Pedro Ivo Soares Braga is graduated in Natural History, Master in Botany and Doctor in Biological Sciences.
Expert in the flora of the Amazon region where he has been doing his researches since 1974.
He had a vast bibliography of publications concerning the flora in general and, specially, the Orchidaceae family
Successively, he has been researcher and professor at the National Institute of Amazon Researches, professor of the Botanical Department of University of Minas Gerais, later and until now, Professor of the Botanical Department of the Federal University of Amazonas, em Manaus

ON: Pedro Ivo, when and how did you start to be interested in the study of orchids?

PI: Since I was a kid, I always liked the nature and went frequently to the country.
The first plant I have identified was a coffee tree, in an abandoned farm in Petrópolis where we had a country house. My father came from the state of Pará and always talked about Amazon stuffs. He loved to go to the country, to climb trees. My mother also always loved plants. She did a specialization course in Botany in the Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro (BGRJ) where she studied Bromeliaceae with the researcher Luiz Edmundo Pereira a close friend to Guido Pabst. He gave me the first orientation in orchids.
By this time, I used to do mountaineering and my mother told me that, in the Botanical Garden, they were researching bromeliads and need people who could climb in order to study those which occur in the rocks. I was 16 years old, I loved adventure. I went to the BGRJ but, at this time, they didn't accept so young people for training. It picked a fight, the director didn't want to accept me but Doctor Graziela did a manifest "how could a young boy be interested in studying and don't be accepted at the Botanical Garden to study". I found very interesting seeing those researchers gave me such attention. Thus, I studied with doctor Graziela and Dimitri Sucre Benjamin who gave me a solid formation in laboratory, in field and the bases of the scientific investigation. I did excursions with them and got a Laelia tenebrosa from Mr. José Marquete, an employee from the cactus house. That was my first orchid and the first I really saw. The plant was in his home and I found it very stranger which arose an enormous interest on me. I got home very excited with the orchid. When I realized I was completely corrupted by that I love for the rest of my life. On the other hand, my father always encouraged me for doing everything involving the nature. He bought me a book by Hoehne - Iconografia de Orchidáceas do Brasil, which has been my first one on orchids. I started to read that work, to read everything about orchids, to see the material of the Botanical Garden Herbarium, a powerful collection. This collection has been determined by Kulmann, Brade, Campos Porto and Pabst, who studied with Brade and we can see the importance of a herbarium by the people who determinate the exsicati
(1). I stayed seeing the work of those botanists and loved it more and more. I had the opportunity of having that school in the BGRJ.
With the professor-doctors Jorge Pereira Fontella and Pedro Carauta, respectively, from
BGRJ and Fundação Estadual de Engenharia do Meio Ambiente (FEEMA - Environment Engineering Foundation of the State of Rio Janeiro), I learnt how to understand the Nomenclatural Botanical Code and how to recuperate a literature or a botanical information. I also learnt many other things with other researchers in the BGRJ. I stayed there since my adolescence until I got married.

ON: Which is your academic formation?

PI: I am graduated in Natural History and have taken the Bachelor.
By this time, there wasn't the Course on Biological Sciences, until then, the course of Natural History was given by the High Scholl of Philosophy, Sciences and Literature.
After finishing the graduation, I did the post-graduation in the “sensu strictu”, first I got the title of Master and then the doctorate.
Besides, I did many excursions, with many botanists, in the states of Paraná, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Brasilia and Panama. Between them I can mention Doctors Lyman B. Smith (Bromeliaceae), Father Leopoldo Krieger (floristic), Carlos Toledo Rizzini (Phytogeography), Edgard Kuhlmann (Phytogeography), Gerhard Gottsberger (Monnimiaceae and Vegetal Biology), Helen Kennedy (Maranthaceae and Floral Biology), Robert Dressler (Orchidaceae and Floral Biology), Tom Sordestron (Gramineae), among others with who I could know the several aspects of the Botany.

