Archive for September, 2015

Rogelio de Córdoba

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

rogelio horse

Rogelio from Córdoba Spain spent a few days with us here at Mount Totumas. He recently graduated from Cambridge University in England with a botany degree. He has been spending time here in Panama doing some post graduate work on Barro Colorado Island in association with the Smithsonian. We enjoyed lively conversations about ecology and the ethics of conservation and the challenges of our species going forward this century. Most of all Rogelio enjoyed his time spent with Reinaldo on their adventures in the cloud forest. Here are some highlights

moss hippies Moss Hippies on the top of Mount Totumas at 2630m

moss hippies 3

moss hippies 2

bee nest A common hymenoptera nest found on the trails. Let’s take this back to the Homestead for lunch

wasp larvae lunch 1

wasp larvae lunch 2
The larvae inside the nest are a great source of protein, simply delicious eaten with rice. Goes down well with a fresh glass of Naranjilla Chicha drink.

rogelio machete
Rogelio blazing the trail with machete heading up to the top of Totumas

rogelio on top of totumas
At the peak in the pristine old growth Mamecillo forest.

collared forest falcon 2
A raptor in the forest. We had a good look at these pics back at the lodge.

collared forest falcon with arrow and text
An immature Collared Forest Falcon. You can barely make out the black crescent on the face. A diagnostic field mark.

quetzal 334
Resplendent Quetzal spotted on the trail heading up to the top of Mount Totumas

indian ppipe A parasitic Indian Pipe, red variety, spotted on the trail.

rogelio romulo

Rogelio arrived at Mount Totumas on foot walking the 10km 4WD road up from Silla Pando. On his departure day he took one of our horses back down to the main road.

Rogelio, Esperamos verte nuevamente en el futuro, suerte con tus estudios y te esperamos muchas aventuras.

The Tenuous Life of Orchids

Saturday, September 12th, 2015

orchid 300

In the cloud forest there is a constant recycling of plant material, more so than in most plant communities. A visiting botanist recently commented that old growth trees in cloud forest are rarely older than 200-250 years. The year round high moisture content results that trees are often in varying degrees of decomposition of their heart woods, and we have witnessed in the past few years some giant patriarchs falling bringing with them neighboring trees. The resultant light gap starts succession anew with pioneer species rapidly closing the gap within a few years. Primary forest is therefore somewhat messy here, with varying stages of succession happening all at once. Contrast this to an old growth Sequoia grove in the Sierras where trees thousands of years old form stable primary forests sometime for centuries before an old growth tree falls.

Orchids and other epiphytes in cloud forests have quite the tenuous life growing as they do on the inherently unstable structures of tree branches and tree trunks. How often on our walks through the forest do we come across fallen trees or branches draped and loaded with bromeliads and orchids. Here they lie in the darkness of the forest floor doomed to perish with the low light intensities insufficient to maintain their growth and reproduction. We often come to the rescue and give these plants a second chance, bringing back to our greenhouse fallen epiphytes and potting them or attaching them to the trees of our common area. In the case of orchids we often don’t know what species they belong to until the flower. Even then we often need help in identifying them. Here are two examples of orchids that we rescued and that have now flowered, revealing their identities. There is something rewarding about giving these plants a second chance to mature and reproduce.

orchid 301

orchid 302

orchid 304

Baird’s Tapir at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest

Sunday, September 6th, 2015


Look what wandered out of La Amistad National Park on to our Big Tree Loop Trail. The largest land mammal of Central America, The Baird’s Tapir. Unbelievable and yet we had spotted tracks and had suspected the presence of this incredible species on our refuge. We are speechless and honored.


Solanaceous Jams: Arbol de Tomate y Naranjilla

Saturday, September 5th, 2015

tomatoe fruit 1

The tomatoe family was many well known members: tomatoes, tobacco, eggplant, peppers, potatoes. Many are toxic like the nightshades. There are also quite species that produce edible fruit. There are two species that thrive up here in our cool montane climate, The Arbol de Tomate (Solanum betaceum) , and Naranjilla (solanum quitoense). Both species are native to montane areas of South America.

tomatoe fruit 11
Solanum betaceum Arbol de Tomate

naranjilla 1
Solanum quitoense Naranjilla
naranjilla 2

In preparation for our high season we decided to make some jam from these two fruits. Here is the harvest

tomatoe fruit 3

tomatoe fruit 2

Cutting open the fruit and extracting the fruit

tomatoe fruit 5

tomatoe fruit 4

tomatoe fruit 6

Into the blender

tomatoe fruit 8

tomatoe fruit 7

And the finished product
tomatoe fruit 10

tomatoe fruit 9

Loaded with vitamin C. Next high season our guests will enjoy an exotic tomatoe fruit solanacous Jam!

Chris Chased by Top Predator on The Puma Trail

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Chris, a visiting entomologist, encountered a dangerous apex predator while hiking the Puma Trail here at Mount Totumas.

Native landscaping plants

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

elleanthus glaucophyluus 1
Elleanthus Glaucophyllus

This beautiful terrestrial orchid is growing on the steep embankment right off the path to the lodge. How have we missed this the past couple of years having walked by this spot at least 100 times?

elleanthus glaucophyluus 2

elleanthus glaucophyluus 3

monnina sp 2
Monnina sp.

This shrub is common here and this specimen is actually a small tree. The small pea like flowers are attractive and the plant tolerates strong wind. We plan of planting more of these along our pathways.

monnina sp 1

Both the orchid and shrub were identified by Cynthia Fletcher who visited Mount Totumas recently with the Boquete Hiking Club.

Thanks Cynthia for the ID help.