text by Stig Dalstrom and Lou
photo by Stig Dalstrom
The bulldozed area is north of Mera, central Ecuador, from an area called Rio Anzu Reserve that is being bought and protected by the EcoMinga Foundation. The picture was taken years ago when settlers first started to cut their way through the virgin forest.
Deforestation still continues as the main crop in the area, naranjilla (Solanum quitoense), needs recently deforested land in order to grow well. Naranjilla (Ecuadorian Spanish) or lulo (Colombian Spanish) is a subtropical perennial, spreading, herbaceous shrub growing up to 8 ft (2.5 m) high with thick stems that become somewhat woody with age. The species is endemic to Ecuador. Naranjilla have large heart-shaped leaves up to 30 cm in length. Naranjilla’s primary use is as a juice. The green juice is strained, sweetened, and served with ice cubes as a cool, foamy drink. Naranjilla must be protected from strong winds and grows best in partial shade. In Ecuador, 90% of commercial naranjilla cultivation is in a 15-mile area in the valley and adjacent hillsides of the Pastaza River, a tributary of the Amazon.
The road margins were deforested long ago and then abandoned, and now are covered with second-growth forest. This is still not great for naranjilla cultivation, so people are now deforesting the next strip of land behind this, farther from the road. They are also extracting timber constantly. A second tract of land that EcoMinga bought was about to be cleared for naranjilla by the owner. We have found a bunch of new species there: Masdevallia louii, Masdevallia stigii, Lepathes ruthiana, and more are being found.
Further Information links:
EcoMinga Foundation: https://www.ecominga.net
EcoMinga Foundation's Rio Anzu Reserve: https://www.ecominga.net/Anzu.htm
Lou Jost website: https://www.loujost.com
The EcoMinga Foundation is a conservation organization participating in the Orchid Conservation Coalition
Masdevallia loui photo by Lou Jost
Masdevallia stigii photo by Lou Jost