This “Orchids in the Wild” trip to the highlands of Papua New Guinea starts with everyone meeting in the city of Port Moresby. We fly to the town of Mt. Hagen where we will spend the next week. We will stay at the Magic Mountain lodge, a lovely resort nestled at the base of Magic…
The OCA is embarking on a fundraising campaign to help buy 1221 acres for Fundación Ecominga’s Reserva Dracula.
Ecominga’s Reserva Dracula is in a valley near the town of Carchi on the border with Colombia (see map below). Previous land acquisitions in this region established mid- and high-elevation holdings that serve as a center of diversity for the orchid genus Dracula, including Dracula terborchii (at right and in the photo gallery above). The proposed acquisitions, known as the Hermanos Yela property, will expand the reserve to include lower-elevation species. In many instances, the reserve property includes the only known Ecuadorian populations of several Dracula species. Additionally, the reserve’s holdings have been the source of many new orchid species as well as other flora and fauna. This reserve is financed by the OCA, the University of Basel, and the Rainforest Trust. The University of Basel and the OCA have each contributed about a quarter of the funds to purchase the reserve property, and the Rainforest Trust has contributed the other half. Our current fundraising drive is to provide $110,000 over the next three years, $35-40,000 per year, to acquire the 1221 acres available for purchase. This acreage is a single block, making it the largest single tract in the reserve.
In the map below, the property to be purchased is the largest of the blue colored areas to the northwest of Carchi.
Lou Jost, Fundación Ecominga’s director, has identified several orchid species of concern in the Hermanos Yela property:
Dracula syndactyla: This is a rare species known from a couple of specimens from Colombia and extreme northwest Ecuador. The Hermanos Yela property contains the only known Ecuadorian population.
Dracula terborchii: This is a recently-described species, originally discovered as a cultivated plant in Europe. The only known wild populations are in our Dracula Reserve. The population we had hoped to protect by extending the Dracula Reserve to Gualpi is no longer capable of being protected. A few plants occur in the Cerro Colorado unit [These are the red, yellow, and orange properties just below the word ‘Ecuador’] of the Dracula Reserve; the population in the Hermanos Yela property is separate, and its protection will increase the chances of long-term viability for this species.
Dracula trigonopetala: This recently-described species is also known from the Gualpi area. As mentioned above, that area can no longer be protected. The population in the Hermanos Yela property may be the only viable population under protection.
Pleurothallis chicalensis: A newly-described species, known only from the Dracula Reserve in Ecuador and the nearby La Planada Reserve in Colombia.
Trevoria sp nov: This is a large, undescribed species, a description of which is in the process of being submitted for publication. It is known only from a few low-elevation sites in and around our Dracula Reserve. The population in the Hermanos Yela property will be important for the species’ long-term viability.
Scaphosepalum anchoriferum: New for South America; previously known from Central America.
Two new species of Platystele, four new species of Lepanthes, one new species of Scaphosepalum, and five new species of Stelis also have been found on this property so far.
In addition to the orchids noted by Lou Jost, the Hermanos Yela property holds populations of a new blue eyed Pristimantis frog, an endemic critically-endangered toad Atelopus coynei, and a new forest mouse in the genus Chilomys. The Hermanos Yela property is truly amazing for its wealth of novel faunal biodiversity in addition to the impressive orchid biodiversity found there.
For more information on the Dracula Reserve and the organisms mentioned here, see https://ecomingafoundation.wordpress.com/category/plants/orchids.