ON: Guido Pabst had a great influence on your passion for orchids, how did meet him?

PI: I first met him when I was studying the BGRJ. He and Dr. Edmund founded the Bradeanum Herbarium and Guido Pabst came to see him very often. One day, he gave a lesson about orchids and finished for adopting me as his scientific son. As he was moving to São Paulo, we started to interchange letters, at about 10 letters a week. He sent me works, I did some questions and went the week-end to study in his home. I left Rio on Friday and return on the Monday, it lasted for 2 years. I finished for publishing my first work about orchids before finishing the high school. It was Rodriguezia sucrei, collected in the state of Rio de Janeiro (Cabo Frio). Pabst and I have also described a Rauhiella brasiliensis, which is an orchid published in German, a genus that is not well known. After that Francisco Miranda described another species in Friburgo.

ON: When and why you choose the Amazon region to develop your studies?

Rio Negro - 1974
PI: Besides my father, I had an uncle that told many histories about the Amazon. I should have to know it, I had a great attraction for Amazon.
In l973, when I finished the high school, I got married and at the beginning of l974, I moved.

I had a scholarship from CNPq (National Council of Scientific Researches), I got the titles of Master and Doctorate in Orchids. Besides the course, the opportunity of working in the Brazilian Amazon was fascinating. I got the title of Master in l976 and the best student were invited to work at the National Institute of Amazon Researches - INPA.
There I couldn't just work with orchids, I should did the survey of the botanical collections.
I did many excursions in the Brazilian Amazon. Those journeys helped me to enlarge my studies in taxonomy, vegetal systemic and phytogeography. Those excursions were sponsors by the bilateral conventions with United States and German, between others.
Of course, always collecting orchids.
In 1979, a forest political for the Brazilian Amazon has been established when I worked as an assistant for the director of INPA and got involved with environmental questions.
In l982, I got my doctorate, became the coordinator of the post-graduation until July l985, when I did an exam to get in the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG).

Igapó in Negro river - 1977

ON: It means, you stayed there for 12 years. The researchers Francisco Miranda and Kleber Lacerda went to there by the same time?

PI: My thesis was published in the newspaper and many orchidists came to me. They came to my house or to INPA and I introduced one to another, so we decided to found the Amazon orchidists society. Kleber was the president, I was the scientific director and João Batista F. da Silva, our secretary. We had a bulletin which was typewritten, everything was done by hand. No computer, no text editor. It was imprinted in the print-shop the University of Amazonas. Manoela F. F. da Silva (From Goeldi Museum-Pará) came to get the title of Master at the INPA and João Batista, her husband, came with her. Francisco Miranda studied with me in Manaus and I oriented his thesis. When I went to Minas, he returned to Rio and Pedro Carauta orientated him at the National Museum and taught him nomenclature and he got an excellent botanical formation. But, he had already a very good base, he is really good in Botany.

ON: This period was very rich in terms of researches, until then, we had no exactly idea about the number of species of orchids occurring in the Amazon region.

PI: Yes, when I got there, in the INPA herbarium, for the area I have studied, there were 15 plants. When I finished my thesis, there were, 31. During the doctorate, there were 156 species from the "campina" (dryland) which represents the half of species of Amazon (at about 300 species).

ON: The whole Amazon?

PI: Yes, there always are the nomenclatural problems, without the synonmies, there are at about 400. However, I bet the number will arise because of new collections in the phytogeography of the Amazon.

ON: In Minas Gerais, you went on working with orchids?

