owing to their very limited allowance of 
baggage).  For this reason we decided to leave by way 
of a fishing boat that Marcela had learned would be 
arriving in Arusm the following day. 
 
	Arusm was several hours by path from the field 
station or about one hour by boat.  It would mean that 
our departure would be two days prior to when we 
expected to fly out of Nuqum.  Marcela had been in 
Arusm trying to collect some species that she had seen 
only there and I had stayed alone in the camp to 
finish describing and pressing the large amount of 
material we had collected the previous day.  That day 
I had severely injured my self with a deep knife wound 
6.5 cm long and deep enough to reach the bone.  Since 
I was so far from any medical attention and with 
little hope of sewing up the wound, I had to cut off 
the blood flow but using a bandana as a tourniquet and 
used the alcohol that I had for pickling plants as a 
disinfectant.  
 
	One possibility for medical attention might have 
been to have walked to Arusm in hopes that there was 
someone there who could have sewn up the wound but 
that would have been at least a 3 hour walk and I 
might not have gotten there in time to have gotten 
sewn up. Another possibility would have been to try to 
radio the two nudist neighbors who lived in the 
adjacent bay and and who have a small boat but they 
usually had to be notified first by blowing on a conch 
shell so they would know that they were gettting a 
message.  I had not yet mastered either the conch 
shell blowing or the radio operation and was not sure 
that I could have made contact with them.  
 
	That night I simply doused the wound with 95% 
alcohol then  put my hand into a plastic bag to be 
sure that I did not bleed all over covers.  In the 
morning I soaked my hand in wanter to loosen the 
bandana, eased it off and replaced it with another.  I 
had received word from Luz Eugenia, the station 
manager who had returned just before dark that Marcela 
had made arrangements for us to depart Arusm by 
fishing boat.  A small boat was to come pick us up at 
10:00 AM.  Marcela arrived back from Arusm early the 
next morning, having left at dawn to get across the 
river before the tide came in and made the river too 
deep to cross on foot. 
 
	The dugout came at 10:00 AM when the tide high 
enough to get to the narrow sand beach.  Any earlier 
it would have been impaled on the rocky sea bottom and 
any later it would be impaled on the rocky cliffs below 
the station.  The wind was strong and waves were high 
as the boat backed its way to shore.  I had hauled all 
the bags down to the shore using only my right 
hand.  The largest I had balanced on my back after 
getting the cook and Luz Eugenia to help me place it 
there.   I was ready to load the boat as soon as it 
arrived.  With the boat fully loaded and the 
passengers aboard the two boat operators tried 
desperately to keep the boat from being beaten 
sideways and thus rolled over.  Many waves were 
breaking over the bow and totally flooding the boat.  
With the cook baling water as fast as she could the 
two boatman finally saw a window of opportunity between 
the waves and quickly got the boat off of the shore so 
they could start the motor and power out between the 
incoming waves.  We hit the first wave face on and 
nearly left the water, landing upright then sped up 
and moved parallel to the incoming waves to avoid a 
repetition of the wave impact.  
 
	Arriving in Arusm we discovered that the fishing 
boat had not even arrived so we parked the boat and 
went to get some lunch.  By about 2:00 PM the boat had 
arrived and was partially filled with fish but the 
tide was going out again and the boat was forced to go 
out into the bay and anchor down for the final 
loading.  By 2:00 PM the passengers were told to get 
aboard even though it did not depart until about 5:00 
PM.  
 
	The 25 hour trip down the coast to Buenaventura 
was grueling.  The boat was not exactly equipped for 
passengers, completely filled with smelly fish, the 
boat had only a box-like space on the top which was 
used to carry lumber and other equipment.  The storage 
space was too small to allow you to sit up straight, 
so we were forced to lie flat on top of the lumber 
pile.  The box was so full of people that we were 
cheek to jowl and many of the women aboard became 
seasick and were vomiting.  It was pretty bleak.  
Those who wanted to remain in the relative comfort of 
the roof and forfeit the possibility of guaranteeing 
themselves a spot in the cramped inner quarters (and 
this included Marcela who said she could not bear it 
inside) were jovial.  Most were passing around a 
bottle of liquor.  By about 10:00 PM it had begun to 
rain and those on the roof rushed inside and piled in 
between peoples legs making the space even more 
unbearable.  
 
