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All photos are taken and/or send to us by Lou Menezes

Lou, your expected CD "Cyrtopodium Genus, Brazilian Species" is now available, can you talk about the research you have done, the time you spent, the habitats visited, the new species you have found, to put it in other way, could you tell us a little about the way you carried out this research?

I suffered a lot developing this work. I can say that, until this moment, I spent 6 years and only succeeded because I live in Brasilia. If I lived at the coast, it would not be possible as the geographical center of the species irradiation is here, in the Brazilian Central Plateau. How could I do it if I lived at the sea side? First, the most part of Cyrtopodium species can not be cultivated there, I know about many frustrated attempts by growers who brought species from the Plateau Central to the seaside and the plants rot. Besides, there is a great number of species which just appear in the surface during the grow or blooming period. During the resting period, they are hidden, practically underground. As I was developing this work and at the same time I was doing the research of the orchids from the Central Plateau, every day I went to savanna and had the opportunity to follow all the vegetative cycle of those species. If it was a distant habitat, it would not be possible to do this.
Little by little, I was doing my work but, when I found a species, the correction identified was a doubt. Hoehne has a very interesting work and was, for me, the only true resource. For example, for all orchids lovers, every yellow Cyrtopodium is considered as andersonnii but I finally verified that it is not exactly. For example, this species is told as occurring in the State of Rio de Janeiro but it does not occur there, even for logical reason. How could a plant, found in the sand dune, in Central America, to be, suddenly, found in high elevation in Teresópolis, at Cristo Redentor hill and in other rock. It is a nonsense.

Cyrtopodium cultivation at IBAMA It has been a big fight but, on the other hand, the cultivation conditions are great in Brasilia because the most species of Cyrtopodium come, exactly, from savannas, dry areas with low humidity. Little by little, I increased the collection and, living here, I could cultivate outdoor as they were in their natural habitat, without problems with good blooming. Cyrtopodium cultivation at IBAMA

I have plants of 6 years in an excellent cultivation conditions.
When I believed that all work about Cyrtopodium was finished, I found a new species at Serra do Cipó which was not still described. I have already taken some photos and the work is about to be published in the specialized magazines.

How many species occur in Brazil? Do you think there still are some Cyrtopodium species to be discovered here?

If there is something new on Cyrtopodium, it should be a little thing since it has been 6 years of exhaustive researches. In Brasilia and in the surrounding countryside, there are 18 species and in the whole country, 32.

So which species occur in the State of Rio de Janeiro?

Cardiochilum, in the upper of Teresópolis and paranaense, which is also yellow, occurs in stone hillsides and in the sand. There are plates, everything is already compared.
Many peoples believe that the Cyrtopodium occurring in Rio de Janeiro is andersonni but it is paranaense which occurs from Ceará, Paraíba, getting down along the coast until the State of Rio Grande do Sul, a strip in the sand and some in the stone hillsides. It is interesting. There are others along the coast. For example, I described 2 new species from the north-east, I think I described six or seven new species and everything is registered. This new species I have already mentioned is not in the CD but it will be in the book. There will also be interesting details about my journeys round Brazil. For example, I always meet some growers which love orchids but they do not know the identification of the species or even of the genus, that is why I always bring with me some photos to show and ask if this or that plant occurs where they live. Even though they don't know the correct name as, in each region, Cyrtopodium receives a popular name, like "tatu's tail" or "sumaré", the right localization of the occurrence is possible because of the photos.
Cyrtopodium paranaense In one of those researched areas, I showed one photo to an humble man who had some orchids and was fond of them and, most interesting, he had sharp eyes. He immediately told me he though it was very interesting because there were many however the spike did not start from the pseudobulb base but at the apex. I answered that it could not be possible because one of the botanical characteristics of this genus is the basal inflorescence, the spike starts from the pseudobulb base and grows up. He insisted that it starts from the apex and I though he was mixed with another orchid genus. What a surprise when I saw next year, for twice, along Paraíba coast, exactly the same occurrence. Cyrtopodium paranaense blooming from the pseudobulb apex. This is very well photographed, very well registered. There will be a page of the book showing that. For sure, it is a problem of genetic instability because if the inflorescence is always basal and suddenly, it starts from the apex, it is, we can say, a genetic aberration. It is interesting have a whole page to show this fantastic occurrence because I've never seen anywhere, in my live, any reference to this.
Due to all those things, Cyrtopodium is a work for what I am very attached. It was a long lasting fight. Until I got familiarized and identified all species, I have done many mistakes. Cyrt. vernumI should have do again some publication because there were mistakes in the identification of the variety. For example, I have wrongly described as a variety of Cyrtopodium vernum a variety from another species because the information available were inverted. Even people who knew a little more about Cyrtopodium confused, sometimes, two species. At the beginning, I followed indications from renowned orchids growers and it worked badly. Then I became extremely careful and I just believed on me and in bibliographic sources but even them were sometimes incorrect.
Cyrtopodium hatschbachii For example, Hoehne just mentions Cyrtopodium bradei without saying where it has been described nor where it has been deposited. I lose my head with this Cyrtopodium and asked myself where the original description could be. After a titanic fight, I solved the question. That name had been done but there was no register at all. Then Pabst described a species without knowing that it was Cyrtopodium bradei, as Cyrtopodium hatschabachii. I found this species, by chance, near Brasilia, in a swamp area. It was an enormous happiness but it has taken years to happen.
In Botany, when a fact like this takes place, we call it "nomem nudum" (Latin name) or to put it in other way, it is not valid. This is a name simply registered without Latin diagnosis and without deposit of botanical material. Thus Cyrtopodium bradei becomes in my work and correctly "nomem nudum" as it is , in fact, Cyrtopodium hatschbachii.
There was another more funny mistake. Pabst described another Cyrtopodium as edmondoi and it is, in fact, aliciae, unknown to him. In this case, the name he gave becomes a synonym as it is not possible to erase something which is described even though it was wrong and the first description is valid. I don't know how he didn't see it since it is an old description, there is even a plate in Lindenia. It has been something to take me mad because no mater how hard I looked for, I wouldn't find it. The register told Recife and Buenos Aires. Imagine, it is a madness. It is Chapada da Diamantina, in the State of Bahia. Cyrt. aliciaeI had the luck to travel a lot and have, in each place, people attached to my work and I asked them to keep an eye on Cyrtopodium. Some day, a friend of mine from Vitória da Conquista, Bahia, called me telling she thought she had found Cyrtopodium blooming at Rio de Pontas, in Chapada de Diamantina and, according to this one on the photo, it seemed to be aliciae. The day after, I took a plane and went straight there and could confirm that it was really aliciae. It was an enormous happiness because I took years looking for and finally I have had found it. It was fantastic. There it was, in Bahia, gorgeous. Exactly, perfectly identical to Lindenia plates. How important are those plates.
Those were some difficult and curious events.

