A special edition from Brazilian Orchids

Orchids from the Bananal River

rio bananal river

Orchids from the river Bananal margins

Interview with Maria da Penha Fagnani

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The Bananal river originates at the Serra dos Órgãos (at 1920m altitude) and ends in Guapi-mirim river, at the sea level. It is part of the large mangrove complex formed by the Guapi river when it flows into the Guanabara bay. It runs through to different vegetal communities like umbrageous dense woods and dry marsh.
To begin our floristic survey of Orchidaceae of the Bananal river margins we selected the area which goes from its origin to the Rio-Terezópolis road, the BR-116, at 210m altitude. This part of the river crosses the Guapimirim District and goes through montane and lower montane rainforest. We defined as margins the distance of thirty meters from each border of the river.At this point of the river, the vegetal community is dense umbrageous wood ( tropical rain forest).
The tropical rain-forest is very rich in epiphytic flora specially next to the river margins where the humidity can reach saturation.
Our method of work consisted in going there periodically in order to get the successive blooming. Sixty six species in thirty four genera were found during the period of three years. Our species list offers some data which we hope can help the cultivation and preservation of those orchids. Up to 500 m altitude we have the lower montane rain forest where the evaporation is more intense giving origin to a certain dryness during some hours of the day.
Above 500 m, we have the montane forest with the highest trees and lianas. This is the difference between the two wood communities: the humidity level. The presence of the palm Euterpe edulis L and the great number of epiphytes is remarkable (Rizzini, 1977).
 For the orchids, the dryness of the lower montane rain forest is always attenuated by the proximity of the river mainly for those which grow above the water . The temperature varies according to the altitude, decreasing 1oC for each 100m up (Veloso et al). At 230m, the during the year, it varies from 8o to 38oC.
From 34 genera, Pabstia, Promenaea and Warmingia are endemic from Brazil. From 66 species, Epidendrum Schomburgkii Lindl and Warmingia eugenii Rchb. f. are not quoted to Rio de Janeiro State (Pabst & Dungs). The only orchid quoted as endemic to here is Epidendrum hololeucum Barb. Rodr. All the terrestrial orchids grow in rich ground with humus and vegetable decay.  Cyclopogon longibracteatus (Barb. Rodr.) Schltr grows in a strump of a tree in decomposition.
There were some orchids which are hanging above the river and we noticed that Pleurothallis hypnicola Lindl and Elleanthus brasiliensis Rchb f. should be reached by the water when the volume of the river increases during the rain season. At 390m, we also noticed that Comparettia coccinea Lindl, growing 30m far away from the margins, is one of the most tolerant orchids of dryness during the day.
According to Rizzini (1954), the Orchidaceae family would be represented in Serra dos Órgãos by 222 species from 66 genera. We compared our results with his work and verified the coincidence of 30 species and 25 genera. The differences are comprehensible because our research covered a restrict area.
Although this part of Bananal river runs through an area of Environmental Protection, there was partial destruction of the forest in the lower areas but the big trees which follow the margin were preserved. The more ornamental species are more rare like Laelia crispa, Miltonia clowesii and Warmingia eugenii, due to collecting. It is extremely important to preserve the vegetal eco-system of the river margins to maintain the quality of water and protect our mangroves.

Click here to see the photos of this article.

Click here to see a list with the species founded at this place

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Penha, you are doing a good work in the identification of the orchids from the state of rio de janeiro. how does it start?

I always thinked that the major preoccupation inside the OrquidaRio (Rio de Janeiro's orchids association) should be to elaborate a list of the orchids of the state of Rio de Janeiro. We started, almost by chance, with the orchids of the Massambaba beach because we liked to go there to swing in the lagoon and to do picnic, besides to see the orchids. When I started to study botanical systematic, I also became interested in identifying the species. Some years ago, a colleague also from OrquidaRio, Nilson Moneró, advised us that the region around the margins of Bananal river was extremely rich in orchids but I was so involved with Massambaba and always said that we should finish the research there before starting Guapimirim. When we finished the research in Massambaba, the opportunity to work in Guapimirim appeared because a colleague, also from OrquidaRio, Jorge, has a house close to the place where we would go to study. So, Jorge, Carlos Ivan, me and two biologist, João Marcelo and Maximo Bovini, have started the research. Jorge's house became our base for the operation, we went up and down and always had a shelter to take a bath, to change clothes and sometimes, to sleep.

