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PROJECT <strong>REPORT</strong> & MAIN ACHIEVEMENTS of <strong>2022</strong><br />




• To reassess the conservation status of the species by re-surveying known populations<br />

and searching for other new areas where the species might be present, especially after the<br />

devastating hurricane Maria in 2017. Naples Botanical Garden will be contributing in-kind<br />

support throughout the project<br />

• To create genetically representative ex-situ collections at Eye on the Rainforest and<br />

other institutions in Puerto Rico<br />

• To identify suitable sites and partners to carry out reintroduction trials<br />

• To raise public awareness and inform local communities about the species’<br />

conservation values<br />

• Continuing conservation for threatened trees after GTC support has ended, by<br />

partner organizations<br />

Expected results/outcomes<br />

• Updated conservation assessment for the species, with mapping of populations.<br />

• Ex-situ collections established and performance trials initiated for the species. These<br />

collections will be shared with other institutions in the country.<br />

• In-situ programs established for the protection of existing populations with planting<br />

carried out where suitable.<br />

• Implementation of educational activities for local schools and integrated action plan<br />

informing national authorities on measures for the species’ effective conservation.

Background<br />

The work for the conservation of two Puerto Rican endemic trees,<br />

Garcinia portoricensis & Ravenia urbanii, began in 2021. Thrity Vakil,<br />

director of Tropic Ventures Research & Education Foundation<br />

(TVREF), and a diverse Puerto Rican team comprised of plant and<br />

tree experts, as well as experts in the fields of ecology, biology,<br />

taxonomy, bryology, mycology, and zoology, are continuing the<br />

work. TVREF is also known as Eye on the Rainforest, which is the<br />

name of its website. www.eyeontherainforest.org<br />

TVREF obtained a grant from the Association of Zoological<br />

Horticulture through Naples Botanical Gardens, in 2021, and<br />

architect David Henebry designed and led the building-work of a<br />

new, strong, hurricane-resistant shade-tree nursery with cement<br />

footings. This structure, seen below, survived the recent and<br />

devastating Hurricane Fiona in September <strong>2022</strong>, which caused<br />

devastating landslides on the project land and surrounding areas.<br />

See this link for all team Bios<br />


Permaculture Design: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UQBFIxwxpMlp9U3ONC9SiZhacotsIIIZ/view?usp=sharing

Acta Científica: Una revista transdisciplinaria de Puerto Rico y el Caribe.<br />

Tribute to Forester Frank H. Wadsworth, (friend and mentor to Thrity), who passed away age 106, on the 5 th of January<br />

<strong>2022</strong>. Thrity wrote a tribute essay which was published in Acta Cientifica.<br />

https://drive.google.com/file/d/13TXdSCO2TcSf7DO7BM2GFpVqUDksqPOu/view?usp=sharing<br />

PRESS: Telemundo TV Interview at Las Casas de la Selva, 9 th Dec <strong>2022</strong><br />

Kaly Esther Torro and Sebastian Marquez spent the morning with Thrity Vakil and Andrés Rúa at the woodyard in<br />

Caguas, and the afternoon at Las Casas, talking about wood and forestry in Puerto Rico. A myriad of topics from trees,<br />

wood, forests, nurseries, biodiversity, collaboration with <strong>BGCI</strong> & Naples Botanical Gardens, protection and propagation<br />

of endemic species, watershed protection, the history and work of Las Casas de la Selva since 1983, how Puerto Rico<br />

Hardwoods came into being in 2012, and what sustainable forestry looks like in Puerto Rico.


Thrity was invited by the directors of the Botanical Gardens Conservation International, and Naples Botanical Garden, to<br />

the Botanical Bridges Congress <strong>2022</strong>, at The Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, a 30-acre world-class, botanic garden in<br />

Governor’s Harbor, Eleuthera Island, Bahamas. It is a showcase of native and endemic Bahamian plants and is the first<br />

and only national park on the island. Thrity’s presentation at the congress highlighted the history and forestry work at<br />

Las Casas, including the last two years of work with critically endangered endemic species.

