This week, at REGUA’s orchid house, the species Miltonia moreliana was in flower. It is a beautiful orchid usually found at around 300 metres above sea level in old secondary forests.
A small South American genus of which nine species are found in Brazil and seven of these occur in the Serra dos Orgãos mountain range. Miltonia moreliana requires abundant sun exposure, moderate humidity and ventilation.
Whenever we feel like getting to know orchids occurring on our mountain range a bit better, we ask specialists like Maria do Rosário de Almeida Braga or we look at the book “The Organ Mountain Range, Its History and Its Orchids: Rio de Janeiro” by David Miller(Author), Richard Warren (Author), Izabel Moura Miller (Author and photographer) and Helmut Seehawer(Contributor). It’s a fantastic publication!
The project “Survey and Distribution of Orchids of the Ecological Reserve of Guapiaçu” was developed by OrquidaRio Orquidófilos Associados, between November 2006 and September 2007. Along the trails we recorded and mapped 107 species of orchids, distributed in 51 genera. Of these, 44 species are new occurrences for Munic. of Cachoeiras de Macacu. Many of the species that occur in REGUA can be found in other preserved areas of Serra dos Órgãos, some of which have a wider distribution. The objectives of this research were:
to know and map the orchids that occur in REGUA;
provide information so that orchids can be used as additional material for the local environmental education program;
publicize the area’s orchid flora so that they are included and appreciated as part of REGUA’s ecotourism attractions.
Subsequently, the list of orchids that occur in REGUA grew a lot, with the addition of several micro-orchids identified by Helmut Seehawer, a great connoisseur of our flora. Some of the species found during the work were reproduced in the laboratory of Orquidário Quinta do Lago, at Itaipava and after some years some were reintroduced back into the reserve by members of OrquidaRio. Now, with the construction of the greenhouse, many of the species that occur in REGUA’s forests will be part of this collection that aims to show visitors the charms and varieties of the great Orchidaceae family.
The REGUA orchid cathedral is receiving its 80% sun filter netting which will reduce the temperature significantly.
Obviously orchids are found across the entire gradient, from sea level to 2000m above sea level and the challenge is to provide an ambience that responds to their climatic demands.
We have received sound advice with regard to the structure of the building, how to provide the best environment for the specimens and most importantly, the ongoing management of the orchids. Rosário Braga (a biologist and former head of OrquidaRio, the RJ orchid club) and Helmut Seehawer, a long-standing friend of REGUA and orchid expert have been invaluable in their support.
We have been warned that watering is not a simple task, and we aim to have a semi-automatic sprinkler system to support the environment of the Cathedral. As Helmut Seehawer advised, air movement is essential and we are using wire netting on the lower section to allow for wind movement. Helmut has also suggested we use as much natural forest compost as possible.
By the end of the year, the REGUA orchid cathedral will be open to the public, an addition to the existing trail network revealing the jewels of the forest.
Helmut Seehawer is visiting us at REGUA and continues to explore for orchids here.
Once again we walked with Helmut to the lofty Lagoinha summits, an extremely important area for orchid dispersal, full of Platyrhipsa brasiliensis, Stelis ruprechtiana, Octomeria grassilabia, Oncidium lietzei, Pabstiela sp. Zygopetalum pedicillatum, and so many micro orchids.
We came across these relatively common Maxillaria picta, first described by Sir William Jackson Hooker, English botanist in 1811. Hooker didn’t travel personally to Brazil but probably received these plants and then described them from collected samples.
Helmut is 84 years old and he was delighted to be scrambling up these rocky summits in search of his precious orchids.
We think the world of Helmut, his incredible dedication and knowledge that allows us to draw people’s attention to them and their importance in this very biodiverse region of the globe, after all, the Serra do Órgãos is known for over 1,000 species, or 5% of the world’s entire diversity of orchids!!
Our readers will no doubt be following new on the construction of our extraordinary Orchid Cathedral, made possible by a generous grant from the San Diego Orchid Society and Peter Tobias.
Though progress is slow, the Cathedral will be ready for our dear friend Helmut Seehawer, set to arrive this coming April. Helmut, now 82 is to continue his inventory of the orchids here at REGUA. We are delighted because he still has the energy and all the experience in identifying the species on the mountains here at REGUA.
To think that the total number of species of orchids in the world stands at 20 thousand of which 5% or one thousand are found in the mountains here at REGUA and environs. Bathed in cloud forest and stretching from over 2,000 metres to sea level, we can only being to appreciate how lucky we are.
The Orchid Cathedral, a sun-screened area of 300m², will feature a rocky base, tree ferns mixed with palms, ground plants and some native small Myrtle trees, such as Eugenia sp, to which orchids will be attached. Posts will also hold some of these epiphytes. A path meandering through the house will allow visitors to see why these plants are so special, and interpretation signage will help the visitor understand the delicate role they play in nature and why so many people get excited about them.
Should any volunteer wish to come and help us organize the interior, we would love to hear from you!!
It is getting exciting around here and already an air of expectation is setting in.
For more information on volunteering at REGUA see here.
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.
With so many orchid species to be found in the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest, REGUA is building an Orchid House. This has been made possible with the generous support of the San Diego Orchid Society and Peter Tobias. Our aim is to show visitors some of nature’s best treasures.
There are over 1,000 orchid species to be found in the Serra dos Órgãos region, a reflection of privileged growing conditions, such as the cloud forest along its mountain ridgeline.
Orchids range in size, colour and perfume with the majority being arboreal but there are terrestrial species as well. David Miller and Helmut Seehawer were the first to look closely at orchids of this region and between them wrote the definitive book on the species found here. Sadly orchids are commonly known as “parasites” for people associate their living style as totally dependent on hosts for their survival. The REGUA orchid Cathedral is a miniature shaded garden which will feature examples of the many native orchids and give us the opportunity to explain their secrets to REGUA’s visitors. It will allow us to show visitors that orchids are very important and part of the ecosystem and indicate the forests are in a good state of health and biodiversity.
Once the Orchid Cathedral is complete, we shall invite Rio’s Orchid Society to help us in the fun part, that of arranging the specimens to make most of their beauty. We hope our visitors will leave understanding more about these highly evolved plants which are epiphytic and not parasitic, and appreciate that they are the jewels of the forests.
For more information on the book Serra does Órgãos: Its History and its Orchids, follow this link.
One of the newest projects at REGUA is the creation of an orchid and bromeliad garden at the lodge. This is a small area to the side of the lodge veranda and was the brainchild of Nicholas Locke, REGUA’s President.
Huge rocks were delivered earlier this year and moved into place. There are also some well weathered orchid posts which have proved very effective in the front garden of the lodge so we are hopeful that they will soon house flourishing exotics. Bromeliads are already in place – all found on fallen branches around the reserve.
Over time more plants will be added, including ferns, and will provide an excellent opportunity for lodge guests to easily see plants that are only too often found high in the canopy.
The garden is sited along the north wall of the lodge ensuring that the plants are in a shady environment. Netting has been added to give further protection. House Wren and Masked Water-Tyrant are already using the area to search for food and a Yellow-headed Caracara has found a good look-out post!