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Making order out of chaos

Posted by Tiina Apr 10, 2012

29th March – Good bye to Freddy our car

Today we had to say goodbye to Freddy, our lovely and most faithful car. We are finally back in Lima!

 

The day passed sorting things out, and clearing and cleaning Freddy. Presses went back to the Museum’s store room, specimens into our preparation area, and so on. Most importantly, Paul re-united with his family – his 2 year old daughter Fabiana was full of smiles! In the evening we all went for a nice cake and ice cream to celebrate our safe homecoming.

 

 

30th March – Digitalising field notes

I have been typing our field notes bit by bit into our database. I started the job whilst we were in Arequipa. Yesterday I used the long drive to type some more in the car. Today I have spent all day doing this, and now as the typing has finished I am focusing on preparing herbarium labels. Our database software has a great interface for designing your labels – but you need to do some technical stuff to get the labels look perfect. It is pretty much like programming language, that is how it feels. Quite nice, very nice balance after all the field work.

 

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Once the label design is correct, the labels need to be proof read. It is good to make sure they look perfect – they will remain with the specimens for years to come!! Sandy sent us acid free paper from UK, so that we can print the labels properly. For long term storage, it is important to use acid free paper. These specimens are going to be five star top quality!

 

 

2nd April – Applying for an export permit

Our labels are ready now! We printed them out, and then cut them neatly.

 

label making (Mobile).JPG

 

I sorted the labels into numeric order and then off we went to the herbarium to put them with the specimens! It felt great, we were very excited seeing the specimens all ready to be mounted and processed into the museum.

 

We had a small party to celebrate us finishing. Lemon pie and passion fruit limonade, yum yum! Here is the crew of the San Marcos herbarium, you can see the beautiful garden just outside:

 

herbarium party (Mobile).JPG

 

Celebrations were also due as we handed in our export permit application this morning. We had prepared all the documents, and the museum’s secretary at the San Marcos herbarium had helped us to prepare another document necessary for the application. All that hard work paid off, and now we are just waiting to hear back from the Environmental Ministry.

 

 

3rd-4th April – Back in the herbarium with plants

Time to catch up with herbarium work. With all our experience now from our field trip, it is great to be back in the herbarium identifying specimens, and studying the material with more time in our hands.

 

Lima has two other herbaria in the Universidad Nacional Agraria Lamolina (MOL). We visited one of these herbaria today, the Weberbauer herbarium. The collection is rich in types, as many taxonomists used Weberbauer’s high quality specimens to describe new species. Unfortunately, the top duplicates used for describing these species were deposited in Berlin. These duplicates were destroyed during the Second World War, and now the remaining duplicates, many of which are in the Weberbauer herbarium in Lima, are extremely important. If they exist, they can be used to lectotypify the names for which types have been destroyed.

 

I needed to search through the material to find if some duplicates of Solanum sandianum or Solanum planifurcum might exist. I managed to find three specimens which are types of Solanum names, but none of them were the ones I was after. Good job done though, now these specimens can be scanned and put online for other taxonomists to use.

 

Here we are in the midst of annotating and databasing the material, with Professora Vilcapoma in the background.

 

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5th April – Beautiful Lima

It is officially Semana Santa! The museum is closed today, and we are taking some time off to explore the city.

 

Lima is going through a heat wave. Generally in late March Lima is foggy. The fog enters from the Pacific, and takes over the city. With fog, there is less sun and the atmosphere in the city is cold, humid and dim. This year, however, the fog has not arrived yet despite it being April already. Instead, it is +35 degrees celcius every day, full sun shine.

 

We took a walk on the beach to touch the Pacific. Emilio Perales, a junior lecturer from the forestry department of the Universidad Nacional Agraria Lamolina, joined us on our walk – and got into a water war with Andrew!

 

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Emilio explained to us how the local public transport system works. Lima’s famous micros are mindboggling to most tourists. Busses do not have numbers or routes, but instead, they are colour coded. The bus system is not that official even – it seems bus lines are just born out of necessity, rather than planned by the council. Anybody can become a bus driver as well, there is no licence involved.

