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Collecting Solanaceae from the Amazon, Andes, and Western Coast of Ecuador (January to February, 2009)
Collection trip: Republic of EcuadorDate collected:January 2009 to February 2009
This five-week collecting trip was focused on collecting Solanaceae from the Amazon, Andes, and Western Coast of Ecuador. We were based in Quito at the Herbario Nacional (QCNE) and received a lot of help from the staff there. Additionally, we spent time at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (QCA) and the Biblioteca Ecuatoriana Aurelio Espinosa Pólit (QPLS) examining the Sodiro collections.
We spent our first two weeks working our way down eastern slopes of the Andes into the Amazon. We had a few very productive days at the Yanayacu Biological Station near Cosanga collecting a number of fascinating cloud forest specimens before descending into the steaming lowlands. Our base in the Amazon was the Universidad Internacional SEK Biological Station in Limoncocha. Here we collected a new species in the Herpystichum clade which will soon be described by Eric Tepe.
After a couple of days in Quito to dry our collections, we headed to the coastal lowlands. Our route took us south by the base of the extinct volcano Chimborazo, the highest peak in Ecuador. Unfortunately this snowcapped mountain offered little collecting opportunity so we had to pass by without summiting. On this descent to the lowlands we were able to collect Solanum over an altitudinal gradient from a lofty 4000 m to the, once again, steaming lowlands at <100 m.
Our first stay in the lowlands was at the Río Palenque Biological Reserve, where Freddy Villao, the resident biologist, joined us for the next week of lowland collecting. Río Palenque Biological Reserve contains some of the last intactlowland forests in Ecuador as most of the rest of the land has been converted into banana, pineapple, and African oil palm plantations. After scouring Río Palenque for Solanum, we headed to the coast in the Manabi Province to look for a new species in the Gonatotrichum clade. This species had been very rarely collected and remained unnamed. We luckily found two populations, one as a very sparse population during a death march up Cerro Montecristi and another population growing as a roadside weed very close to the Pacific Ocean.
Our final field stop was the Bilsa Biological Reserve in the Coastal Mountains. This Reserve was a challenge to get to as the rainy season turns the road into a 14 km slog through knee-deep mud. Luckily we were able to rent mules to help with the march, however, the rough wooden saddles left much to be desired for the tender botanists. Collecting here was guided using a checklist produced in part by former PBI:Solanum post-doc John L. Clark. We were able to collect most of the species in the checklist and have a few species to add to his list!