Brazil-nut Tree…‘Castanheiro do Para’ Its amazing reproduction system.

Brazil-nut Tree…‘Castanheiro do Para’ (Brazil)

Brazil-nut trees are huge. They can reach over 200 feet/30 metres high. They dominate the forest and are protected by law from cutting down. They grow in pristine forest, necessary for their complicated reproduction system.

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At the very beginning of the reproduction system the Brazil nut tree needs an orchid and a bee.
The orchid bee (Euglossa) collects nectar from the flowering Brazil nut trees. These specialist bees have a long tongue that can open the flower.
As they collect nectar the bees spread pollen from tree to tree fertilising the yellow Brazil nut tree flowers and thereby the fruit…the nuts.
The male orchid bees attract females with the fragrance from a particular orchid. The larger female orchid bee pollinates the Brazil-nut Tree.

The nuts, that we know are the seeds of the tree, which are enclosed in a large husk similar to that of a coconut. The shell is rock solid and needs to be opened with a sharp machete to release the 8 to 24 seeds, so how does it get opened in the wild?
The answer is the Agouti. A large rodent with razor sharp, chisel-like teeth. The agouti eats some of the seeds and takes off others to bury them for later. If some of the seeds are forgotten they will eventually germinate and grow into new trees.

Brazil-nut husks ready for opening. The empty shells I used as plant pots and holders.

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The Brazil-nut Tree needs a bee, an orchid and an agouti to reproduce. It needs pristine, untouched forest for these conditions to be met. Deforestation, even if the tree is kept in place, can affect anyone of these conditions so that reproduction cannot take place and we lose a magnificent tree as well as a delicious food source.

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Amazon Giant Water Lily…Amazon plants, Brazil.

Amazon Giant Water Lily.

The Amazon Giant Water Lily has a fascinating reproduction system.

The white female Lily opens at night. A beetle, the Scarab Beetle, covered with a dusting of male pollen,is attracted to the strong, sweet perfume of the female flower and moves in to feed on the nectar. In the morning when the sun rises and the temperature increases the flower closes and some of the beetles are trapped. They continue to feed on the nectar throughout the day, distributing male pollen on the lily as they do. This results in the white female flower turning pink and become male. At nightfall the now pink male flower opens, the beetle is released covered with a dusting of male pollen and it moves onto another white female flower to begin the whole cycle again.

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The reproduction system of this flower and other flowers and trees in the forest are held in a delicate balance. Disrupt this balance and the whole eco-system collapses and we will be the losers.

Canoes…the lifelines/transport of the rainforest.

Canoes…the lifelines of the rainforest.

Boats are a very necessary part of river life. Canoes are particularly important to rainforest life. With no roads in most areas of the forest, canoes are the only way to get around.
Usually built by the communities or individuals, each canoe will be a one-off.
Large and evergreen Hymenaea trees produce a dense hardwood which is often the wood of choice for indigenous canoe makers. The Jatoba/Hymenaea tree is called in Brazil the Brazilian Cherry or Brazilian copal.

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Canoes were for sale on the harbour side at Manacapuru, Amazonia. And delivered to the door by…..yes, canoe.

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Whole families pile on to these small canoes to get around. There is a family group of nine in this photo, but I’ve seen even more people in a small canoe. The water reaches the sides and splashes in, but is met with indifference by the passengers. Used to the river and its possible dangers they appear to have no fear of sinking, but as a precautionary measure litre bottles of soft drinks are cut in half and used as bailers to ensure the canoes aren’t completely flooded. They are an essential item in a canoe.

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Often too, small children can be seen on the rivers alone in canoes, expert oarsmen at a very young age. Sent off to run errands or fish for the families supper, their use of the canoe is second nature.

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Oars are still a popular way of propelling the canoe through the water, but small engines are becoming a desirable way of moving the canoe, particularly by the young.
These little engines, called tuc tucs because of the sound they make, are very noisy. The sound reverberates throughout the forest….they remind me of those awful little motorbikes that can be heard on English roads, driven by young men at full speed and full volume without regard for anyone else.
Oars are silent, they move the canoe through the water as if it was a creature of the forest. They fit, but then that is a romantic view to take. The reality of life in the forest, for the people who live on river banks, is quickening as they embrace western values and engines are a necessary part of that need for more speed.

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Some of my most pleasant memories of the rainforest include a canoe and silence, broken only by birdsong, the murmuring of trees and the rush of water over rocks.

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Thanks to Argentumvulgaris for info on ‘tuc tucs’.