Message from Johannes-Ulrich Urban to
Pacific Bulb Society
on March 7, 2004
During the first two weeks in February I went to Brazil and would like to give you all a short report about this trip. It was a botanical round trip starting in the Sao Paulo area, going from there to the Atlantic coast crossing the coastal mountain range (Mata atlantica) and going north toward Rio de Janeiro.
From there back inland to the Organ mountains and the cities of Teresopolis and Petropolis. Heading further inland we got to Belo Horizonte and still further to Diamantina, from there back to Sao Paolo. This meant approximately 6000km by car, about the maximum that can be done in this given time.
My guide was Mauro Peixoto from Sao Paulo who did a perfect job. He organised the trip with me via e-mail and perfectly arranged sites of interest within the possible reach in a limited time. He did all the driving in his private comfortable car.
Roads in Brazil are excellent with very few exceptions. Hotels spotlessly clean and good local food in self service restaurants all over the place. Temperatures at this time of the year were very hot at sea level but comfortable to sometimes cool at higher altitudes. There was rain, it was the rainy season but the rain has not stopped us from going to the intended places.
Which were the main places of interest?
Atlantic coast: beautiful rugged coast where the coastal mountains intermingle with the sea in a finger-like way producing an endless number of large to tiny romantic bays and beaches and many islands. A beautiful historical city is Parati, from there the historical gold trail goes inland but soon becomes rough and unpaved. Good Bromeliad nursery near Parati. All in all brethtaking scenery. Had a rough swim in big waves near Rio in crystal clear water on a beach that was so white as if the sand was of ground glass. Interesting beach vegetation (restinga) and Sinningia bulbosa tubers attached to bare rocks in full sun in the salt spray of the surf.
Mata Atlantica. The remaining parts of this formerly huge forest are now well protected and preserved, beautiful landscape but not very accessible. In the Petropolis and Teresopolis area there are hiking paths and National Park facilities. There I saw Gesneriads, Hippeastrum (H. calyptratum or aulicum, not in bloom growing fully epiphytically) Orchids, Ferns, many interesting Palm species. On the road there was a stunning more than 2m pink Lobelia.
The landscape of the Organ Mountains is breathtaking with many "sugar-loafs" that become extremely tall and perpendicular. One of Brazil's largest orchid nurseries (Binot) at Petropolis.
Sitio Burle Marx. (in the Rio area) Roberto Burle Marx was a leading artist, architect and garden designer in Brazil and has established an incredible plant collection that can be viewed in parts through guided tours. Very impressive.
Mostly but not exclusively Brazilian plants: Bromeliads, Orchids (did not see these two collections) Philodendrons (did not know there are so many differerent ones) Begonia and an overall setting in a perfect tropical garden were a very sensitive design has used the existing tree canopy to produce a mind boggling lush display playing with light and shade and water. The site is under government administration now and looks very well kept.
The most fascinating parts were the rock fields near Belo Horizonte and around Diamantina: Quarzite or granite rock between 1000 and 1500m above sea level with very cold (regular frost in exposed places) temperatures during winter nights but always warming up during the day. Very high light intensity. An incredible wealth of species and genera many of which I never heard of and many of which both of us could not identify. (Vellozia, Paepalanthus, Orchids, Bromeliads, Philodendron, Begonia, Gesneriads, Hippeastrum, Bignoniaceae, Melastomataceae, Alstroemeria, Apocynaceae, Cactus, Ipomoea and many more)
Stunning to see Cactus, Begonia, Bromeliads, Philodendron, Orchids and Gesneriads growing side by side in full sun on almost bare rock drenched in water at this time of the season. Also stunning 80cm tall Sinninga magnifica with countless big tubular flowers in glowing red.
Mauro kept saying that every time he goes he finds something new in flower he has never seen before.
Mauro has an excellent home-page: www.brazilplants.com
If you have further questions, please contact me privately.
Greetings from wintery and snowy Germany, Uli