	I was fearful that in this cramped space with 
people kicking around that someone would smash my hand 
and start the bleeding again so I lay awake all night.  
The following day it was even hotter in the box but 
unbearable outside during the midday heat where the 
sun really burnt.  The boat had lost one of its two 
small outboard motors and was now barely moving.  It 
was so slow as it approached Buenaventura that we 
could count the windows in the downtown hotels a full 
hour before we reached the docks there. 
 
	From Buenaventura we made our way to Cali and 
then by plane to Bogota, arriving early in the 
morning with all 13 parcels without even having had to 
pay overweight on the bus.  Back at Marcela's house we 
got our first wash up in days then we were off to the 
university to fill the plant dryers with our material.
 
	In addition to drying the herbarium material I 
met several times with the Colombia aroid specialists, 
who, in addition to Marcela Mora with whom I had 
traveled to Chocs, included Jorge Jacome, Martha 
Patricia Galeano and Felipe Cardona.  We discussed 
ways to advance the study of the Araceae for the Flora 
of Colombia and divided up responsibility for future 
work.
 
	On July 4th I flew to Ecuador where I met Lynn 
Hannon, Dylan Hannon and Emily Kinsinger and drove to 
San Lorenzo in Esmeraldas Province near the Colombian 
border to continue work on the Flora of the Lita-San 
Lorenzo Region a project that I am carrying out with 
the help of Dick Mansell and Lynn Hannon.  The coastal 
village of San Lorenzo, until only two years ago 
isolated and reachable only by boat, is now accessible 
by road both to the north from Ibarra and to the east 
to the city of Esmeraldas.  We chose to try the route 
through Esmeraldas because I thought it would be 
faster but it proved to be a rather bad road.   On the 
way to Esmeraldas we collected one day at the ENDESA 
reserve on the west side of Volcan Pichincha and also 
tried to get into the Bilsa Biological Reserve near 
Quinindi.  The road was horrendous, really suitable 
only for horses.  After about an hour of driving we 
gave up and turned around because the road got worse 
and worse.  At the rate we were driving it would have 
been another six hours and would have gotten us there 
after dark with no reservations to stay in the field 
station.  So we returned and made our way to 
Esmeraldas.  The following day we made our way over a 
very rough road to San Lorenzo.
 
	This year we concentrated our collecting in the 
lowlands around San Lorenzo since this part of the 
flora study area had been visited only once 
previously.  San Lorenzo had grown immensely since the 
roads opened up and there were quite a number of 
hotels, the best of which was the Hotel Continental.  
We took over most of the third floor and made good use 
of a large open area which must have been some kind of 
meeting room with a large table.  It was excellent for 
pressing plants and we only had to contend with the 
proprietor who showed up frequently to make sure we 
were not using too many lights.
 
	Our collecting took us to most of the lowland 
roads including the road to Mataje which makes it all 
the way to the Colombian border at which point the 
road abruptly ends.  We did not find so many species 
as we did in the Alto Tambo area but many of them were 
new species or species not yet determined.  Many are 
certainly new to the Lita-San Lorenzo Flora.  Among 
those determined species collected in the San Lorenzo 
lowlands were Anthurium brownii, A.dolichostachyum, A. 
friedrichsthalii, A. incomptum, A. insigne, A. 
obtusum, A. paludosum, A. propinquum, A. sodiroanum,  
A. trisectum, A. versicolor, Dieffenbachia 
nitidipetiolatum, D. tonduzii,  Homalomena wendlandii, 
Monstera spruceana, Philodendron alliodorum, P. 
brunneocaulum, P. fragrantissimum, P. hebetatum, P. 
hederaceum, P. jodovisianum, P. pogonocaulis, P. 
senatocarpium,  P. squamipetiolatum, P. sparreorum, P. 
subhastatum, P. sulcatum, P. tenue, P. tenuipes, P. 
tripartitum, Rhodospatha pellucida, R. moritziana, 
Stenospermation andreanum, Syngonium crassifolium and 
S. macrophyllum,
 
