In Mindo on the western slopes of the Andes it rains in profundity and moss drips from the trees like nowhere outside of Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, GA . The flowers are a mixture of familiar rain forest forms and others less so. For us, it rained mostly in the evenings and nights but not during the day. We missed just about nothing because of the rain.
Mindo in the Distance (from a hike)
The western or Pacific slope of the Andes is opposite our former, wee abode in Cuenca where the runoff had to flow 4000-5000 miles to reach the Atlantic. Here the rain ran down hills sloping up at extremes of 30-60 degrees with knife-edge ridges (see Chiyemi on the ridge in the Podocarpus post).
The cascada in Mindo. After we got back the rivers here seemed awfully tame.
The above scene is absolutely typical of any forest in Mindo. If you look across the picture, you could see nothing, absolutely nothing on the other side except more greenery. Within this greenery? The most abundant biological zone on the surface of the earth – second only on the entire planet to the coral reefs which we are systematically killing. Within the greenery lie worlds of biological complexity – animal, vegetable (mostly), fungal and bacteriological. Without the fungus and insects to intervene, this powerhouse would heap up leaves to the sky eventually smothering the trees, shrubs, grasses, and all below.
Within this abundance of plant life are orchids, bromeliads, palms (a great many of those), shrubs, trees and a surprisingly shallow leaf litter. Plenty of fungus, leaf cutter ants and below the surface a rhizomal mat tangled through the roots of the aforementioned plants trying to extract the last bit of goodness from what’s fallen down. And flowers and fruit? But not as many as you (and the early explorers thought) might think. You could not survive on the output of this forest without very specialized knowledge.
Perhaps a fuchsia – perhaps not – red to attract a pollinator
This bromeliad near the Sachatamia lodge on the very nice walk down to the river nearly glowed in the dark. You’d swear it had an internal power source.
Not every flower was red although that was a predominant color. I wish I knew what this was – looks like some sort of palm.
Above was from the small but very nice orchidarium/orchideario in Mindo. Around 200 species of which no more than 30-40 were in bloom including the world’s smallest orchids. You needed a magnifying glass (provided) to see that the white specks were actually perfect orchids.
I don’t even know that this IS a flower. One of the troubles of a temperate forest person wandering about in a tropical forest is that nearly everything is different!
Above is a flower you will probably recognize as a hibiscus but look at the size of that blossom. Also the orange color is something I’d never seen before.
Here’s a small (1/2″) blue flower. The color is unusual and that’s what gets it into the blog here. Every flowering plant needs a pollinator and then a seed dispersal method. There are probably very special insects or even bats (common tropical pollinators) to keep the small blue flowers in business.
Strange, saggy, droopy thing: clearly a flower, though. Imagine that a pollinator would probably have to crawl inside to access the nectar or whatever the payoff is.
Above is one of the many species of “dracula orchids” from the orchidarium. Below is a blowup of the central part of dracula’s face. See a face more clearly? I’ve jazzed up the color to bring out detail a bit. I’m not sure I see any likeness to Bela Lugosi, but then the engineering mind may be a tad less imaginative that those who name orchids or hummingbirds.
Not only are orchids beautiful but they smell nice – at least to their pollinator although you might not agree: rotten meat, eg. Or, it might be something unlikely such as chocolate. The young guy who showed us around the orchidarium said one of their orchids emitted a chocolate aroma, but only for a couple hours in the afternoon. Talk about “thrifty nature”, the pollinators only show up for a couple hours a day? What do they do they with the other 22 hours?
Here’s another flower in a tall bush or smaller tree.
Does this look like a temperate zone flower or anything you’ve seen before? But it does bear some resemblance to other flowers shown here.
And this which appears to be a red flower like our Pacific Northwest paintbrush and to which we used to affix “Indian”. Not even close. If you look carefully you can see this is not a flower but leaves which turn bright, bright red but then fade as the plant grows taller. I think there are seed pods in amonst the redness and probably small, true flowers as well.
An “inca” flower and probably as hallucinogenic as its orange counterpart in the highlands. These long flowers hang straight down placing an additional burden on the pollinator. If those are insects, probably no big deal. If a bat or a hummingbirds, say, maybe would limit to a particular species which the flower (if it liked things) would like very much.
Now you can almost imagine a hummingbird pollinating the little blue flowers above. Notice the stamen dangling out over the flower above and that’s what the plant wants carried off to another “little blue flower”. Where are the hummingbirds to do this job? Why, they’re off at the feeders and not doing their job!
One of our guides pointed this out by way of subtle criticism of Sachatamia: if the hummingbirds only need to go to the feeders, why bother to pollinate the flowers in the forest?
Yes, but there are a lot more hummers around because Sachatamia feeds them in the first place. Probably tough on the flowers – maybe they get pollinated – or maybe they still do, since the hummers still need protein in the form of pollen. Or maybe they prefer insects but that’s still a good deal for us vertebrates
From the orchidarium. Below is an odd number from the river walk at Sachatamia that we saw often but was tough to get a decent picture – focus on at least.
Above, an extravagant lavender and blue bromeliad from the orchidarium.
And a nice, simple orchid from the orchidarium to finish off. Enjoy!
And a fungi for the very end. Not plants, mind you, probably more closely related to you and me than the flowers above. Still, they and their squooshy relatives are doing a vital job breaking down all the old plant material.
Below is an odd fungus, lying flat and looking like a squashed oyster or a piece of petrified wood – thin, maybe 1/2″ thick and probably no more than 7″ in diameter. It did look kind of good to eat…
Until next time…