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
Plants unique to the
Cordillera Abitagua and El Encanto mountains:
sp. nov? cf. exasperata
here for a table of the Pastaza Watershed endemics known from
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