And now which is your next work to be published?

In fact, there will be two works. Besides the publication of " Cyrtopodium genus, Brazilian species", "Orchids from the Central Plateau", will also be published and it nearly ready. This book will have forewords by Lúcio Costa and I intented to publish it this year. The diagramation is ready and there will be at about 200 photos.
Many orchidophiles told me that they loved my books but they were almost monographs. So I did almost an album of Central Plateau orchids. There is not too many texts, the dorsal column is a complete study which has not been done before about Phragmipedium vittatum, this lady slip orchid of The Brazilian Central Plateau.
In order not to do an enormous book, with a lot of illustration, I decided to use an alternative doing it as an album. I considered all species occurring in the habitats and surroundings of the Phragmipedium vittatum occurrence with the species associated to it, in Brazilian Central Plateau. And it was easy. I structured like this: Plants with paludicola habits occurring and blooming at the same time as Phragmipedium vittatum, plants with paludicola habits occurring together but with different blooming time, plants with terrestrial habitats, not paludicola, occurring around the habitat, plants of epiphytic habits occurring in the woods around, plants of rupicula habits and terrestrial plants of the interior of the wood and so on. This was the alternative to make the book possible and, thus, I could include everything.
For whom interested in identifying species, it will be great and, perhaps, the text about Phragmipedium vittatum will not be very consulted but it will be for the most interest. Of course, it is not possible to do a complete work in Brazilian Central Plateau or anywhere but from 220 species, I identified almost 180 with more than 200 photos.
There were many difficulties in this work. For example, Habenaria is an extremely difficult genus with many species with minuscule, microscopic flowers. It makes everyone crazy. I have already seen botanist highly interested in obtaining a Master degree of Habenaria and gave it up. It should have be someone interested in study Habenaria in Brazil, like Dr. Greenwood in Canada who has been spending thirty years of his life studying Govenia genus.
I am also starting a work about Sobralia genus in Brazil, a genus as forgotten as Cyrtopodium was.
In my researches, I have already elucidated a doubt about the occurrence of Sobralia sessilis in the Central Plateau. I found it in Pirinópolis, in the State of Goiás. In fact, it has widespread geographical distribution from Amazônia to South. There are 16 species and some varieties in Brazil. A correct identification of the species should be done and I am having the same problems or worse, than I had with Cyrtopodium.

You, as well other researchers, contribute a lot to increase the number of publication about orchids in Brazil but it is still a small number. What do you think could be done in this way?

