Orchids of the Jocotoco Foundation Reserves
 
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The Tapichalaca Reserve

     The Tapichalaca Reserve is on the Yangana-Valladolid road just south of Loja, in the province of Zamora near Ecuador's border with Peru. It happens to include a famous mountain pass that has been the focus of much botanical work over the last century and a half, and the area is one of the richest in Ecuador for orchids. One could say that the reserve is even more important for orchids than for birds. An astonishing 29 species of orchids appear to be strictly endemic to the reserve and the immediately surrounding forest--- in other words, these 29 species have never been found anywhere else on earth. ( I include in this total some species that have been found near Valladolid just below the present boundaries of the reserve, but since there are plans to extend the reserve downward, I think it is useful to include these.) Click here to see a table of these special orchids, with their elevations and the year they were last seen.  Most of these species were discovered in the 1980s as the area opened up, and most have not been seen again since that time. They should be considered endangered, considering the current rate of deforestation in the region and the lack of recent records. (My principle reference for this table is the Libro Rojo de Plantas Endemicas del Ecuador 2000, R. Valencia, N. Pitman, S. Leon-Yanez, and P. Jorgensen (eds), orchid chapter by L. Endara, Publicaciones del Herbario QCA, Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador, Quito. This is supplemented and corrected by Dr Calaway Dodson's unpublished Orchids of Ecuador database, updated Dec. 2002 and kindly provided to me by Dr Dodson.)

Epidendrum dalessandroi has only been found in the Tapichalaca Reserve and the immediately surrounding area.
      I went to Tapichalaca with the directors of the Jocotoco Foundation for one and a half days in March 2003. On this very brief initial visit, I was able to find four of these rare restricted-range species of orchids: Lepanthes exogena, Lepanthes ejecta, Pleurothallis vegrandis, and Epidendrum dalessandroi. Lepanthes exogena had last been seen in 1985, and Lepanthes ejecta had last been seen in 1986. Both were relatively common in less-disturbed forest near the Casa Simpson, the research station inside the reserve. Epidendrum dalessandroi grew in the same spot. Pleurothallis vegrandis had only been known from the original type-specimen collected in 1985; I found a single plant of it. These findings suggest that most of the other 25 Tapichalaca endemics also still survive somewhere in the reserve, though disturbance near the road and along accessible ridgelines has probably eliminated the populations that were found in the 1980s. The absence of collections of these species in recent years highlights the danger they face from regional deforestation.  It is very clear that Tapichalaca is a globally important reserve for the region's plants as well as for its birds.

 

Lepanthes exogena, apparently found only in the Tapichalaca Reserve.
Lepanthes ejecta, another species found so far only within the Tapichalaca Reserve.

      Click here for my collection data for this reserve, with identifications and photos as they become available.

 

 

Orchids of the Jocotoco Foundation Reserves
 
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