Archive for May, 2014

Exploring the Mountains of Eastern Cuba, Part 2

Posted in From the Field on May 30th, 2014 by Fabian Michelangeli – 2 Comments

Fabian A. Michelangeli, Ph.D., is an Associate Curator of the Institute of Systematic Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. His research focuses in part on the evolution, identification, and classification of neotropical plants.


Miconia victorini

Miconia victorini

In my last post I recounted how my colleagues and I explored eastern Cuba, collecting different members of the family Melastomataceae. Only a dozen species in this group, which includes plants known as meadow beauties, princess flowers and Johnny berries, are found in the United States, but it is very diverse in the tropics. In Cuba, there are more than 200 species of Melastomataceae, and more than 150 of those are endemic, found only on that island.

Here are some representatives from the Sierra Maestra Mountains that we encountered on our expedition. Most of these species are adapted to the cloud forest conditions of the mountains.
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From the Field: Bill Buck in Cape Horn 2014, Part 14

Posted in Travelogue on May 27th, 2014 by Bill Buck – 1 Comment

William R. Buck, Ph.D., is the Mary Flagler Cary Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. Every January for the past three years, Dr. Buck, a moss specialist, and a team of colleagues have journeyed to the Cape Horn region at the southern tip of South America to document the area’s rich diversity of mosses and search for new species. This is the last in his series of posts about his 2014 field trip.


January 30, 2014; Punta Arenas, Chile

Bill Buck

Bill Buck

The trip is all but over. We arrived in Punta Arenas at midnight between the 27th and 28th, almost a day early. I asked Ernesto Davis to phone ahead and see if our hotel reservation could be updated. After a rough night the day before, everyone was ready for stable beds and hot showers. Fortunately, the hotel had space and our rooms were ready when we arrived, luggage in hand.

We returned to the ship early the next morning to gather our collections. The entire crew was in attendance when we arrived at the trusty Doña Pilar. We still had specimens on the dryers and promptly started dealing with them. There was little wind, so I was able to close up my paper bags on the deck. Every last one of my collections was completely dry. Everyone else still had damp specimens that would need additional time before being packed up.

Early in the expedition, I asked the crew if, after our trip, I might have the small Magellanic flag that the Doña Pilar flew. Ships on previous expeditions only flew the Chilean flag, which I asked for and received during our last trip. Perhaps they hadn’t flown the Magellanic flag because the captain was from further north, in Chiloé. Regardless, I was delighted when this year’s captain presented me with the tattered flag that had flown over the ship that had served us so well. I collect flags, in part as a true souvenir of my collecting localities. Some hold special memories. I will proudly display this one in my New York office.
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From the Field: Bill Buck in Cape Horn 2014, Part 13

Posted in Travelogue on May 16th, 2014 by Bill Buck – Be the first to comment

William R. Buck, Ph.D., is the Mary Flagler Cary Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. Every January for the last three years, Dr. Buck, a moss specialist, and a team of colleagues have journeyed to the Cape Horn region at the southern tip of South America to document the area’s rich diversity of mosses and search for new species.


January 27, 2014; in transit to Punta Arenas

GlacierTime has lost meaning. We’re on the long trek back to Punta Arenas now, which is supposed to take about a day and a half. We arrived in Puerto Williams two nights ago (could it really have been only two nights ago?). We transferred ashore for one of those nights and stayed in the Universidad de Magallanes house. Our top priorities were hot showers and dealing with leftover specimens—in that order.

We went to dinner at the only restaurant in town that could handle a group of nine people. This was to be Rina Charlín’s last meal with us since she was staying behind in Puerto Williams. Fortunately, our prior arrangements were successful, and we surprised Matt von Konrat at the end of the meal with a cake for his 10th wedding anniversary. He seemed genuinely touched and took a photo of himself with the cake to send to his wife in Chicago.

After cake, Matt and Laura Briscoe hurried back to the university house for a late night of photographing oil-bodies, the distinctive, oil-filled structures found in the cells of most hepatics, or liverworts. It’s important to photograph them quickly because they disintegrate when the plant dries out. Matt and Laura didn’t get to bed until nearly 4 a.m. The final tally for the number of oil-bodies photographed this year is 140. This will be an amazing addition to a flora of a remote area of the world. I was also pleased to hear that one of the small hepatics I picked up proved interesting and unusual.
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From the Field: Bill Buck in Cape Horn 2014, Part 12

Posted in Travelogue on May 9th, 2014 by Bill Buck – Be the first to comment

William R. Buck, Ph.D., is the Mary Flagler Cary Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. Every January for the last three years, Dr. Buck, a moss specialist, and a team of colleagues have journeyed to the Cape Horn region at the southern tip of South America to document the area’s rich diversity of mosses and search for new species.


January 25, 2014; in transit to Puerto Williams

The expansive face of Isla Grevy's "Low Peninsula"

The expansive face of Isla Grevy’s “Low Peninsula”

Two nights ago we pulled into Caleta Antuca (55°42’S, 67°26’W), our final collecting site on Isla Wollaston. We tied off on the rocks and stepped directly ashore. This was fortunate because the wind was blowing strongly and it would have been difficult to get the Zodiac off the deck. Nevertheless, it was a little scary stepping from the rolling ship onto a small rock ledge. Both Barb Andreas and Barbara Murray chose to stay aboard because of this.

The wind howled, but precipitation was minimal. I found mosses around the shore of a lake. From time to time, as I searched around the base of rock ledges, I’d take a brief hiatus from the wind but otherwise gloried in the weather.
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From the Field: Bill Buck in Cape Horn 2014, Part 11

Posted in Travelogue on May 1st, 2014 by Bill Buck – Be the first to comment

William R. Buck, Ph.D., is the Mary Flagler Cary Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. Every January for the last three years, Dr. Buck, a moss specialist, and a team of colleagues have journeyed to the Cape Horn region at the southern tip of South America to document the area’s rich diversity of mosses and search for new species.


January 23, 2014; Bahía Hately, Isla Wollaston, Chile (55°42’S, 67°23’W)

Close quarters for the Doña Pilar

Close quarters for the Doña Pilar

After leaving Fondeadero Hyde yesterday, we headed east to the next bay over, Fondeadero Kendall (55°45’S, 67°23’W). I had collected there some years prior, and so I headed to a different side of the bay with Barb Andreas, following a stream uphill to a series of lakes. We were searching for a submerged moss, Blindia inundata, attached to pebbles in the lake. In short order we found it and headed back to be picked up.

We needed to make our pick-up on time because Barb wanted to be dropped off at a site where I had collected several years ago. Just last year, she published a scientific description of one of my prior moss collections from this spot, naming it Blindia buckii. As she returned to the ship in the Zodiac later on, she gave me two thumbs up, and I knew she had been successful in locating it.

From there, we were told we had to travel four or five hours to reach our night anchorage on the north coast of Isla Wollaston. We arrived in about two and a half hours. As we traveled down the bay, the forests of southern beeches on the slopes of the mountains formed a reticulate pattern of dark green leaves among pale brown trunks. It was then that I noticed that the ship was headed straight for a solid rock cliff. Rock walls towered 50 feet above us on either side.
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