The International Union for the Conservation of Nature ("IUCN") has been operating its Red List of endangered and vulnerable species for over 50 years. Unfortunately, endangered species aren't limited to cute, cuddly animals, but also include a large number of tree species around the world. At the Reserva Natural La Pedregoza we plant endangered tree species of the Orinoco River basin.
Some Native Trees found at La Pedregoza
This tree of the Clusiaceae family is emblematic of Vichada. While it grows in the inundation forest, it is best known for its groupings at the edge of the gallery forest or in savanna areas in what is called a Saladillal. It has a beautiful red wood and grows to be 20 meters tall. The wood is used in local housing and for traditional canoe building. While there is natural regeneration of this species, we are test planting Saladillo rojo in order to generate a management profile for the tree, as we believe it has considerable natural silviculture potential.
This tree belongs to the Vochysiaceae family and despite its common name is not related to the Saladillo rojo. In the dry season it stands out thanks to its beautiful yellow flowers and long straight trunk. Saladillo blanco can grow to be 24 meters tall and can be found both inside the inundation forest as well as in open, well drained areas. While it readily germinates in a tree nursery, it does not like to be transplanted later, so we are experimenting with possible solutions for this tree's cultivation. We believe it has excellent forestry potential.
We sometimes refer to Congrio as our local ironwood, because this Fabaceae family member is extremely dense (between 0.85 to 0.95), termite resistant and reputed to withstand rot in contact with wet soil for up to 30 years. Unfortunately, this has also made Acosmium nitens a preferred species for fence posts, leading to a lot of illegal cutting, putting it under pressure in the wild. Thanks to a program funded by Ecopetrol and coordinated by the Wildlife Conservation Society, we are planting this tree in degraded areas and developing a forestry profile for this high value tree, so that plantations will start to cultivate it.
Aceite trees stand out because of their distinct yellow orange bark. These Caesalpiniaceae family members produce an oil, hence the common name of Aceite ("Oil" in Spanish). Copaifera pubiflora oil is reputed to be medicinal, but there have also been successful biodiesel experiments. The wood is of high quality suitable for furniture and other uses. There seems to be considerable evidence that this tree is also fast growing, which might make it a suitable candidate to replace introduced species tree cultivations with this native tree. At La Pedregoza we are planting extensive Aceite test plots to learn more about how to best cultivate this beautiful and valuable tree.
The morichals or heavily treed savanna drainage creeks are home to a number of Arecaceae family palms. For us at La Pedregoza one of the most exciting finds were large numbers of Euterpe precatoria, a member of the Açai clan or in Spanish Asaí. Known locally as the Palma Manaca it has the same antioxidant rich berries as its Brazilian cousins and in our opinion has a bright future as a productive palm for cultivation in low-lying areas of the Orinoco River basin. The problem of harvesting Asaí in the morichal is that the palms are too tall to reach the fruits, as they struggle to get to the light. This means we need to find a way to cultivate this palm in open, but very wet areas.
This tree needs all the hugs it can get. Renowned for its aromatic wood, the Sasafrás tree has almost been driven to extinction, and finds itself listed in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of endangered species. This Lauraceae family member is a source for safrole oil, hence the aromatic wood, but also the cause of its uncontrolled harvesting. There are male and female trees, making seed bearing female trees harder to find. Macaws and other birds enjoy the large, tasty seeds, which ripen just as inundations begin, further complicating seed collection. At La Pedregoza we've dedicated ourselves to the planting of Ocotea cymbarum trees inside the inundation forest. This species can't be cultivated in plantation settings.
Thanks to a program started by the Missouri Botanical Gardens, we have established a Sacred Seeds Botanical Garden in the Reserva Natural La Pedregoza. The purpose is to establish an ethno-botanical garden dedicated to the preservation of traditional medicinal and alimentary trees and plants of the Orinoco River basin.
Our non-profit, non governmental organization ("NGO") is called the Corporació Ambiental La Pedregoza or La Pedregoza Environmental Corporation. It is the operator of the Reserva Natural La Pedregoza and the entity that carries out a lot of the conservation and biodiversity programs in which we are involved. Much of our funding goes to native tree planting.
There is a blog called "Investing in Tropical Trees" which doesn't just cover the commercial issues of tropical tree planting, but also the environmental issues and good natural silviculture practices. It is another way of pushing an environmental agenda. The blog includes articles on native trees.