Update on the Pleurothallid Orchids of Brazil Project

Dr. Toscano de Brito departured for Brazil last in early June and will be away for nearly two months. He will be doing field and herbarium work related to his project “The Pleurothallid Orchids of Brazil”, which is partially funded by the National Geographic Society and the IMLS. The project goal is to prepare a monograph of roughly 600 Brazilian Pleurothallid orchid species and involves molecular and taxonomic research. During his second field trip to Brazil (the first one was undertaken last year) he will be searching for species not yet sampled for his molecular and morphological studies in order “to fill gaps.” This not only requires field work, but also work in the herbarium as many species have been collected once and are only known by a single herbarium specimen. He will be also visiting several orchid growers and collaborating with serious amateurs in Brazil, many of them holders of important and rich orchid collections. He has just come back from the Amazon region, where he spent a week working in the herbarium of Museu Goeldi, in Belém, the capital of the state of Pará, and searching for endemic and rare Amazon orchids which grow as epiphytes on trees of flooded Amazonian forests (also known as Igapó forests).

He has now returned to his field base, the little town of Rio de Contas, located on the high mountains of Chapada Diamantina in northeast Brazil, and plans to climb Pico das Almas, an almost 2000 m high peak. Last year he climbed Pico das Almas searching for a few endemic and apparently new Pleurothallid species, but they were not in flower. He will try again this time if weather allows it: right now it is wet and cold in Rio de Contas. In early July he will head to Espírito Santo, in the southeast, to visit patches of Atlantic forests, particularly those located in the municipalities of Venda Nova and Domingos Martins, both well known for their orchid-rich flora. After his field and herbarium work in Espírito Santo, he will then go to Curitiba, the capital of the State of Paraná, located in the south. He will be visiting orchid growers and will particularly work in the herbarium and molecular laboratory of Universidade Federal do Paraná (UFPR). Toscano will attend a number of meetings to discuss with his Brazilian colleagues at UFPR the status of his molecular research and also further scientific collaboration between Selby and UFPR. While at UFPR he will also lecture on his recent orchid studies.