What was the area research in Guapimirim?

Our research started since 210m, close to the road, in direction to the river source. In the list of the orchids, the code LM means forest situated up to 500m, the code M is concerned to the forest situated above the 500m.
The river source is just a thread of water, at almost 2.000m altitude where only the mountaineers very skilled at climbing could reach.  In the lower part of the river, at 600m, there was some path-ways, I walked among the stones and due to a friend's help, who lived in the area, I could reach some path-ways which token to the river. They were 5m from the margins of the river so we were inside this established limit from 0 to 30m. From 700 to about 1.400m, the research was done by the group formed by the younger and taller, Jorge Figueiredo, Maximo Bovini e João Marcelo. They are more than 1.80m, thin and slender and with a very good physical conditions.
At those altitudes, the access is very hard and full of risk. I stayed down, they climbed by the water , taking risks and sometime falling down because the margins of the river don't offer the conditions to walk. They went up to the stones and collected what was close to them or what was hanging over the river. That was how they got Pabstia, Masdevallia, some Epidendrums and several others plants which are included on the list. Some of them were found in those elevated altitudes.
I believe that in the remotes areas from the river, perhaps there is a new specie but the access was not available. To get in the river, the group walked bare-foot and wearing just a swimming suit, how could they get into the wood without the appropriate clothes? The conditions were hard, difficult. The further along you go up, the margins and the stones on the river became an escarpment like Finger of Gold mountain.. In reality, the part of alpinist, climbing mountain, I didn't do it.

How is the humidity level of this region?

In the upper part of the forest, in some areas, during the day, the humidity is lower because the evaporation is elevated but the further along you go up and more close to the river, the level rises. See the Comparettia coccinea, it was in a area where during the day the dryness was extremely.
Since the road, from 210m to 400m, there is a relative dryness at noon although it is close to the river. So I found out why I didn't succeed in cultivating Warmingia euginii. This specie became very interesting to me in this region because, Guido Pabst, in his 2 volumes of "Orchidaceae Brasilienses" doesn't point out as Warmingia eugenii as part of the fluminense (from the state of Rio de Janeiro) flora.
However, we found it above the river, with a certain height and certain distance and in an altitude of 300m and so, where the dryness is relative. It is an epiphytic orchid. At night, it receive a great humidity because the river is just under it but during the day, it has the total dryness it requires. That is why I lost 3 or 4. I insisted on taking them moist because who sold me them, said me they love humidity but he didn't give me the details.

What is the importance of the Bananal river to the eco-system of Rio de Janeiro?

The source and the margins of the Bananal river are very important to the whole eco-system of the Guanabara bay because it flows into Guapi river which is part of the unique remaining system of conserved mangroves in Guanabara bay. If there is the completely destruction of the flora on the source and its margins, the water will be polluted .
This will reflect in the mangroves which would loose their characteristics and would be destroyed. It very important that the vegetation in the margins of the river stay untouchable. On the right margin looking to the source of the river, between 210 m ant 400m, the region were inhabited by Indians. During the last century, a coffee farmer was settled there. This old farmer was transformed in condominium. Many summer houses were constructed. The people who lives in those houses has a good point of view about the ecology and have maintained the big trees which are along the river inside a area of 10m. After this, they destroyed to construct their houses but the big trees were conserved. This people had a remarkable ecology consciousness.
Nowadays I am very happy that one of the most conserved Laelias crispa is situated inside the ground of one of those houses, at 400m, where no one touches, in an enormous tree. From 400 to 600m, there is nothing, aAt 700m, there is the last house. I heard that at 210m until the sea level, the margins are depredated but I didn't go there so I can't affirm this. In a shoot taken by Carlos Ivan, we can see people washing clothes, taking bath because it is the lower part. The access is easier.
So, what is the importance of this flora to this hydrological basin, to the quality of the water in the hydrological basin? The roots keep and filter the sediments so the water arrives clean at the river. By the existence of this flora, of those big trees and big roots, the quality of the water is maintained. They make the water potable. The flora is necessary, essential to maintain the quality of the water. Protecting and maintaining the fountain-head potable, you also protect the fauna. How do you classify the wood at he margins of Bananal river? It is part of the Mata Atlântica (Atlantic rainforest). At the LM zones, the wood is dense and umbrageous, the humidity level is low during the day but the further along you go up, it becomes less dense. At 1.200m, the trees are not big and from 1400m to the up, they are very small.

