UP UP AND AWAY UP INTO THE MOUNTAIN TO COLLECT SEEDLINGS
Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener volunteers are tough! We are on day 5 and still going very strong. We had an exciting day today that started with our bus ride up the mountain with the sole purpose of gathering Alnus alcuminata or Andean alder seedlings to replace ALL of the 2000 Oreopanax ecuadoriensis (Puma’s Paw) seedlings that we moved yesterday. We went up to about 10,000 feet high and worked our way down the mountain alongside the road. Matias showed us the size he wanted, about finger size, and how to gently tease the roots out of the soil. We used empty water bottles cut in half to collect the seedlings.
Getting Up Close to Native Plants of Ecuador
This was certainly a highlight for me as we really got up close and personal with the native plants of Ecuador. We saw many familiar plants but didn’t necessarily know the species.
Some of the plants we recognized were cleome, hydrangea, fuschia, many ferns, wandering jew, persicaria, rhododendron, salvia, bromilead, a plant that looked like pokeweed, and much more. We also saw some really cool mosses and lichens and some saw hummingbirds. The views were spectacular. We had fun taking our time moving down the hillside finding alder trees and the seedlings nearby. It was a bit of a challenge at first as we had to get our eyes adjusted to what we were hunting for. It was sort of like hunting for mushrooms – once you saw one, you found a bunch!
The altitude kind of got to many today. We have normally been at about 7,000 feet and most have gotten used to this. It was a little harder to go up the hill at the higher altitude without a shortness of breath. We were really glad the bus came down the hill to pick us up. The weather all morning was sunny and very comfortable. As we headed down the hil the clouds started rolling in and the views were even more beautiful with the cotton candy clouds.
LA POSADA DEL QUINDE
After this, we came back to the hotel, which is called the La Posade del Quinde (the house of the hummingbird) and had a great picnic lunch on the terrace. The hotel is quite lovely and the courtyard is nicely landscaped.
Labeling Hotel Courtyard Plants to Teach Visitors About Local Plants
One of our projects this week was to identify and label the plants in the courtyard in order to teach visitors about the local plants. One of the plants in the courtyard was Solanum betaceum or tree tomato. The fruit of this plant is used quite a bit in juices and sauces. The plants can get around 8′ tall and have somewhat large, fuzzy sliver-green leaves that have a purple cast when they emerge. We saw quite a few vegetable plots around town that included the tree tomatoes. One of the plants that the EMGs were especially interested in was the New Guinea impatiens or Impatiens hawkerii. Of course, down here, these plants are about 3-4′ tall and have stems that are about 2″ in diameter.
This is the first day that the sun was out fully and it was quite warm. At this high altitude, you burn pretty quickly. We have all been wearing sunscreen and hats all week but it’s been overcast. Once the sun came out we commented that it’s a good thing it’s been overcast.
VISITING COTACACHI ETHNOBOTANY GARDEN, THEN MORE SHOPPING!
We headed to the town of Cotacachi in order to visit an ethnobotany garden that was started by students as a community project. The purpose of the garden is to teach people about native medicinal, fruit, and vegetable plants. The garden is somewhat overrun at this point and in need of some work. Our EMGs spent a little time weeding the pathways and then it started raining. So, we headed into town for more SHOPPING! Cotacachi is know for it’s leather goods and there were quite a few places to visit. The “feel” of the town was very different from Otavalo. There are a lot of expatriates (someone living in this country that is not a citizen) and apparently, this is a retirement area for Americans. some of the shops seemed a little more modern and even had clothes with name brands from the US. Dinner was in Cotacachi and then back home for some much-needed rest.
Tomorrow is our last day at the vivero (nursery) and we will be potting up the seedlings and finishing up some odd jobs. Three of us started to repair a drainage ditch on Tuesday and will finish this as well.
I am a very tired Pam Bennett but still thoroughly enjoying Ecuador (EMG State Coordinator, Ohio State University Extension)