	We had an interesting experience on our departure 
from San Lorenzo.  Having packed the truck completely 
filled with plants we were forced to pile the last of 
the bags in a pile even above the tailgate.  This 
proved to be a mistake since at the first bump in the 
road, the fold-up window was forced open and Emily's 
bag slipped out entirely unnoticed.  We had driven 
only a few kilometers when we stopped at the gasoline 
station and there discovered that the bag was missing.  
Returning to town we began to ask everyone if they had 
seen it, beginning at the hotel and working our way 
back toward the gasoline station, even going into a 
nearby school.  Driving up and down the road asking at 
every door we finally got action.  A women had 
actually carried Emily's  bag about a kilometer up the 
road and the colorful bag surely must have been seen 
by dozens of people yet no one admitted having seen 
this unusual incident.  Nevertheless, as we got closer 
and closer to actually finding the bag and proved that 
we were not going to give up looking for it, the lady 
who had taken the bag home finally brought it out to the 
street and turned it over to us.
 
	On our return trip from San Lorenzo to Quito we 
went north to Ibarra, allowing us to collect in the 
area between Alto Tambo and Lita, the most aroid-rich 
region in Ecuador.  Back in Quito with a pickup load 
of specimens another week was spent at the Herbario 
Nacional drying plants and determining existing 
herbarium collections both at the National Herbarium 
(QCNE) and at the Universidad Catolica (QCA).  
 
	While Lynn and Dylan went their respective ways 
(Los Angelos and Tampa) Emily Kinsinger and I went on 
to Bolivia for work with the Flora of Bolivia.  We 
were met by Thorsten Koerner and Amparo Acebey at the 
La Paz airport.  Amparo will be my Bolivian 
collaborator for the treatment of the Araceae for the 
Checklist for the Flora of Bolivia, a project 
currently being carried out by the Missouri Botanical 
Garden.   While in La Paz I stayed with my old friend 
Stephan Beck, a German botanist who has lived with his 
wife Carola in Bolivia for over 20 years.  
 
	After a brief stay in La Paz we headed off 
through the Nor Yungas Province in Thorsen's 1979 
Toyota 4-wheeler to Caranave.  The trip was greuling 
but we made it to Caranave by shortly after dark after 
being forced to wait about two hours near Yoloso while 
equipment cleared the road from a cave in.  The 
stretch of road from La Paz through Caranave, 
especially the upper part is among the most dangerous 
in the world with innumerable crosses and monuments 
indicating accidents where people lost their lives.  
It is not at all surprising that this happens.  The 
road is mostly 1-lane with the tracks only inches from 
a precipice which leads to a drop off of as much as a 
kilometer, so far and so steep that one can not 
readily see the bottom.  The road is carved out of the 
side of the a cliff which is virtually vertical so 
that the road in many cases appears to be a tunnel 
with one open side.
 
	The following day we headed through the Serrania 
Bella Vista to Sapecho, collecting along the way.  
This area proved to be one of the most interesting 
areas we collected.  We spent two days around Sapecho, 
and area where Amparo and Thorsten had done a lot of 
research.  There we stayed at a comfortable house 
owned by the Institute of Ecology in La Paz.  
 
	We traveled on to Rurrenabaque in Beni 
Department.  We then crossed the Rmo Beni and drove to 
Tumupaza near Madidi National Park.  We spent two days 
collecting in Madidi National Park (an area recently 
featured in a National Geographic article).  This 
newly created park, which extends all the way to the 
Peruvian border, was recently made accessible from 
Tumupaza by a road that is intended to go south to the 
indigenous village of San Josi Uchipiamonas.  Though 
we were unable to make it to San Josi owing to road 
closure by fallen trees we made deep penetration 
through this virgin forest.  On the second day 
threatening rain cut forced us to high-tail it out of 
the park because the road was steep and unsurfaced and 
would have been treacherous with only a brief rainfall.
 