You talked about another research done in Massambaba beach. Is it already published?

It published in the OrquidaRio bulletin and the material, photos and text, was sent to be published on the Proceedings of the 15th World Orchids Conference. It has been translated and will be published in two volumes, in English and in Portuguese. However this one on Guapimirim has just been published in the OrquidaRio bulletin and presented as a panel during the 15Th WOC.

Have you found a new specie?

I am very exigent until now, every think I found it was knew when I started my investigation, I found out that it wasn't. Someone had already described it. In the list, you will find Gomesa and Pleurothallis pointed with a "spp" (species), it means, I don't know what they are, they can be a new species but I have to investigate very hard before saying something.

Do you think there is some new species, not described yet?

Guapimirim is situated in the Serra dos Órgãos, where there is the National Park , this region is often visited, although the specific area were we worked is not so visited, I think there is a little probability. But in remotes places, it is probably. In Massambaba beach, there is a plant which can be new. I will return to the place where it exists or existed. It is very small, smaller than Pleurothallis. This is presumed to bloom in May. Fortunately someone has collected one in case if it had disappeared. This plant is not in none of the lists of the orchids of Massambaba beach. My list and the others are not similar. The great difference is due to the fact that my research is for actualizing, what exists nowadays and the others were token from the herbariums of the state of Rio de Janeiro. Something that I didn't find there, perhaps doesn't exist any more, disappeared or I didn't find it flowering like some terrestrials, Habenaria. In the margins of Bananal river, there is Epidendrum hololeucum Barb. Rodr only in this type of area. It is a small zone, a restrict habitat, specific, endemic to Rio de Janeiro, to this local. If this area finishes, Epidendrum hololeucum also finishes.

Penha, who participates on this research group, besides you?

Jorge Reis de Figueiredo, an orchid lover, João Marcelo and Massimo G.Bovini, botanists, Carlos Ivan da Silva Siqueira, photographer.