SURVEY #1 (April 3 rd <strong>2022</strong>)<br />

BOTANICAL SURVEYS <strong>2022</strong><br />

Getting the team together from all over the island is helped by promising a good wholesome dinner on return from the field, and<br />

this expedition was on International Chocolate Mousse Day, so we had Monique Nieves, our chef seek out pure Puertorican cacao<br />

and make us the best chocolate mousse ever. This survey covered the north valley of the project homestead. We are logging all our<br />

finds on INaturalist, and on this particular expedition we found none of our target species.<br />

L-R: Kurt Miller, Steve Maldonado, Bill Davidowski, Jaime Suarez and Alexandra Hertell, Magha Garcia, Roqui Bello, Amelia Merced.<br />

Google Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/pRQRcW9N1zDEAtyi9

SURVEY #2 (1 ST MAY <strong>2022</strong>)<br />

This expedition was soley to obtain cuttings from our known<br />

Ravenia and Garcinia, and try Root Riot and Clonex.


Garcinia portoricensis:<br />

1 st May <strong>2022</strong>:<br />

TOTAL: 33 cuttings<br />

26 with Clonex Rooting hormone into Root Riot<br />

7 with Clonex Rooting hormone into peatmoss/perlite<br />

mix<br />

By DEC <strong>2022</strong><br />

10 out of 26 survive with Clonex and Rooting Riot<br />

0 out of 7 survive with Clonex Rooting hormone into<br />

peatmoss/perlite mix<br />

Ravenia urbanii<br />

TOTAL: 52 cuttings<br />

16 with Clonex Rooting hormone into Root Riot<br />

12 with Clonex Rooting hormone into peatmoss<br />

14 with Clonex Rooting hormone into peatmoss/perlite<br />

mix<br />

By DEC <strong>2022</strong><br />

2 out of 16 survive with Clonex and Rooting Riot<br />

0 out of 12 survive with Clonex Rooting hormone into<br />

peatmoss<br />

0 out of 14 survive with Clonex Rooting hormone into<br />

peatmoss/perlite mix<br />

GOOGLE PHOTOS: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ifAySwnT26xmcRwt7

SURVEY #3 (10th MAY <strong>2022</strong>) no target species found<br />

r<br />

L-R: Steve Maldonado, Giovanna Berrios, Magha Garcia, Fernando Rocha, Sarah Wetterer, Octavio Rivera, 3t Vakil<br />

GOOGLE PHOTOS: https://photos.app.goo.gl/jR7JNGC94xDSxVcu6

Survey #4 (7 th June <strong>2022</strong>)<br />

No new target species found. We went to see the two Garcinia trees we<br />

knew, and observed flowering, but no fruits.<br />

Endemic snail seen for the first time ever at the project, Platysuccinea portoricensis on the Garcina portoricensis

Anolis krugi, the Olive Bush Anole, also found on the Garcinia portoricensis tree<br />

GOOGLE PHOTOS: https://photos.app.goo.gl/bS9YDDNCGm1pY5b98<br />

Survey #5 10 th June <strong>2022</strong><br />

Voucher specimen of Garcinia portoricensis collected with Professor Jim<br />

Ackerman for the University of Puerto Rico herbarium.<br />

GOOGLE PHOTOS: https://photos.app.goo.gl/tT8HpXxg2QycppZ68

Survey #6 11 th June <strong>2022</strong><br />

Puerto Hermina, Quebradillas, North PR. Seed collection.<br />

Garcinia portoricensis fruits

L-R front: Eugenio Santiago, Amelia Merced, Magha Garcia, Carlos Laboy, 3t Vakil, Kurt Miller<br />

L-R back: Ricky Liquet Gonzalez, Octavio, Alejandro Cubinia, Kurt Miller<br />

GOOGLE PHOTOS: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Us6w9tfKhjKXiJ4j6<br />

The Puerto Hermina, Quedradillas site has 9 adults, 5 are females.<br />

From the other age classes 23 are saplings and >50 seedlings, which vary in number from year to year from natural<br />

death causes or trampling by hikers. Agronomist Alcides L. Morales-Pérez (personal communication) confirms this<br />

info. (He is the manager of the Reserva Natural Hacienda La Esperanza at Para la Naturaleza, northeast PR).<br />

We collected 74 fruits from the ground. Abundant fruits on the ground in public area on rocky cliff ground on the sea<br />

front. We collected 11 fruits from a forest trail not far from first collection of trees.<br />

AS of December <strong>2022</strong> all Garcinia p. seeds have germinated and are growing<br />

very well. 85 TOTAL

Playa Puerto Hermina, Quedradillas. THIS IS NOT A PROTECTED AREA<br />

GOOGLE PIN: https://goo.gl/maps/RXQNjz1MX3Jsrwhn7<br />

It is possible that the plants we have growing now are actually two different species within the same<br />

genus. Many plant species have a lot of variation within them, and granted it is not uncommon for<br />

individuals within a species to have different characteristics. The images below show the differences in seed size and<br />

form.<br />

Left: Image shows size and shape of Garcinia portoricensis fruit from LC Las Casas & LUQ Luquillo.<br />