	After returning to Rurrenabaque for one night we 
headed off across the savannas of southern Beni to 
Riberalta in the far north of Bolivia near both the 
Peruvian and Brazilian frontiers.  The crossing of 
this vast savanna was arduous but extremely 
interesting.  There were a few aroids such as 
Anthurium plowmanii, Monstera dubia, Philodendron 
camposportoanum, P. megalophyllum and P. brevispathum 
occurring in small islands of vegetation scattered 
throughout the savanna but the really interesting 
aspect of the savannas were the animal life.  The 
frequency of bird sightings was phenomenal with the 
variety of birds quite amazing.  Many were hawks or 
large stork-like birds, often exceedingly colorful.  
Once we saw an emu which ran along the side of the 
road easily out racing us.  Other animals included 
large lizards and capibaras.  
 
	The road was horrible, especially between 
Rurrenabaque and Puerto Yata, with the ruts so deep 
that often the ditches were used for driving instead 
of the actual road.  After about two hours we were 
even considering turning around but were encouraged by 
reports from other drivers coming south that the road 
did improve further north.  Toward the middle of the 
second day we began to see evidence of the Amazonian 
forests in the north of Bolivia with islands of 
vegetation cropping up between stretches of savanna.   
By the time we got to the branch in the road where you 
have to chose between going to Cobija in Pando 
Department or Riberalta in Beni Department the 
vegetation was mostly solid trees.  
 
	Though the area along the road was largely 
secondary we contacted a Dutch forester, Reni Boot who 
had operated a program in Riberalta for six years and 
knew of good areas where logging was taking place in 
primary forest.  These areas were very productive for 
finding species new to Bolivia.  Among these were such 
widespread species as Philodendron alatum, P. 
distantilobum, P. hederaceum, P. hylaeae, P. 
inequilaterum, P. linnaei, P. ornatum, P. ruizii and 
P. solimoesense.  Found elsewhere as new to Bolivia 
was P. deltoideum. 
 
	Other Philodendron species collected in Bolivia 
were P. ernestii, P. heterophyllum, P. lechlerianum, 
P. pedatum, P. pinnatilobum, P. quinquelobum and P. 
ruizii.  
 
	Species currently known from Bolivia but not seen 
on this trip were P. bipinnatifidum, P. brandtianum, 
P. cataniapoense, P. ernestii, P. imbe, P. maximum, P. 
paxianum and P. pseudoundulatum.
 
	The trip back to the south was just as slow but 
since we knew what we were up against there was less 
apprehension.  Among the most interesting species 
collected was a huge Philodendron that was common in 
the old leaf bases of a large palm tree.  This 
species, which is probably new to science, is among 
the largest species of Philodendron that I have ever 
seen with sinnuate leaf blades to 165 cm long.  
Because of the undulate margins I first considered 
that it might be P. undulatum but that species has 
blades less than 80 cm long and interpetiolar 
squamulae up to 8 mm long whereas this unknown species 
has tiny scales 2 mm or less long and much larger 
blades.  
 
	Another interesting species which has much 
smaller blades which are variegated with gray in the 
juvenile and preadult stages.  It differs from the 
relatively similar and more abundant P. ornatum in 
lacking persistent fibrous cataphylls and in having 
only a single inflorescence per axil.  The juvenile 
leaves of this unknown species match those of P. 
variifolium of Exotica 3 and may well be the same 
species.  There is one problem though, the type of the 
adult plant of P. variifolium Schott is a plant with 
more or less triangular-hastate lobed blades, a 
species that looks more like P. deltoideum Poeppig.  I 
suspect that this species represents a new species. 
 
