Mycoheterotrophs of Atlantic forest, Bahia, Brazil

October 6, 2010

No sooner discovered my first local mycoheterotroph Voyria tenella Hook, of Gentianaceae (http://bit.ly/atxXaX), on one of my short motorbike trips to the nearby patch of virgin Atlantic forest, accompanied (actually driven) by my house help (turned fellow plant and animal collector) Louro, as another mycoheterotroph, this time from Burmanniaceae, was spotted when looking for a good-size infructescence of what I eventually (and provisionally) was able to determine to be Orthomene schomburgkii (Miers) Barneby & Krukoff, of Menispermaceae (http://bit.ly/9Cbfjv).  Its pale looking chlorophyll-less inflorescences were barely noticeable in the midst of the layer of decaying leaves in the dark of the understory vegetation.

Habitat

We collected some specimens of it and, upon photographing, put them in the 70% alcohol solution for deposit into my plant collection at the HUEFS (Herbarium of the State University at Feira de Santana, Bahia, Brazil).

At home I was unable to come up with the family and genus ID, using my available resources (mostly those of the Internet), apart from realizing that like Voyria tenella it was a mycoheterotroph.  I then sent some of its images to Daniel Nickrent, a well-known specialist in parasitic plants at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale who had previously identified my Voyria species.  In a couple of hours I had his feedback: Gymnosiphon species, of Burmanniaceae, a new family record in my study of the local flora.  An online search for its distribution records for Bahia, Brazil, using SpeciesLink (a database of several Brazilian herbaria holdings, http://bit.ly/agXYU8), narrowed down the species search to Gymnosiphon divaricatus (Benth.) Benth. & Hook. f., as the only species recorded for my area. Some additional research of the available images and a perusal of the Flora Neotropica monograph of the family by Paul Maas and collaborators (vol. 42, Burmanniaceae, 1986) confirmed the species ID.  The Latin ‘divaricatus’ means ‘straggly, spreading’, evidently in reference to the bifurcate form of this plant’s inflorescence and the general ‘straggly’ appearance.

Bifurcate inflorescence

According to Maas, the flowers are scented.  I haven’t felt any noticeable scent.

The species is distributed in forests of Central and South America.

Additional images are on my Flickr pages (http://bit.ly/cTZvSL).

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3 Responses to “Mycoheterotrophs of Atlantic forest, Bahia, Brazil”

  1. Mercedes Arbo Says:

    Hola Alex, qué interesante el hallazgo!! Sé lo difíciles que son de encontrar esas plantas.
    Te felicito!! Saludos cordiales de Mercedes


  2. Hola!
    Espero que no te importe que incluya tu Web entre los links de mi Blog.
    Gracias y felicidades por el gran trabajo!


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