There is not many publication about orchids and I think that Rio and São Paulo should joined themselves and have a national magazine. Oscar Sachs (from Caob) has already proposed it. I have been discussing with him for long time and I think he is someone who can give a precious help.

In your field researches, you should have done some interesting discoveries to tell us, like the basal inflorescence instead of apical.

Due to this kind of work, I have already discovered something very interesting. It allows me to elucidate some doubts about the correct identification of a certain plants. For example, there was a very big doubt between Laeliocattleya albanenses and a Cattleya described by Pabst as Cattleya silvana. This Cattleya silvana was an interrogation. Many years ago, I was traveling with some American researchers through the south of the State of Bahia and we found Laelia grandis and Cattleya warneri, bloomed together in the same habitat and Laeliocattleya albanenses is a hybrid former described between those two species and Cattleya silvana has the same appearance. I crossed them in the wood and brought the crossed plant to IBAMA and when the capsule was formed, I sent it to Binot Orquidário. The plants bloomed last year and the flowers were entirely identical to Cattleya silvana ones. I am doing the last examinations for doing a work but Cattleya silvana is identical to Laeliocattleya albanense. 5 years have gone, it was the last Fowlie and Duveen's travel. Both died two or three years after and did not see this reproduction
There is another very interesting point. As it is well known, Cattleya has 4 pollinias, Laelia has 8 and we come to the conclusion that Laeliocattleya would have 6. It happens that Cattleya silvana presents only 4. We are waiting for the result of studies about this. What would be the reason? Could the two other pollinias be camouflaged, by some way or other?
Those are at long date gratifying work as orchid it self is at long date thing..
There are many polemics about the occurrence or not of certain species, this is case of Schomburgkia crispa and Schomburgkia gloriosa. During my field researches to my book "Orquídeas do Planalto", I have found Schomburgkia crispa in Central Plateau. To tell the truth, I have found it from the state of Amazonia to the State of Rio Grande do Sul, occurring in all regions of Brazil. As exists a Pabst's work saying that it would not occur in Brazil and that our well known Schomburgkia crispa would be, in fact, Schomburgkia gloriosa, that history puzzled me. So, I thought, how could it not be Schomburgkia crispa? I decided to do an investigation. Carl L. Whitner uphold the same theory in a whole chapter in one of his books. As I have a regular exchange of information with him, I sent him a fax telling that I would like to have some more information because I could not understand something. He sent me the floral diagram and I could see the schemes in order to do the identification. According to Pabst, Dunsterville and Garay would be right because Schomburgkia gloriosa lateral lobes start close the lip apex and confuse itself with the medium lobe at the tip while in Schomburgkia crispa, it starts from the middle of the lip, detaching in the middle.
It was easy to me verifying this. In all Schomburgkia , I collected and opened, what a surprise, no one started at the apex. All of them were exactly similar to the original diagram sent me by Carl L. Withner. I have taken all possible photos and sent to him. He regretted that I had not done this before the publication of his book because he validated Pabst's conclusion: Schomburgkia crispa would not occur in Brazil. I should point out that although I did not have seen the material examined by Pabst nor I do not know if it had been deposited in herbarium or not because there is no register at all in Bradea publication, it seems evident that the two species occur in Brazil. If Guido Pabst, with his serious work, identified Schomburgkia gloriosa, it should exist but I have never found it.
Now, I am describing two very interesting natural hybrids.
One from the sea side, found by Esdras Porto in swamp areas. This a hybrid from Schomburgkia crispa and Cattleya harrisonniae. The other one has been found by Félix Linhares, in Lapinha grotto, Sete Lagoas, state of Minas Gerais and it is a result of the crossing of Schomburgkia crispa and Cattleya walkeriana. This work should be published in a few days.
The field work help a lot this kind of discoveries since some orchids genera and species are extremely difficult to be studied and correctly identified if only studied by material deposit in herbariums, like Govenia, for example.
As far as I am concerned, I don't like to work with dead material, I prefer alive material. Here is my teaching, in the woods, in the forests, day by day, in the savanna, in contact with the nature.
I correspond with experts in many genera, like Dr. Greenwood, in Canada, who, as I have already said, has been spending 30 years of his life studying Govenia. I also solved a problem of occurrence, in Brazil with Govenia gardnerii. Pabst described it as utriculata but there is nothing to do with this species.

Very interesting, Sergio has shot a Govenia species in Itatiaia, 1.000m high and we are in doubt if it was gardnerii as we found in Hoehne or utriculata as identified by Pabst, so it is not a synonym?

Govenia utriculata doesn't occur in Brazil, it occurs in Venezuela. It is something different, there is nothing to do with gardnerii. Pabst renamed as utriculata but I solved this problem, I took photos, I studied plants and M. Greenwood confirmed to me that it is Govenia gardneri.