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Lalo Loor Dry Forest
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Plants at the Lalo Loor Reserve


Oncidium hyphaematicum Although the abundance of orchids in deciduous forests is lower than in wetter habitats, our observations in a limited area in the Lalo Loor Dry Forest reserve indicate high species diversity and suggest several areas for further study. During recent surveys we found 27 species of orchids in at least 23 genera. Dimeranda rimbachii is the most abundant epiphytic orchid at BSLL, growing on virtually every large canopy tree, at least within the elevational range we sampled. Other abundant and widespread species include Notylia sp., Catasetum expansum, Oncidium hyphaematicum (left), and Lockhartia serra. Other species were found only in low numbers or near the upper extent of our sample, such as Psychopsis kramerianum (right) and Huntleya fasciata. Cattleya maxima and an Epidendrum species were found growing at Punta Prieta, a private property about 10 km to the south, but are likely also to occur at BSLL. As surveys becomes more exhaustive, we hope to clarify these distribution patterns further. We also expect that a sampling of the higher elevations will yield additional species, such as the Lycaste and Sobralia species previously found during a survey by the National Herbarium in a forest nearby. If you are interested, please view our current orchid list.

Bromeliads and other Epiphytes

Giant Spathophyllum aroidIn addition to orchids, the coastal dry forest is rich in other epiphytes (plants that live on trees) such as bromeliads and aroids (Taro relatives). Epiphytes use a variety of adaptations to survive the hot dry season, including using root or stem tissue for storage. Perhaps the most famous example of this approach is the cactus, which stores moisture in its spiny trunk (and there are epiphytic cacti!), but other plants do the same: orchids use their pseudobulbs (swollen upper roots), while bromeliads and aroids (pictured) collect leaf litter and moisture around their leaf bases. These arboreal plants often are homes to many kinds of animals, such as frogs, which often lay their eggs in bromeliad "tanks" when other water is not available.


Studies of the trees in the Lalo Loor reserve, by the National Herbarium in Quito, have turned up some very surprising discoveries. Among these is Exothea paniculata (Fam:  Sapindaceae), which although not uncommon within the reserve, has Ceiba trichastandra green trunknever been discovered elsewhere in Ecuador!  In fact, the nearest record for this species is over 1000 km away.  Several other species either rare, or completely new to science, also have been found in the reserve. The National Herbarium has established two permanent 1-ha plots within the reserve, already exhaustively sampled, which will be monitored year-round to track plant phenology: the pattern of fruiting and flowering throughout the year.

Common to the region, particularly the southern and more dry portion of the Manabí province, is the striking green giant Ceiba trichastandra. Spiny when young, to prevent herbivores from damaging the trunk, this tree has green bark that is photosynthetically-active even when the tree sheds its leaves in the dry season. Because of the height and enormous weight of these trees, they develop buttresses near their bases that spread out and help support their immense mass.

Also abundant in the reserve are a diverse assortment of palms. These include spiny Bactris palms (used elsewhere as indigenous blowguns), towering Attalea palms (whose fruits are sought by parrots and macaws), and the vegetable ivory palm known as Tagua (nuts from which are fashioned into all manner of artesian crafts).


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