Date(s) - 05/31/2010
The 2010 IPS Biennial was sponsored by the International Palm Society (IPS), who worked with a handful of dedicated Brazilian IPS members to plan memorable tours of rich palm flora and spectacularly landscaped gardens on this very first Biennial held in Brazil.
Biennial Participants enjoyed world-class food and accommodations at the host hotel in Rio de Janiero, which overlooks a long strand of pristine palm lined Atlantic Ocean beaches. Evenings were devoted to banquets and educational lectures, while our days featured guided air conditioned bus tours of city-centered gardens and many other palm sites located in outlying areas:
A tour of Serra das Orgãos National Park in the Brazilian Highlands of Rio de Janeiro state provided opportunities to see this lush fragment of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, recently designated as a World Biosphere Reserve. In addition to palms this region also offers spectacular vistas and unusual rock formations like the Dedo de Deus (Finger of God).
Biennial Participants toured the historic Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro, created in 1808. Its famous and much-photographed Avenue of Royal Palms along the main entry was a palm-lovers delight as we strolled a long promenade lined with 134 soaring Roystonea oleraceae palms. The garden covers over 350 acres, about 40% of the area is cultivated, with the remainder being natural forest. Home to hundreds of palm species this garden was recognized by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve in 1992.
We toured Sugarloaf Mountain, a peak situated in Rio de Janeiro at the mouth of Guanabara Bay on a peninsula that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean. The name Sugarloaf refers to the shape of the mountain which resembles a loaf of refined sugar. Ascending Sugarloaf via Italian-made glass-walled bubble-shaped cable cars gave us 360-degree views of the surrounding city. To reach the summit we took two cable cars. The first car ascends to the shorter Morro da Urca peak and then a second car ascends to Pão de Açúcar peak. We enjoyed the unexpected surprise of seeing many Marmosets (little monkeys) swinging from tree to tree. These tourist-friendly creatures make Sugarloaf their home and were eager to accept offerings of tasty tidbits.
A special day was reserved for a tour of the home and garden of the famed artist and landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx. His famous Copacabana promenade mosaic, completed in 1970 along the Rio de Janeiro beach, is now an icon of the city. Burle Marx garden and home were turned into a museum and cultural center following his death in 1994. Burle Marx is known for his bold use of color, abstract design and local plant materials, including palms, aroids and bromeliads, many collected by Burle Marx himself on field excursions to surrounding forests.
To gain the perspective of a local grower, participants toured Herminio’s Nursery and garden to view a wide diversity of plants growing in shade houses and in areas with full sun, including a number of rare, exotic and native palm species.
A tour of the 312 acre Prainha Ecological Park located within the city of Rio de Janeiro provided viewing of a spectacular piece of the Atlantic forest close to the coast. Prainha means “little beach” and this scenic Park offers wonderful vistas, excellent trails and palm flora. The nearby environmentally protected area of Grumari beach contains Atlantic Forest and palm flora similar to that found at Prainha. The spectacular beauty of unspoiled Grumari beach makes it a popular film location for soap operas and movies.
The Biennial ended with an entire day devoted to tours of Boa Esperança ranch, property of International Palm Society member Jill Menzel who has a real passion for plants. Participants were overwhelmed by this tour of one of the most impressive gardens in the Rio de Janeiro area, which preserves a large tract of extremely fragmented and endangered ecosystem in Brazil’s Atlantic Coastal Forest. The memorable day ended with a farewell banquet hosted at Jill Menzel’s residence at Boa Esperança ranch. We’ll never forget the camaraderie with good friends and the warm Brazilian hospitality as we were treated to live music, swimming in the beautiful pool, an open bar with friendly attentive bartenders, and the aroma of Brazilian-style barbecue roasting on massive wood-burning grills surrounding a large tree-shaded open-air dining area.