Whether flora or fauna, Reserva Las Gralarias continues to be a place of new discoveries!

RLG Has a Monkey Pot Tree!

By Jane A. Lyons

Vice-president, Las Gralarias Foundation

One of my favorite trees at Reserva Las Gralarias (RLG) has always been a hugely strong and what I call "moss-resistant" tree laden with bromeliads which are full of rain frogs (at elevation 2060 m). I have wondered what species of tree it is ever since 2002. The flowers and bark are quite different from any other trees I have found on the reserve but I never have been able to ID the tree – until now. 

One day recently walking below the tree, I saw a brown clay pot hanging from a branch of the tree. I said something like “What the heck is that?” to the group I was with. We all mused about what it was and what might be inside and then we noticed a second hanging pot in the same tree. I thought some human must have left clay pots in the tree and for some odd reason I had never noticed them. Kathy Krynak thought the pots might have some kind of bees, wasps, ants or other social creatures nesting inside. Not knowing what might be living inside, we left both pots alone.  

I considered the lidded pots could perhaps be a sort of seed pod of the tree or of an inquiline in the tree, similar to our cloud forest mahogany tree fruits. So I checked my Gentry guide and eventually found nice illustrations of the tree family Lecythidaceae (the Brazil Nut family), with illustrations of some of the pot-like seed capsules found in some of the trees in this family. Although the descriptions did not fit exactly our tree, they were close enough to make me think this was the family our tree belonged to and that, indeed, these were its seed capsules.

"Lecythidaceae" is a word that comes from Latin meaning "vessel" or "flask" (common English name is sweetgum), and the clay-pot-looking fruit is called a pixidium ("monkey pot"). In Spanish, our Monkey Pot Tree is Árbol de Ollas.

One of the pods was slightly cracked open and it fell to the ground on 31 May. It weighed slightly less than one pound. When the bottom portion came off of the pot, I felt as though I had found a pot of gold! Inside there were six large "seeds" sitting cozily within a thin, sticky caramel-colored goo.

Considering that this tree is about 60 m from my house and at the start of a frequently walked trail, I have to think the tree has not borne any such fruits since at least 2002, at least none that I nor any visitors to RLG have ever seen. Now after at least 15 years and at the end of one of our rainiest rainy seasons, it has produced a grand total of TWO pixidium fruits/pot-like seed capsules. And with these it has given away its secret identification.  

We have planted the six seeds of the first pod and are awaiting the second pod’s grand opening. According to some references, these pot-like fruits take 10 months to ripen. According to the New York Botanical Garden, “Neotropical Lecythidaceae are among the most spectacular plants in the world because of their showy flowers and large woody fruits.” With the help of experts at the New York Botanical Gardens and the University of Guayaquil we have identified the genus as Eschweilera and are trying to determine the exact species of this tree. Stay tuned!

Reference:  A Field Guide to the Families and Genera of Woody Plants of Northwest South America. 1993. Alwyn H. Gentry. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago.


Exciting Sightings!

By Jane Lyons

Rainy season ended pretty much the end of May and summer began the next day, with a few rains still around at night by mid-June. Here we all love the rain but it is always nice to have some sunny summer weather!

April & May: A pair of Plain-breasted Hawks pestered our feeder birds and caught at least some. Most of the feeder birds quickly shifted to alert mode and have stayed hidden and/or moving quickly with mixed species flocks which come through our gardens. The birds stop only briefly to feed and especially seem to want to bathe (including the first foliage-gleaner I have ever seen bathing in our bird baths).

        Plain-breasted Hawk                     . . . and Pumpkin hiding from it.

Late May - early June:  At least 3 different male Wattled Guans heard calling a lot both in the Parrot Hill area and nearer the river. It is nice to know our three species of guans (Sickle-winged, Wattled and Crested) are all doing well at RLG.

9 June:  Club-winged Manakins singing and displaying around the houses.

10 June:  FOS Monarch Butterfly on our patios (2068m elevation), looking a bit bedraggled which makes me wonder from how far away did it travel? 


Our Amazing Volunteers!


THANKS to all the wonderful people who volunteer at and for Reserva Las Gralarias! Here is an update:

Dr. Kathy Krynak and her assistants Dana Wessels and Kristy Becker did astounding work over 3 months during the peak rainy season studying RLG's frogs, waterways and aquatic insects. Their work was supported by Tim Krynak who helped transport equipment and spent a week volunteering with the project. 

In April we were fortunate to have Carlos Cuenca, an architect from Spain, and Ana Dolenc, a biologist from Slovenia, spend the month volunteering at Las Gralarias. They recorded amazing photos and videos as well as observational data of flora and fauna throughout the reserve. You will see more of their superb photos in the future!

Kudos to Marcelo Quipo who has documented 5 new bird species for RLG:  Brown-billed Scythebill, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Southern Nightingale-Wren, Indigo Flower-piercer, Scarlet-rumped Cacique plus a first elevational record of Tawny-throated Leaftosser at 2100 m!

Congratulations to 2016 RLG Volunteer Ray So who has accepted a position in the Hong Kong Government's conservation department working on biodiversity conservation. Ray spent 3 months as a volunteer at RLG and provided spectacular photos and data for our records.

Thanks to all of our awesome Board members and our HUM and CHIRP editors for always being there to help:  reviewing our publications, offering their expertise and time, and contributing financial support.

RLG would not exist without such wonderful conservationists!


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Credits: Guayaquil Woodpecker and Plain-breasted Hawk photos courtesy of Marcelo Quipo; all other photos courtesy of Jane Lyons; Fawn-breasted Brilliant Hummingbird courtesy of Greg Lambeth; Chirp! design by Francie Bolter






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Las Gralarias Foundation · 24140 Gessner Rd · North Olmsted, OH 44070 · USA

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