	Among some of the more interesting things I 
discovered about the aroid flora of Bolivia was that 
Spathiphyllum has never been collected there while 
Dieffenbachia species were relatively common.  Despite 
having only two species reported in the preliminary 
checklist of the Araceae of Bolivia by Kessler & 
Croat, at least 5 species exist there.  Anthurium 
section Belolonchium is represented by a single known 
species currently going by the name A. macleanii 
Schott, Section Calomystrium is represented only by A. 
grande and section Cardiolonchium is represented by 
only A. besseae (unpublished) and another unknown 
species.  Section Xialophyllium is represented by A. 
amoenum and  A. microspadix as well as an apparently 
new species which looks like A. mindense.  Anthurium 
parile, a member of an undescribed section, was 
relatively common.  Section Digitternervium is 
represented by only A. lechleriana and A. weberbaueri 
(which may ultimately prove to be the same species).  
Section Dactylophyllium on the other hand is well 
represented with A. brevipedunculatum, A. clavigerum, 
A. croatii, A. eminens, A. kunthii, A. pentaphyllum, 
A. polydactylum and A. triphyllum.  Anthurium sect. 
Pachyneurium is also well represented with A. 
atropurpurem, A. ernestii, A. ottonis, A. oxycarpum, 
A. paraguayensis,  A. plowmanii,  A. plowmanii, A. 
solomonii, A. soukupii and A. uleanum.  Anthurium 
sect. Tetraspermium is represented by A. obtusum and 
A. scandens
 
	Monstera proved to be difficult as usual but no 
more than 3 species were found at any locality.  
Species found were M. adansonii, M. obliqua, M. 
spruceana and M. subpinnata. 
 
	As elsewhere Stenospermation species proved 
difficult to recognize in the field.  Species 
currently known for Bolivia include S. adsimile, S. 
lugoanum (a new species), S. mathewsii, and S. rusbyi.  
One species, preumably one of the latter two species, 
was common in the Serrania de Bella Vista between 
Caranave and Sapecho.
 
	The Syngonium found in the wild consisted of S. 
yurimaguense and one highly variable species, probably 
just a form of P. podophyllum but one additional 
collection, more typical of S. podophyllum in Central 
America, was found in cultivation in Rurrenabaque. 
 
	The genus Urospatha is known for Bolivia but is 
apparently rare there, known only from one region. 
Homalomena is represented by H. wendlandii ssp. 
crinipes and H. picturata.  Rhodospatha proved to be 
much richer than previously known.  Both R. brachypoda 
and R. latifolia were found but R. mukuntakia Croat 
(previously known only from Peru and Ecuador) as well 
as at least one additional unknown species was 
collected.  Material was collected of what may prove 
to be R. boliviense but we found it to be remarkably 
similar to R. latifolia and the two species may prove 
to be synonymous. 
 
	Xanthosoma species proved to be quite interesting 
with at least four species collected.  The largest 
species which resembles X. unduipes differs from that 
species in having the lower blade surface puberulent 
and the spathe tube green on the inside.
 
	Though we searched for them we did not find on 
the three week trip the following genera: 
Asterostigma, Dracontium, Heteropsis, Gorgonidium,  
Montrichardia, Schismatoglottis,  Spathanthemum, 
Spathicarpa, Taccarum or Urospatha. 	
 
	Although Bolivia is considerably less species-
rich for Araceae than Colombia and Ecuador or even 
Peru, it has proven to far more interesting that 
previously expected.  Amparo Acebey will be coming to 
the Missouri Botanical Garden in March to help with 
the completion of the checklist of the Araceae for 
Bolivia and is also working on an aroid florula of the 
Parque Nacional Cotopata near La Paz.  
 
	It was an eventfull summer, with three countries, 
three different projects and three different sets of 
field companions it was an interesting and complex 
trip.  In all as many as 250 species of Araceae were 
collected and photographed, many of them I had not 
previously seen.  It has been a wonderful and 
productive 10 weeks in South America.  



-- Steve Marak
-- samarak@arachne.uark.edu





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