PI: At the University, you can't be only an orchidist or orchidologist because you are searched for everything. I helped to create the course in Ecology, Conservation and Handling of Wild Life and I stayed as a responsible for the Department of Botany. There, I gave orientation for a thesis about the phytosociology of the plants in the cerrado (savanna), about the phytosociology of the rupestrian champs in the Serra (mountain) do Cipó (supported the Boticario Foundation), and another in floral biology of the Constantia cipoensis (supported the Foundation for the Support to the Researches in Minas Gerais - FAPEMIG), in the same mountain.
I did a study on the Serra da Piedade, which is not published yet and as co-author, I published two books, one about the Serra do Cipó, and another about Serra da Piedade, where I did a description of the vegetation and talked about the orchids. We gave the author's rights to the Biodiversitas Foundation, to be applied in the conservation of the environment. I am one of the founders of this foundation. The book on Serra da Piedade has been supported by the Electrical Centrals of Minas Gerais (CEMIG).
I worked hard in Caratinga, in that farm where there the mono-carvoeiro, doing the phytosociology of the trees on the Atlantic Forest hillsides which will be published soon and also did the phytosociology of the Park of Rio Doce.
Nowadays I have ex-students with doctorate who teach in Paraná; Minas Gerais, Ouro Preto and Diamantina; Rio de Janeiro; Bahia and Fortaleza. I have scientific sons spread over the country, without adding those I have in Amazon.

ON: But you finally went back to Amazon region in 95.

PI: During the time I stayed in Minas, I went on with the post-graduates courses at the INPA. I went and came back. When my married finished, I decided to come back. I came back to the Federal University of Amazonas and went on giving lessons but I became sick and got a sick leave. I almost died. Later I became the responsible for the Biology Department and gave lessons in the post-graduate course in Botany (Master and doctorate) at INPA, where I orient dissertations and thesis, not only in orchids systematic but also in physiology, phytosociology and reproductive biology. I like evolutive biology. Nowadays I teach evolution and reproductive biology. I use the several fields of the botany as auxiliary tools. I don't consider myself as a classical systematist but a bio-systematist. I employ the techniques of the systematic botany and the taxonomy to get a final result. Now I am getting the phase of DNA as I am working in collaboration in this area. There many nomenclatural fights but I don't like to argue. I know botanical nomenclature and I make my decisions carefully, instead of giving names to the plants or putting synonyms without promoting the studies of the populations.

C. eldorado var. typical

ON: Let us talk about the orchids from the Amazon region! Can you start by Cattleya eldorado?

PI: Cattleya eldorado has a restrict distribution. It occurs in Barcelos, however it is possible that occurs also in border of Roraima. Unfortunately I have never collected it there. I collected it in the area of the Balbina Hydroelectric lake where there was a great occurrence of this species. With the construction of the lake, big areas of campina (dryland) have been covered by the water. In this way, many orchids and epiphytes, in general, died. Unfortunately this hydroelectric provoked a great environmental impact but not even supply a third of the necessity of Manaus city. The impact was very big and the cost/benefit isn't worth while. Tucuruí is worth while but Balbina isn't.
Cattleya eldorado is a plant that fix carbon dioxide during the night and grows exposed to full sun.

It grows on the trees where the water is not retained. It loves a humid root but doesn't like soaked environments. It prefers well illuminated places. In cultivation, it does well in pieces of cedar-tree, with good fertilization and coconut bark, paying attention to the watering or long-lasting rains.

Cattleya jenmani
There are two groups of Cattleya eldorado: one occurs in the igapó (flood forest) and another in campina (dryland) with different season of blooming.
I have the suspect that some populations of Cattleya eldorado crossed with Cattleya jenmani, from Roraima. It can be a process of hybridizing, or there as already a genetic introgression(2) or in those populations there is vicariancy (3). They are different, the plants from the igapó are bigger than those from the dryland.

possible hybrid between C. eldorado and C. jenmani

ON: How could it be possible if Cattleya eldorado is restrict to Manaus surroundings and Cattleya jenmani only occurs in the state of Roraima?

PI: There is a great dispersion of the orchid seeds by the wind because they are very very small. On the other hand, they could migrate through the igapó or from the Campinas by the wind.

ON: And the discussion about the validity of the name Cattleya eldorado?