 

Here are examples of the bus lines: the blue white line:

 

blue white (Mobile).JPG

 

These busses go from Avenida Arequipa through the Ovalo in Miraflores to Chorrillos via Barranco. It’s a great bus as it takes the more scenic route through Larcomar along the coast.

 

Another one is the red white bus that comes to Chorillos too, but it takes a different route throught Avenida Tacna.

 

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Then there are the more complex bus lines, like the green bus with black roof, two green stripes, one white stripe, and red at the bottom. Who knows where it goes …

 

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The yellow white bus comes to Chorrillos through Abancay

 

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I wish there would be a guide to these busses, but there isn’t. You just have to learn them as you go. It is quite an anarchistic public transport system. The bus drivers are not licensed either. I suppose you wake up one morning, decide to become a bus driver, hackle for a bus, buy it cheap, and paint it (this is the important part!). The next most important thing you need to become a successful bus line is a fierce assistant. We call these assistants bus pimps. The assistant’s job is to shout the route aloud from the moving bus, by hanging from the open bus door and by making as much noice and hand waving as you possibly can. If you accidentally make an eye contact with the bus pimps, you will quickly find yourself inside a bus on a route to somewhere – they are very keen on getting more customers!

 

Once you’ve got your head around the general system, you are off. The busses drive extremely arrogantly, which means you get to your destination fast.

 

People don’t believe me about the colour code when I try to explain it to them, so I hope the blog will help to de-mystify the system to any confused tourists in Lima.

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24th March – Night in the mountains

 

The night was cold in the car. Time passed slowly. At five thirty, suns first rays become visible, and by six the rays warmed us enough through the glass to tempt us out of Freddy.

 

By 7 am we had set up our field office. We started with our fruits first, as there were lots of them to do:

 

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Then we prepared all the specimens we had collected before yesterday’s accident, ready to be dried under our gas fire. Once that was done, we continued with the seeds. Sandy has a clever technique for drying seeds: you squeez fruits onto newspaper, then fold the newspaper and let the seeds dry onto the newspaper naturally in air over a few nights before bagging them into proper envelopes for long term storage.

 

By 9 am we were back at the fruits, there were still few to be done.

 

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Then we started to clean the car, and to re-organise our things. Whilst clearing our things, we realised we could ring Paul to ask how things were. We were so excited about this! We took our british mobile, charged it with my laptop which had nearly full charge, and rang Paul. He gave us great news: he had two tires with him, one new and one fixed, and he was on his way to us!

 

By 12 am we had eaten our lunch, and had nothing left to do except play with stones.

 

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By 2.40 pm we saw a bus – this was it! Paul was on it!!! Happy re-union, and before too long, Freddy had new shoes!

 

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That night we were happy to be in a hotel, sleeping in nice beds, and eating lovely food in Arequipa. Ahhhh.

 

 

25th March – One man down

Paul has been conquered by bacteria – he has tonsillitis!! Lucky that we are in a big city with great doctors. Paul is now resting and all is well. We are feeling bad that all this drama with the tyres might have caused him to fall ill …

 

 

26th March – Herbarium visit

Arequipa is big – it’s one of the biggest cities in Peru. There is a great university, with a great local herbarium. Paul and I had planned a visit, and despite Paul’s poor health, he demanded to come along to the herbarium today with me.

 

Going to a new herbarium feels like opening a treasure chest: what will the folders contain? Will there be something weird but wondeful, perhaps some potential new species hiding away? Here we are looking:

 

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Indeed we found something curious – a specimen similar of the tiniest of all solanums, Solanum chamaesarachidium, which we had seen earlier in our trip in Puno as well as in Argentina. But it wasn’t quite the same, there was something different – different leaf shape, larger calyces where lobes are more fused, and larger inflorescences with longer pedicels and peduncles. The specimen was without flowers though, leaving more to the imagination!

