We are so lucky to receive Helmut Seehawer, orchid enthusiast who, together with his close friend David Miller, surveyed the nearby Macae de Cima valley for these extraordinary epiphytes.
Helmut and David identified and described close to 1,000 species found there and wrote and illustrated the book “Orchids of the Serra dos Órgãos”. Helmut, a retired airplane pilot developed a passion for orchids when he first flew into Rio de Janeiro many years ago and spent a day accompanying fellow crew in another region of Rio looking for these epiphytic plants.
What got him hooked were their many different mysterious forms, sizes, colours and shapes which made it a complicated hobby to master. Helmut’s fascination led him to study and survey extensive areas and today he is a recognised authority on their identification.
Helmut is 81 years old and has an unassailable passion and energy. Since his first visit to REGUA he has identified a total of 72 genera comprising 257 species which represent 60% to 70% of known existing orchids.
Divided into the different areas he has surveyed at REGUA these are Helmut’s findings;
Green and Red Trails and Wetland area 68 genera 206 species
Rio do Gato Valley 36 genera 65 species
Biaza Reserve 35 genera 112 species
St Andre west slope 15 genera 25 species
East slope of Lagoinha 15 genera 26 species
West slope of Lagoinha 24 genera 74 species
Helmut writes “It seems that the Green and Red trail forest is especially rich but I walked it ten times, Lemgruber six times, Rio do Gato five times, Lagoinha twice and all the rest once only”
Last October, accompanied by two REGUA rangers, I walked with Helmut to a recently acquired area, the Vidal property on the Serra do Mar ridge-line. The first expedition was a little misty, but with Black-and-Gold Cotinga calling around us we knew were in a special place. The next expedition permitted some mind blowing vistas of the surrounding forest for miles around. Helmut was far too interested in his orchids to notice and he concluded that this rocky high altitude area must be one of the best places he had ever visited.
Helmut hopes to return in late May 2019 and we are only too pleased to walk with him, learn from him and share his passion. The REGUA orchid cathedral will be ready to present a sample collection of some of the species found here and draw visitors to appreciate their beauty.
Helmut’s enthusiasm and energy encourage us to continue to increase our knowledge and protection of this amazing valley. We look forward to seeing him on more expeditions in the future.