ABOUT YOUR GUIDE

My name is Francisco Miranda, and I will be the guide on all of our trips to Brazil. I am a botanist and have been involved with orchids since the late 1970s, and in the 80s started to visit habitats all over the country on a way to observe the plants I was studying for my taxonomy work. This allowed me to travel around most of the country and even live for almost four years in the Amazon between 1981-85. All this traveling enabled me to discover and describe several new species, mostly in the Catasetinae (Catasetum and Mormodes) and Laeliinae. Since the late 1980s, I have been traveling a lot outside of Brazil to give presentations mainly to orchid societies, and there was always a lot of interest in Brazilian orchids and especially to see them in their habitats. Since then, I moved to the U.S. and continued to go back to Brazil and visit the habitats, unfortunately not as frequently as I would like. This, plus the fact that more and more people keep asking me to take them to see the orchids in their habitats, made me think more seriously about organizing these trips. Add to this the fact that Brazil is developing at a fast rate which entails a lot of habitat destruction, I finally decided that this is the time to take these trips more seriously. A lot of habitats I visited during the 80s and early 90s do not even exist anymore, so I am glad I have at least photos of some of them.  This is another reason to visit the areas that still exist.

I can be contacted at fmiranda@tampabay.rr.com regarding any info or questions.
















                        

ABOUT BRAZIL


Brazil covers an area of 8,514,877 km² (
3,287,597 sq. mi), which is almost half of that of South America. Its population is almost exactly half of that of the whole continent. Brazil also has a very long coastline, almost half of its total perimeter, and close to the coast is where most of the country's population is to be found. The first map shows Brazil in a gray tone, with the states and main cities named. The main rivers are also shown. Clicking on this map will open another window depicting a larger map with the main regions color-coded and with more information. There are 26 states in Brazil, and the larger and less populated ones are in the Amazon, whereas the most populated ones are in the eastern and southern regions. Language spoken is Brazilian Portuguese, which is a bit different from what is spoken in Portugal. Being such a large country, it comes to no surprise that there are many local accents (but no real dialects). In the big cities, mostly, a bit of English is understood or even spoken as it is the most taught second language in Brazil. The currency is the Real, and the measurement system is metric.

In the northern part, the country is crossed by the Equator Line and, in the states of São Paulo and Paraná to the south, by the Tropic of Capricorn. What that means is that Brazil, with its wide latitude variation, has tropical, subtropical and temperate main climates. If we consider seasonal variation in terms of length of the day, there is almost none in the northern part of the country where the climate is mainly tropical and as we go south we have progressively wider seasonal variation. Things are not so simple though, as the topography plays an important role in the climate of the country as do weather conditions.

In the second, a relief map of South America, Brazil is shown colored for vegetation whereas the rest of the continent is in gray scale. In terms of topography, Brazil is not as extreme as its Andean neighbors for example. The northern and western parts of Brazil do not extend to the Andes and thus the higher elevations are found around the border with Venezuela, going up the Venezuelan Shield. The highest points in Brazil are actually to be found there, the Neblina and Roraima peaks. These barely exceed 3,000 meters, much lower than the frequent 7,000+ meters in the Andes. South of the shield, and going to the highland in Central Brazil, we have the Amazon lowlands. There, the Solimões and Negro rivers merge into the Amazon River and the basin as a whole has a volume of flow by far larger than any other in the world.

The most important mountains in Brazil are, however, close to the coast in the southeastern part of the country. The maximum elevation never reaches 3,000 meters, but these mountains have a very strong influence on the climate. As they block most of the cold fronts coming from the south, by doing so they subject their seaward slopes and the coastal areas to seasonal rainfall that sometimes is quite extreme. And because of this, behind them the conditions get progressively drier to the point that some areas away from the coast have almost no or no rain at all for months. Certain areas can actually have no rain for years. So getting back to the map, areas in dark green basically denote tropical rain forest; in lighter green to yellow, transitional/semi-deciduous forest; and yellow/tan dry areas are covered with cerrado and/or deciduous forest. The map is general and does not show detailed vegetation distribution as it is impossible at this size. What the map does show is that there is a very large area of tropical rain forest in the Amazon valley and surrounding mountains to the north and south and another one as a strip along the coast, the Atlantic Forest. The Amazon forest has been seriously damaged mainly in its southern part in the state of Rondônia but the Amazon plains flood seasonally to a point that most of it is virtually inaccessible. The coastal forest, however, is much more vulnerable and unfortunately has been destroyed by development to a point that it mostly remains on the steep mountain slopes.

During most part of the year, a mass of hot air stays over the central part of the continent, and only in a short period of a few months the cold fronts are able to pass through the opening between the Andes and the Brazilian coastal mountains. So then there are rains in the central part of the continent and the dry forest turns green quickly and stays like this for the duration of the rainy season.

The Amazon forest is likely the richest in the world in terms of variety of trees and lianas, but being a mostly uniform forest in terms of light, humidity and absence of seasonal variation, it does not show that many microhabitats as expected for such a large area. Thus, the variety of orchid species is fairly low. The central parts of Brazil are really dry for most of the year, so they are also poor in variety of orchid species. Then we have the coastal tropical rain forest, and this is by far the best place to find orchid species in Brazil. More than 80% of the orchid species in Brazil occur there, and unfortunately these are the most prone to disappearing in the wild due to habitat destruction.

This is a very short bit of information, just to give a basic idea of the country. A wealth of information is available online, and some useful resources are listed in the Other Info page.