P I: Recently, there are many discussions about this name, if it is a synonym or not.
There are two kinds of botanists: the botanists who describe species or subdivide them or those who gather the species. While we don't better know the species, I prefer to maintain this name as valid. I think there is a mess about Cattleya wallisii, that is why, for a while, I keep Cattleya eldorado as a valid name. In fact, I think there is two different species. I will do analyses based on DNA of the plants from the igapó and those from the dryland as I have all of them in cultivation. Until now, there wasn't anybody interested in the study of DNA of the orchids. People here, in Manaus, work very much with biotechnology but not with DNA of plants. Now, I am associated to a group where people are interested in doing analysis based on DNA and this will be my next step. If the materials studied don't present variations and those can be associated to C. wallasii, I will accept this name. I am not going to harp on the same string but, for a while, I will keep Cattleya eldorado with its varieties as valid.

C. eldorado Linden
C. eldorado Linden
var. alba Rand
C. eldorado Linden
var. treyeranae Linden
C. eldorado Linden
var. lindeni Linden

ON: And the conclusions, how long will you take to get them?

PI: We already have the technique, in a year, we will analyze all those plants. Now, I am working with a probable natural hybrid or even a new genera, we are analyzing it based on DNA. As I said, the next step is the study of Cattleya eldorado.

ON: And about the species you have already described?

PI: I described some new species for the science: Pleurothallis kerii; Neolehmannia pabstii; Catasetum kleberianum; Masdevallia osmariniana which has been transferred by Garay & Dunsterville to Dryadella, however, the species they illustrated wasn't the taxon I have described, they misunderstood that species and, probably the material they analyze is a new taxon for the science.
Pleurothallis kerii
Neolehmannia pabstii
Catasetum kleberianum

Finally, I described X Brassacattleya rubyii, an intergeneric natural hybrid between Cattleya eldorado and Brassavola martiana. It has only one specimen known and the plant is there, still alive, in its natural environment.

X Brassocattleya rubyii, natural hybrid between C. eldorado and Brassavola martiana in its habitat in the Campina (Dryland).

Cattleya eldorado var. alba, one of the probable parents of the hybrid.
Brassavola martiana, one of the parents

ON: Just one? And if it disappears one day?

PI: We wish to make meristems. The problem of meristem in Amazonas is the fungus. The most of the plant has endophytic fungi. They grow inside the plants and when you put them in a rich salt medium, the fungi dominate it. In the process of polenization, the orchid will take a year to produce the fruit and if the plant is weak, it can die. However, with the system of utilization of immature embryos, things change. With this system, the stigma is fecundated and with 3 months, the embryos can be taking off. It as white mass and from this mass the formation of many protocormes is provoked. Since the embryos would form seeds, everyone would have a genetic identity slightly different from the other and, in this case, we wouldn't have all specimens generated similar to the plant-mother. Then, the embryos are put in liquid medium of culture and put to turn in a special machine in order to remove the polarity of growth. This allows the formation of many calli in each protocorme and they can be minced and put in another medium. When the small plants will be developed and blooming, we will be able to know which material they come from and start to reproduce by the same process. The advantage of this method is that, in three months, the fungi won't contaminate the embryos inside the capsule. This work is finished and will be published. I stayed a year to test all the possibilities and then I oriented a Dissertation of the Master title, and, nowadays we can reproduced any plant, it is just a question of luminosity and pH.

ON: In fact, it is a meristem?

PI: In the first stage, yes, but not in the second. As a matter of fact, it is a tissue in a embryo phase of growth, which is cut in the middle and put to turn again. To get a meristem from the plant, you have to get a health sprout and that can be harmful for the plant.

ON: How are you calling this kind of reproduction?

PI: Reproduction through immature embryos.

(1) exsicatae/exsicati is the herborized material with the data collected in the field.
(2) introgression is the introduction of one or more genes of one species into another species, through hybridizing.


vicariancy is the occurrence of a couple of congeneric or subspecies, growing in different habitats of a geographical area but never found in the same community.