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Speciesblooming Altitude *Compost
Bifrenaria harrisoniae (Hook) Rchb .f OctoberSMrupicolous **
Bifrenaria tetragona (Lindl.) Schltr.January SM/Mrupicolous /epiphytic
Campylocentrum lansbergii (Rchb.f) Schltr. MarchSMepiphytic **
Campylocentrum Ulaei Cogn.March SMepiphytic **
Campylocentrum Sellowi (Rchb.f.) Rolfe AugustSMepiphytic **
Comparettia coccinea Lindl.March SMepiphytic
Cyclopogon argyrifolius Barb. Rodr.October SMterrestrial
Cyclopogon congestus (Vell.) HoehneJuly SMterrestrial
Cyclopogon elatus (SW) Schltr. July Mepiphytic /terrestrial
Cyclopogon longibracteatus (Barb. Rodr.) Schltr. AugustMterrestrial
Dichea graminoides Lindl.March SMepiphytic
Dichea pendula (Aubl.) Cogn.November SM/Mepiphytic
Elleanthus brasiliensis Rchb.fFebruary SMepiphytic **
Epidendrum armeniacum Lindl.November Mepiphytic **
Epidendrum difforme Jacq.February Mepiphytic
Epidendrum Barb. Rodr.July Mepiphytic
Epidendrum imbricatum Lindl.September SMepiphytic
Epidendrum klueppelianum PabstJuly Mepiphytic
Epidendrum latilabre Lindl.June Mepiphytic
Epidendrum ochrochlorum Barb. Rodr. June Mepiphytic **
Epidendrum ramosum Jacq.January Mepiphytic **
Epidendrum Schomburgkii Lindl.June SMepiphytic **
Erythrodes arietina (Rchb. F & Warm.) Ames OctoberMterrestrial
Epidendrum schlecheriana (Hoehne) Pabst AugustMrupicolous
Eurystyles cotyledon WawraApril Mepiphytic
Epidendrum lorenzii (Cogn.) Schltr.August Mepiphytic
Galeandra Beryrichii Rchb. fJanuary SMterrestrial
Gomesa Barkeri RegelMay Mepiphytic
Gomesa crispa (Lindl.) KI. & Rchb. f AugustMepiphytic
Gomesa Fischeri RegelJanuary Mepiphytic
Gomesa foliosa Klostzch & Rchb. f JulyMepiphytic
Gomesa laxiflora (Lindl.) KI. & Rchb. f AugustMepiphytic
Gomesa planifolia (Lindl.) KI. & Rchb. f JuneMepiphytic
Gomesa recurva R. Br.August Mepiphytic
Gomesa spp
Gongora bufonia Lindl.November SM/Mepiphytic
Hapalorchis lieatus (lindl) Schltr.July Mterrestrial
Isochilus linearis (Jacq. ) R. Br.October SMepiphytic
Laelia crispa (Lindl.) Rchb. fFebruary SMepiphytic
Lankesterella ceracifolia (Barb. Rodr.) O Ames JulySMepiphytic
Liparis nervosa (Thunb.) Lindl.March SMrupicolous **
Masdevallia infracta Lindl.November Mepiphytic
Maxillaria acicularis HerbSeptember SMepiphytic
Maxillaria crassifolia Rchb. fJuly/October SMepiphytic **
Maxillaria leucaimata Barb. Rodr.February Mepiphytic **
Maxillaria rufescens Lindl.November SMepiphytic
Miltonia clowesii Lindl.February SMepiphytic **
Octomeria linearifolia Barb. Rodr. November Mepiphytic / rupicolous
Oncidium pubes Lindl.July SMepiphytic
Ornithidium chloroleucum Barb. Rodr.March SM/Mepiphytic
Pabstia viridis (Lindl.) GarayDecember Mepiphytic
Pleurothallis arcuata LindlJuin Mepiphytic**
Pleurothallis caespitosa Barb. Rodr.May Mepiphytic
Pleurothallis curtibradei PabstOctober Mepiphytic**
Pleurothallis glumacea Lindl.November Mepiphytic**
Pleurothallis hypnicola Lindl.July SM/Mepiphytic**
Pleurothallis pelioxanta Barb. Rodr.February to July Mepiphytic
Pleurothallis spp.
Polystachya Estrellensis Rchb. fMarch S/Mepiphytic
Prescottia plantaginea LindlJuly SMterrestrial
Promenaea stapelioides Lindl.December Mrupicolous/epiphytic
Sarcoglottis fasciculata (Vell.) Schltr. SeptemberSMterrestrial
Sarcoglottis grandiflora (Hk.) KIMay SMterrestrial
Tetragamestus modestus Rchb. f. May SMepiphytic
Trizeuxis falcata Lindl.November SMep
Xylobium variegatum (Ruiz e Pavon)) Masnf. JulySMepiphytic
Warmingia eugenii Rchb. f.October SMepiphytic
Warrea tricolor LindlsFebruary SM/Mterrestrial

*SM = up to 500 m.
M = above 500 m.
**orchids growing above the water

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