 

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We decided that the next day we would go and see if we could hunt it down – locality: on the way to Canyon de Colca from Chivay!

 

 

27th March – Hunting for the rare one

We were so hopeful yesterday! The trip to Canyon de Colca was a long one, and by the time we got to our destination, we had only little time to explore the area by foot. Temptation took over, and we spent until 5pm walking around the hills, trying to find a minute species of Solanum hiding behind rocks and shrubs.

 

We found other stuff, like my favorite Solanum excisirhombeum, the usual suspect in high elevations:

 

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In the lower elevations, in dry sand dunes, we collected Exodeconus, genus of Solanaceae that is adapted to extremely dry conditions:

 

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See how the anthers are light blue, just poking out from the flower in the above picture, and more clearly visible in the lower one:

 

exodeconus (2) (Mobile).JPG

 

But we did not find the rare specimen we had seen in the herbarium yesterday. What was most fustrating was that the specimen came with exact latitude and longitude position, and with the help of our GPS, we should have been able to find it! But it turned out that the position given on the label was 5 km from the road, and we did not have time to walk that far. It was difficult turning back…

 

 

28th March – Sea, finally!!

This morning it was time to head home – it has been 27 days traveling through the south of Peru now, and we are all missing our families and friends. It feels good to look back. We have found great things, many which require more work in the herbarium to figure out if they are perhaps something new.

 

We have also done some silly mistakes from which we have learnt a lot. The big tour we did after leaving Sandy in Cusco was not, afterall, all that exciting. The road did not pass great Solanum habitats, and hence, we did not collect as much as we expected. With hindsight, we should have taken another road. But then again, if we would have done that, we would not have found the isolated population of the white flowered Solanum chamaesarachidium near Marcapata!

 

When we saw the sea this afternoon around 3pm, it was a great moment. The Panamerican highway descents from Arequipa slowly to the coast at Camana – what a view. We have made it to over so many mountain passes, it felt that seeing the sea symbolised safe homecoming.

 

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21st March – Neotypifying, and yet again, neotypifying

 

Panic over! We found cash and didn't have to wash any dishes. It was the well known classic "going to the bank" method that saved us . Lucky we had some US dollars to change into Peruvian nuevo soles. Still running strong, fuel in the car, food in the stomachs, and money burning in the pockets .

 

Yesterday we drove all day for nearly 300 km on small mountain roads just to get to Sandia. The reason we so desperately want to collect around here is that there are two species described from around Sandia that need re-typification. This is because the material that was used to describe these species, i.e. their type collections, were destroyed during the Second World War in the Berlin herbarium. To replace the lost types, new types need to be made, and this process is called neotypification.

 

The two types we wanted to recollect were for Solanum planifurcum and Solanum sandianum. Both species were described by Bitter, S. planifurcum from the outskits of Sandia from 2100 – 2500m elevation, and confusingly, S. sandianum from higher up above Cuyocuyo, a town c. 20 km from Sandia, at 3800 m elevation. Some claim these species are synonyms, and represent just extreme variation of a single species. Today we shall see!

 

We started our morning from Sandia near S. planifurcum type locality, and luckily found a population just outside Sandia in 2100 m elevation.

 

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We kept collecting populations until 2500 m, and observed variation along the elevational gradient. Further up, all the way to 3200 m we could observe populations of S. planifurcum. Then gradually, things started to change. At 3400 we found what Bitter would have called S. sandianum, just outside Cuyocuyo, in the local rubbish dump. Not a pretty collection locality, I admit, but there is was.

 

sandianum neotype (Mobile).JPG

 

Solanum sandianum seems to have narrower leaves, which are less hairy and shiny above. Flowers vary in colour, but in general they are dark purple rather than pale lilac as Solanum planifurcum. Calyx shape and size, corolla, stamens and style characters seem to vary less. But are the differences in leaf shape, size and indumentum enough to justify recognising two species? We discussed this with Paul and decided that this is a perfect case where molecular sequence data can help us to decide. If molecular data gives evidence that these taxa are not sister to each other, then we will look for morphological differences that could be used to distinguish them. If, on the other hand, molecular data shows these individuals from different elevations along the road from Sandia to Cuyocuyo to be all mixed within a single clade, I think the case is clear for sunking these names for synonomy!

