I began the year at one of my favorite places in the world, Cristalino Jungle Lodge. I arrived there at the end of December as a guide for some of the lodge’s clients but then after a couple weeks moved over to become a field assistant for Susanne Sourell on her Cristalino Fungi Project. Assisting her on a more substantial level was Julia Simon, a Brazilian student with a particular interest in the genus Hygrocybe. Through Julia, Susanne was able to obtain all the necessary permits to collect mushrooms for university herbaria in Brazil. Future lab studies on their genetics will now be possible, which is exciting. There are probably many undescribed species here.
It was so hard to choose just a few of among the 2167 photos I ended up saving from the four weeks I spent there. I must have deleted at least four times that many.
I’d say the best snake was this Bothrops taeniatus, Speckled Forest Pit-viper. Yes, it is venomous, but it’s not aggressive.
The most exciting plant that I spotted from the boat was this Gnetum leyboldii. It is a relict gymnosperm in the obscure division Gnetophyta. Until now, the only gnetophytes I had ever seen in the wild were shrubs in the genus Ephedra, commonly called Mormon Tea. Five years ago in Lombok I actually saw fruits for sale in a market that were from a tree in the genus Gnetum. There are only nine species of Gnetum in the New World tropics, all vines, and I impressed myself that I recognized this for what it was.
We saw hundreds of mushrooms, but we were always casting an eye to ground to look for red and green members of the genus Hygrocybe. This one looks close to Hygrocybe neofirma, but it may be a new species. We ended up calling it the “WTF mushroom,” because of Julia’s reaction to when she saw it. She has handled many hygrocybes around Brazil, and for the first time ever she saw that this one stained her fingers red. She had this amazing look of wonder, surprise, happiness, and disbelief when she uttered “WTF?” in perfect English.