In search of a rare tree on the Seru Kortapé

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A few weeks ago we went to the Seru Kortapé, a hill in the Plantation Knip. After we published pictures of that hike we got enthusiastic responses from a number of biologists. Apparently we had photographed for the first time the fruits of a rare tree, the Guettarda roupalifolia. Only two of these trees had been seen in Curaçao before and never one with fruits. So we got the friendly request to go back to the hill to collect fruits and/or seeds. Fred and I put the waypoints of the pictures of this tree in our GPS's and on Thursday a group of sleuths drove to Westpunt for this search.

Seru Kortape 20130620 020 smallWe parked our cars opposite of the restaurant El Sobrino. Because last time the hike was very difficult we planned to approach the hill from another side through a valley between two of the subtops of this hill. So we walked along the road in the direction of the valley till we found a good spot to enter the vegetation. This approach appeared a good one because the vegetation was rather open and there were no horizontal vines that hindered our hike the last time.
After a while my GPS showed that we neared the track from last time so from that point we tried to retrace our steps from that hike. We soon found a glass gin bottle and a piece of an earthenware gin bottle. Both we had seen last time close to where the tree was. From there we followed the GPS till we "reached destination". Fred and I went looking for the tree in that area. Fred and I both had printed a picture of the tree with fruits (see my picture to the left). Problem was that the fruits were gone since last time and it was the bright red color of the stem with the fruits that drew our attention during our previous visit. So the only thing that we had to go on was the shape of the leaf. We identified one of the trees in the area as a possible candidate. Closer inspection showed some of the fruit stems although they were without fruits. When the others arrived we went looking for seeds in the dirt underneath the tree. We found several and Carel also found two seedlings. We collected seeds and took a lot of pictures as documentation.

From there we went to the subtop that we visited last time. We once again enjoyed the view and took a long rest before we went downhill through another part of the valley. The vegetation was a bit denser, but compared to last time on this hill it was "a walk in the park" for us. We found several artifacts, mainly old (rum) bottles and pieces of case bottles; apparently we were not the first in this area. We also found green and blue markings on the trees, that we followed. If someone goes through the trouble of marking a trail it is probably the easiest path through the vegetation.

To our surprise we detected another large tree of the same species along that trail. This one had still some fruits; most were high-up so Fred and Carel risked their lives by climbing into the tree to take pictures. When we proceeded Carel found out that he had forgotten his walking stick near the tree, so Fred (with GPS) and he went back. The others, Dirk, François, Eddy and I took a rest waiting for their return.

Five hours after the start of our hike we returned at our cars. In total we had walked 3.3 km. Satisfied with the result and the nice hike we all went home.

Update

After we posted the pictures made during this second visit, we got a response from the author of the Curaçao Flora, André van Proosdij. After studying the new information he came to the conclusion that the tree was previously mistakenly identified as the rare Guettarda roupalifolia. The new pictures showed that this tree is most probably a Guapira pacurero, certainly not as rare as the Guettarda roupalifolia. The Guapira pacurero is a tree often visited by Prikichis, the local parakeet, for food.