 

Having done a good days work in collecting along the gradient from Sandia to Cuyocuyo, we were heading back towards Juliaca. As we got closer to the city, we opted to drive all the way to Puno for the night as the city is famous for its beautiful location on the shore of Lake Titicaca.

 

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The roads weren’t great, and again, we arrived to Puno very late at night. We managed to find a hostel without trouble this time. It was time for some relaxation, and winding down after a long drive. Lucky for the boys, there was a footfall game on in the evening, Peru was playing against Chile! Tensions were high, it was 0-1 for Chile for long time, and although Peru managed to score before too long, Chile eventually won. The boys were sad, some tears were shed, but I consoled them by reminding them that there was the beautiful view of Lake Titicaca to see in the morning.

 

 

22nd March – Views over Lake Titicaca

 

I always thought as a child that Lake Titicaca was a hot place with sandy beaches and tropical fruits all over. Just to clarify, this was not the fault of the Finnish education system at all. I just had manage to form this image in my head that Lake Titicaca was a place for sunbathing.

 

The truth is very different. Lake Titicaca is the highest elevation lake in the world, and it is not that warm.

 

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Again we had a long drive ahead of us, we had to make some miles to make it across the Andes for the final time. This time we were crossing the Cordillera Occidental to the coastal deserts near Moquegua. It’s a long 7 hour drive from Puno to Moquegua, and this is without any collecting or taking side roads. Of course we couldn’t avoid the temptation to take few sideroads, but just enough to collect few Solanum fragile specimens near Puno.

 

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Solanum fragile is the panda of the Solanum world – it’s flowers are cute as buttons! The calyx lobes are shy but showy, just a little bit recurved as you can see in the picture, and then the stigma! See how long it is, it’s excerted more than the length of the stamens! The species grows high up around 4000 m elevation, in rock crevases – despite this it has all the elegance of a high society lady with light blue petals, large corollas, and the showy appearance!

 

And of course there was Salpichroa hiding amongst the rocks as well! Salpichroa glandulosa is distinct amongst the genus having very densely hairy leaves.

 

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We dissected a flower in the field, and discovered that the nectary disk at the base of the corolla tube is orange!

 

salpichroa nectary (Mobile).JPG

 

 

The slopes on the western side of the Andes near Moquegua are extremely dry and sandy. At 4400 m elevation there was sand everywhere. We kept looking for our sand loving friend Solanum chamaesarachidium, but couldn’t find it. I doubt it occurs this far west, the only populations known from Peru are in Puno.

 

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The western slopes lower down are home for the Regmandra and the tomato clade of Solanum. We collected Solanum peruvianum along the road at around 2500 m elevation, a wild species related to tomato.

 

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peruvianum (Mobile).JPG

 

Today finding a hotel was easy – we hailed one from the car!!!! We got to Moquegua late, and we were tired. On a tight street just near the main Plaza of the city, whilst waiting for a traffic jam to clear, we manage to find a hotel on our left with their carrage door just a meter from our car, and that was it! We hailed the owner to open the doors before causing too much of a chaos on the street, and checked ourselves in. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes not…

 

 

23rd March – Flowers of the dry hills

 

Having slept peacefully, we headed out early to hunt for a collection I had seen in the herbarium in Lima. It was a specimen near Torata near Moquegua, that resembled Solanum arequipense, a species that has remained mysterious since its original description by Bitter. As for some other species of Bitter, the type of Solanum arequipense was destroyed in the Berlin fire during the Second World War. Without the type, the species has remained elusive and despite the name having been used in various floristic accounts, nobody really knows what the species is really like and what entity the name really refers to.

