Nutrition Colombia , Bogotá D.C., Tuesday, March 15 of 2016, 09:11

Felling is terminating the yolombó tree

This millenary tree, a great pollinating agent and characterized for creating soils rich in organic matter is threatened due to human and genetic aspects

UN/DICYT Little was known about this tree of the Proteaceae family (Panopsis suaveolens), identified commonly as the yolombó tree until the 90’s when a Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) research project showed the lack of botanical records in the herbariums of the country.


Therefore to become cognizant of the status of this trees of this family including the yolombó, Botanist and Researcher of the UNal Natural Sciences Institute (ICN, for its Spanish acronym) Favio González, and Forest Engineer of the Bogotá José Celestino Mutis Botanical Gardens Fabio Ávila, developed a project funded by the Banco de la República, with the purpose of identifying which species of the Proteaceae family still exist and what is their location.


In the research project they identified two main threats over the yolombó tree; one is a genetic aspect and the other a human factor.


Regarding the former, some trees are isolated causing endogamy, which is a process where an individual does not have the opportunity to exchange genes with other individuals. In other words produces seeds but “recycles” them with its own genetic material and does not perform crossed pollination with other individuals.


Unfortunately with time tree survival is threatened. And for the latter, indiscriminate felling has considerably reduced the population of yolombó trees, because its wood is attractive for sawmills, for its fine and hard wood, and also because it is resistant to moisture; turning this species into an attractive raw material for carpentry.


Distribution and characteristics


The researchers investigated the taxonomical (classification), morphological and ecological novelties of the yolombó tree, which can measure up to 30 mts (98 ft.) high and have leafiness coverage between 8 and 10 square meters.


One of the characteristics of the tree is the great amount of biomass (fallen leafs) it produces for the mountain rainforest (between 1,500 and 3,000 mts [4920 -9840 ft]) as this allows the forest floor to develop and not breakdown; furthermore it helps nutrient transfer from the fallen leaves to the floor, stimulating growth of other plant life.


According to the researcher an exclusive and distinct feature of the yolombó tree are its flowers, as they blossom from the side and not the top, as more than 300,000 other species of flowering plants. Furthermore they are medium sized (between 1.5 and 4 cm long), funnel formed and when they blossom they can measure up to 2.5 cm. (1 in.) in diameter with bright colors and very prolific.


“A blossomed tree has many hanging clusters of open flowers at the same time, which make it an attractive offer for many organisms as many flowers produce nectar,” said González.


The research project provided data necessary to become cognizant of distribution, current preservation scenario and tree reproduction strategies. These aspects are crucial for implementing effective preservation strategies from local and regional environmental authorities as well as biologists.


Although field work was extensive there is still much exploration work ahead for this native species. For now they can only identify three genera of the Proteaceae (Euplassa, Panopsis and Roupala) family in Colombia. Close to 10 species of the first genera thrive in low-lands of the Orinoquía y Amazonia. Approximately other 50 of the remaining genera are mainly from the Andes and without a doubt the most susceptible regarding preservation.