Saturday, 24 November 2018 – Contendas do Sincora to Vitória da Conquista
We had arranged to meet Marylan Coelho and her son Caio, friends from my previous trips to Brazil, at the Floresta Nacional Contendas do Sincora. This National Forest was created in 1999 to promote the sustainable and multiple use management of renewable natural resources, the maintenance and protection of water resources and biodiversity, the recovery of degraded areas, environmental education, the maintenance of samples of the caatinga ecosystem fragment and the support to the sustainable development of the natural resources of the bordering areas. The Park has an approximate total area of 11,034 hectares. There are facilities to give courses that aim to make local people familiar with their environment.
We met managers and staff who explained their objectives and treated us to refreshments before taking us for a walk along the Trilha das Bromelias (The Bromeliad Trail) that took us past plants that occurred naturally in the park. This was augmented by great quality images, taken by local photographers Josafa Almeida and Josafa Filho that illustrate organisms such as birds, mammals and insects that can also be found in this environment but that unlike the plants move around or appear only at night or during specific seasons. It certainly made me think twice about going out at night to see cacti, knowing that I might meet puma, leopards, snakes and tarantula!
The cacti seen during the walk included Arrojadoa penicillata, Pereskia bahiensis, Pilosocereus pachycladus and Tacinga werneri and Marylan invited me to join her in planting a cultivated plant of Arrojadoa marylaniae to mark our friendship since 1999.
The second and last stop of the day, S3712, was some two hours away where Marlon wanted to show us a new species of Arrojadoa that he and Alvado wanted to publish. We were slightly surprised when we reached the plant, growing at the bottom of a steep and quite high hill. that Marlon produced a knife and started to attack the plant, explaining that he needed to collect samples to include as herbarium specimen to support the description. Alain sacrificed some of his cachaça, at 38 – 48 % alcohol by volume, the strongest alcohol available, in which the flowering stem of the plant could be preserved. I believe that the plants were found as botanists and students searched for new locations of Arrojadoa marylaniae that is close to extinction at its only known location that we’ll visit tomorrow. It was interesting to note that Espostoopsis dybowskii and Arrojadoa penicillata also grows here, just like at the A. marylaniae site! This plant has a very fragmented range with populations that I have seen growing near Jequia and, in the north, between Jaguarari and Flamingo. The distance between these locations used to be part of the Atlantic Forest of which some 85% has disappeared, replaced by agriculture and by logging, exported to Europe and the USA.