 

But there it was, just next to Quebrada Torata. This taxon is very similar to Solanum aloysiifolium, species that is found in northern Argentina and Bolivia. My colleague Gloria (see Argentina blog) will find these photos very exciting! Despite the similarity, this species is definetely something different. The leaves vary from entire to serrate, stamens are c. 3 m long, style clearly excerted, with a very capitate stigma.

 

arequipense flower (Mobile).JPG

 

arequipense leaves (Mobile).JPG

 

The calyx lobes are larger than in Solanum aloysiifolium, and most importantly, the fruits remain green when mature. The fruits are speckled with these white small dots, which I first thought to be nothing special. But every fruit, in every individual we have seen, seems to have them.


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We also collected another wild tomato species, Solanum chilense. It grows lower down in elevation.

 

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Another new species for the day was Solanum corymbosum, a member of the Solanum section Parasolanum group. These species are related to Solanum section Solanum. They all have small flowers with tiny anthers, but with large stigmas. Solanum corymbosum occurs in low elevation dry habitats, whilst the others occur at slightly higher elevation. Solanum corymbosum has cute red fruits that resemble mini-tomatoes.

 

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corymbosum fruits (Mobile).JPG

 

In the extremely dry habitats we passed near Omate we collected Exodeconus

 

Exodeconus 1 (Mobile).JPG

 

Exodeconus 2 (Mobile).JPG

 

and Nolana, both genera of Solanaceae specialised in desert habitats.

 

Nolana 1 (Mobile).JPG

 

Nolana 2 (Mobile).JPG

 

The day was getting late, and we were still in the middle of the desert, slowly ascending to the mountains on our way to Arequipa. It was getting dark, and we were aware that we would be arriving late to Arequipa that night. Except that suddenly we realised we were not going to arrive to Arequipa at all: we had a punctured front left tire! We also had a slow puncture in our back left tyre, and although this tyre looked still OK, air was coming out more and more rapidly.

 

So punctures in both of our left hand side tyres, what could we do? We took our spare out, thinking that changing the flat tyre from the front could get us as far as Arequipa, three hours away. Andrew and Paul took the spare down from its hiding place, and started changing the tyre. In less than 30 minutes, they were putting bolts on and tightening the spare – we were nearly ready to go again! Except that the spare turned out to be flat as well…

 

There was nothing else left to do except to take the spare and walk to the next village to get pumping. I stayed in the car, guarding our poor Freddy as we call our handsome 4by4. The spot were we had had to stop was a dangerous one – there was not adequate space to easily get pass our Freddy if busses or trucks would turn up. I was equiped with a powerful head torch, and hazards triangle which I put on the road.

 

By the time boys headed to the village with the spare tyre, it was pitch black. There I was, finally having an opportunity to breath, enjoy an evening by myself and watch the starts on the clear Andean sky. Beautiful! This is how it looked before going totally dark. I stopped taking photos in the dark as star skies never turn up nice but trust me it was beautiful.

 

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Temperatures rocket down during nights in the Andes, so I stayed inside the car, keeping myself warm, waiting for any passersby. Nothing came for nearly an hour, but then I finally saw lights in the night sky, coming from behind the nearby curve. It was a truck!!! I took my headtorch, shone to indicate our poor positioning in the middle of two curves on narrow part of the road, and hoped that they would slow down before passing Freddy which was missing its both left handside tyres.

 

freddy (Mobile).JPG

 

The truck barely slowed down. It took a milly second to observe the situation and the narrow space before taking its decision to go for it. The truck passed well, which was good news. This meant buses might be able to pass as well, and we knew to expect a bus soon.

 

Boys returned with bad news: the spare tyre was not only flat but with a massive hole in it.

 

So with three flat tyres and two OK ones, we had no option than to split our team. Paul with his peruvian fluency offered to head to Arequipa with two tires, so that he could return by next morning with repairs. Luckily a car passed by to give Paul a lift. Andrew and I stayed with the car. How would our night in Freddy go – and would the busses get through? We were nervous, but the stars were giving us comfort.