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.
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.
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.
Nesting in the dragons mouth. Silver-beaked Tanagers..Northern Tegus and Ameiva lizards (Ramphocelus carbo..Tupinambis and Ameiva Ameiva)
Sunrise would see me sitting in my rocking chair on the verandah of my Amazon rainforest home, a Brazilian black coffee in one hand, a slice of honey and manioc cake in the other, camera on lap.
I waited to see what new discoveries would present themselves and never was I disappointed.
This particular morning it was the Silver- beaked Tanagers who would surprise me.
Close to the lodge, just a few meters away was a low, thick bush, surrounded by tall grasses. The tanagers decided to make a nest there.
The tanagers were regular visitors around the lodge. I saw them several times a day. There were five or six females and a male. The male was smartly feathered, with smooth black plumage and a contrasting silver beak. The females were slightly bigger, with reddish brown, untidy plumage.
The male often perched above the females and called with a high pitched peep, as loud as his little body would let him.
I had noticed him acting differently as the dry season came to an end. He would peep, peep, peep and shake his feathers vigorously as he did.
On this morning I could see why. A mate had been attracted and they were nesting. The female seemed to be doing all the work making a cup shaped nest, while the male perched above peeping in encouragement.
There was a problem though. Beneath the chosen bush two species of lizard crept. The Northern Tegu and the Ameiva. It seemed the tanagers were laying their eggs straight into the dragons mouth
The Northern Tegu is a rich brown and black striped lizard, heavily muscled and handsome. The much smaller Ameiva lizard is a beautiful lizard, turquoise blue and pale green. Both equally able to crush and eat the two eggs laid by the tanagers.
The nest was finished over the next few days and the two little green-blue eggs with black-brown blotches were laid inside it, but sadly I had to leave before seeing the final outcome. Silver-beaked Tanagers often nest in low bushes so must be aware of the dangers, it would have been interesting to see how they protected their tiny clutch.
There are thousands of species of Butterfly and Moth in the Amazon Rainforest.
Here are just three types:
The beautiful swallow tails would come and suck moisture from my skin. Their black legs and tongues, as thin as a strand of cotton, tickled. There is something about the shape of these butterflies with their forked tails, which is immensely pleasing and the colours are astonishing. Scarlet and black, turquoise and black, black with a sharp green edge, gorgeous.
When not on my skin, they would take the moisture from cleaning sponges and soaps left on the harbour side for washing up.
The Owl butterfly preferred the wooden legs of the lodge and could have blended into the wood with their brown and cream colouring, had it not been for the distinctive eyes on each wing, which deterred predators. They are amongst the largest of the forests butterflies.
The small, dead moth, I found on the table. Beautiful even in death.
The splash of water in the foreground was a deadly pyramid of red bellied piranhas, twisting and turning in the river, their red and silver scales shining in the sunlight. They had caught and finished off a hapless victim, maybe one of the yellow kiskadees that had lost its footing on the fallen branches.
A tree that means a lot to me is the Astrocaryum vulgare. It is a palm tree, the seeds of which produce a black wood. Indigenous people, unable to afford gold, used the black wood for marriage rings.
Christian missionaries wore them as a sign of solidarity with the poor. A symbol of a desire for equality, social justice and human rights.
I was given by friends both a solid black wood ring and an Amazon gold and black wood ring. The man who gave me the gold and black wood ring said the gold symbolised the richness of the country I came from and the black wood the forest he came from, forever entwined. I wear them everyday to remind me of the forest to which I am eternally bound.