Biogeography of the Pastaza Watershed


Zone B: Abitagua and El Encanto mountains (1700-2700 m)

Zone B includes the first foothills facing Amazonia, from 1700m up to about 2700 m. No one knows what lies above 2700 m .



    The first foothills facing Amazonia are very wet, and above 1700m they are almost always in clouds. The forest is not as tall as the lower-elevation forest, and the trees carry a much heavier load of epiphytes. There ar ea lot of large emergent palm trees. The epiphyte diversity of this forest is very high, and there are a large number of unique orchids found nowhere else in the world. The first botanist to explore this region was the Scotsman Richard Spruce in 1857; he described it as "the mossiest forest I had ever seen" (Notes of a botanist on the Amazon and the Andes). He discovered several of the unique species found here, including Polypodium abitaguae (which was never seen again) and Cremosperma auriculata. The next botanists to explore the area came 130 years later, on an expedition searching for gold: Alex Hirtz, Stig Dalstrom, and Juan Delhierro. In 1990 they discovered a surprising number of new orchid species endemic to this zone, including the remarkable Teagueia zeus. I have been exploring the area since 1998 and have discovered another set of new endemic species, especially in the genus Lepanthes. Many of these are still undescribed for lack of time.

    The flora of this zone is most closely related to my Zone D, the Mayordomo-Candelaria mountain chain 20 km to the west. Many of the endemic orchids of the Abitagua-El Encanto zone have sister species that are endemic to the Mayordomo-Candelaria chain.


Plants unique to the Cordillera Abitagua and El Encanto mountains:

Dracula fuligifera

Dracul sp. nov? cf. exasperata

Lepanthes abitaguae

Lepanthes absens

Lepanthes camptica

Lepanthes ariasiana

Lepanthes viebrockiana

Lepanthes mooreana

Lepanthes pseudomucronata

Lepanthes spruceana

Masdevallia delhierroi

Scaphosepalum jostii

Teagueia zeus


Click here for a table of the Pastaza Watershed endemics known from Zone B.


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Biogeography of the Pastaza Watershed