Virtual trip to Atlantic Forest.
begins at my ranch, where after filling the backpack with food, binoculars,
camera, and putting on a pair of
comfortable boots, we climb into the Jeep and hit the road. Soon after (passing
through) the gate, on the right side there is a colony of
Lytocaryum hoehnei , a
beautiful little palm with silvery leaves; now endangered because of its habitat
yards ahead, on the roadside bank, one orchid attracts our attention, it
Eulophia alta with
greenish petals and wine colored lip, and above it, entwined on a tree, Saint
John’s vine, Pyrostegia venusta
with fiery orange flowers.
road (is only three miles long) has only three miles, but if we look carefully,
we can see hundreds of plants that
are in bloom or bearing fruits. On a wire fence, the morning glory,
Ipomoea purpurea, a common weed divides the space with sweet passionflower,
approach the main road, we hear a sabiá,
Turdus rufriventris, singing on
the top of a jerivá,
comfort of the paved road doesn’t last too long, just a few miles ahead we
leave it and take a road that it is only a little more than a trail, just wide
enough for the jeep.
Pedra do Garrafão
(Big Bottle Stone) a huge granite block surrounded by a Eucalyptus plantation.
The terrible road forces us to reduce the speed to almost zero, and that has a
good side effect, because it gives us the opportunity to see the roadside flora.
than a mile after we leave the asphalt, a pink flower is spotted and we stop to
take a picture. It is a beautiful
sp, shadowing a humble
sp with its petit green flowers, laying against the high grass that
gives it the necessary support.
far away, on a shady spot near a small waterfall, some amoras,
Rubus rosaefolius a
small shrub that has lots of tangy red fruits, neighboring it there is a huge colony
Impatiens walleriana, an exotic
plant that naturalized so well, that now it is sub spontaneous in almost all
shady and humid roadsides in the Atlantic Forest.
eating some amoras, we climb back on the jeep again to endure the shaking of the
precarious bridge made from eucalyptus logs forces us to stop and examine it
before venturing to cross. Although slimy it seems secure and we decide to go
through it, but first we take some
time for more pictures, one from the
do Sapo (Frog Stone), a curious rock formation that really looks like the
animal which it was named after. On the opposite side, some
their reddish flowers, we try to capture
the scene, but the birds are quicker than us and flies away before we can take the picture.
than half an hour and half a dozen stops, we arrive, well, almost arrive at our
destination. We park the jeep near
the gate of a small farm and go inside for a cup of water. The housekeeper
greets us in a friendly way and after the usual chatting about the weather,
tells us that the trail had almost disappeared among the high grass.
him for the water and for the “good news”, and say goodbye, for one hour of
uphill trekking is waiting for us. The first part is very easy, as we go through
a path used by tractors to bring back cut Eucalyptus logs. Although the workers
keep this path fairly clean of tall weeds, the smaller ones cover all the way
and we move on cautiously.
on the right side measuring about 15 feet high is a year round flowering garden.
Autumn the red flowers of amaryllis,
Hippeastrum aulicum, attracts hummingbirds, in Winter some
open the scented flowers to bugs, Spring is the season for
douglasii with gorgeous spotted pink blooms and
harrisoniae, and finally in Summer,
is in bloom, not counting the myriad of micro orchids and other plants.
follow the path and just on a sharp curve we stop for collecting some fruits of
Passiflora edulis. The
small purple fruits are sweet and delicious, contrasting sharply with the acidic
yellow form sold at supermarkets.
steep path after the curve makes us think how hard must be to control a fully
loaded tractor there on a rainy day. I surely wouldn’t like to be the driver…
stop to recover our breath, another wild passionflower,
Passiflora organensis is climbing on a big clump of
We put a
little more of effort and reach the border of the Eucalyptus plantation, now
only about two hundred yards separate us from a patch of forest that we will
have to cross before we get the top of the mountain.
said the housekeeper, the trail is almost impossible to spot, and after two or
three wrong attempts we reach the forest, where luckily, the shade provided by
the tree canopies don't allow the high grass to grow.
enter in the forest our eyes need some time to adjust from the bright sun to the
deep shade. The light difference is brutal, but even in this low light condition,
numerous epiphyte orchids thrive.
at a little brook to drink some very pure water that runs among the stones and
to rest a little, but the sweet scent from a
crispa precariously hanging on a tiny branch over the brook, make us get up
and smell the perfume from a closer position.
more pictures and we continue on the uphill trail. Suddenly the forest begins to
be more open, the trees are thinner and spaced. To get advantage from the
surplus light, dozens of micro orchids crowd the thin branches,
Pleurothalis pterophora is one of them. On the ground,
give to the trail a red coloring,
beyrichii crawls up the tree trunks but keep the base fixed in the forest
humus. On the brighter spots we still can see some of the now rare
side by side with the orchids, three epiphyte gesneriads:
finally the uphill trail levels, we are on the top of the mountain and the
forest gives place to an altitude field. There, because of the thin layer of
organic material and soil, we find only herbaceous plants and some shrubs that
don’t reach more than five feet in height. The absence of trees is not a
problem, in fact it is in the soil that we find the most beautiful natural
garden from this part of Atlantic Forest. Hundreds
Drosera villosa, side by side with
Zygopetalum intermedium, and their
natural hybrids. Big
Epidendrum secundum, in
several color forms can reach almost six feet tall, if you count the three feet
approach the North mountain border a six hundred feet abyss is waiting for us.
Very carefully we explore this side, where thousands of
as well some clumps of
Sinningia mauroana and lots of bromeliads.
down for the (well) deserved picnic and rest, and place the backpack just on
side of a drunkard’s dream,
salicornioides, a cactaceae with stems that look like small bottles. From
our place the viewing is stunning, we can see the Atlantic Ocean, only 15 miles
away and 3300 feet below, and also the tops of the mountains that runs along it.
resting we reluctantly start our journey back. We could stay there for more time
if wasn’t for the fog that was coming from the lowlands and almost reaching
a few minutes to explore the East side where a few smaller trees still are able
to grow and under their shade we have time to see the rare
bradei and lots of
trailside, growing in the sphagnum moss,
reniformis shows off the big purple flowers. As we are descending we see some plants that we didn’t
Pleurothallis arcuata are among them. Also
Begonia cucullata, that likes meadows
and humid places.
later we are back and climb on the jeep again, tired but happy to know that a
little bit of the once colossal Atlantic Rainforest is still alive and thriving.