Center: Image shows seeds from LC/LUQ on left and seeds from Q Quebradillas & SJ San Juan on right.<br />

Right: Image shows fruit size and shape of Garcinia portoricensis fruit from Q Quebradillas & SJ San Juan.<br />

The seedlings from Quebradillas and the offspring from San Juan (Q Quebradillas & SJ San Juan) are from larger round<br />

fruits and noticeably larger seeds than the seedlings from the NE side of PR (LC Las Casas & LUQ Luquillo) which are<br />

from small ovoid fruits and small seeds. Could this be a different species? With four sets of seeds and plants currently<br />

in growth and the ability to compare leaf shape, there is undoubtedly a topic requiring additional research.

Garcinia portoricensis seedlings propagated in 2021 TOTAL: 111<br />

67 x Seedlings from Luquillo<br />

LUQ (El Yunque) parent<br />

Seen from above<br />

2 x Seedlings from<br />

Las Casas project<br />

land LC<br />

Seen from above<br />

9 x Seedlings from<br />

Quebradillas SJ<br />

Parent grown in San Juan<br />

Seen from above<br />

33 x Seedlings from<br />

Quebradillas Q<br />

Seen from above


Rio Grande: Garcinia portoricensis tree with seedlings by Roqui Bello<br />

4 x adults trees, some seedlings<br />

PHOTOS : https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1EijjV_ZG-WSJKVSBvJutTC7mV1HkWbQY?usp=share_link<br />

Rio Grande<br />

GOOGLE PIN: https://maps.app.goo.gl/gb8EuWvwQufdBGgz5?g_st=iw<br />



Rio Sabana: Garcinia portoricensis tree with seedlings by Roqui Bello<br />

7 x adult trees<br />

PHOTOS: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1sU9NHvOmrGHxX5Yhruvvx5u0WEV49csT?usp=share_link<br />

Sabana Recreation Area, Rio Sabana, Naguabo<br />

GOOGLE PIN: https://maps.app.goo.gl/RH47NTiSZsbg9vtu6?g_st=iw<br />



Quebrada Grande: Garcinia portoricensis tree with seedlings by Roqui Bello<br />

GOOGLE PIN: https://maps.app.goo.gl/fdyJuwVvo6ukyq416?g_st=iw<br />

Balneario de Cerro Gordo, Vega alta: Garcinia portoricensis report from Erid Román Rosario<br />

5 x adult trees, 5 x seedlings<br />

GOOGLE PIN: https://goo.gl/maps/G9s81orjmf8hf3bR8

Cerro Gordo, Sabana, Vega Alta 00646: Garcinia portoricensis report from Erid Roman Rosario<br />

10 x adult trees<br />

18°28'45.7"N 66°19'21.4"W<br />

GOOGLE PIN: https://goo.gl/maps/w4AiLgez6qCRF3i47<br />

Garcinia portoricensis <strong>2022</strong> seedlings and cuttings sprouting

Ravenia Urbanii 6 x Seeds propagated July 2021 (5 germinated, first one germinated 32 days later, the<br />

other 4 took 17 months, finally germinating in Dec <strong>2022</strong>)<br />

Out of 52 cuttings 2 cuttings survived so far.

IMAGES<br />

IMAGES FROM OUR <strong>2022</strong> TREE SURVEYS<br />

#1 GTC Survey, 3rd April <strong>2022</strong> Las Casas land https://photos.app.goo.gl/pRQRcW9N1zDEAtyi9<br />

#2 GTC Survey, 1st May <strong>2022</strong> cuttings Las Casas land https://photos.app.goo.gl/ifAySwnT26xmcRwt7<br />

#3 GTC Survey, 10th May <strong>2022</strong> Las Casas land https://photos.app.goo.gl/jR7JNGC94xDSxVcu6<br />

#4 GTC Survey 7th June <strong>2022</strong> Las Casas land https://photos.app.goo.gl/bS9YDDNCGm1pY5b98<br />

#5 GTC Survey 10th June <strong>2022</strong> Specimen collection Las Casas https://photos.app.goo.gl/tT8HpXxg2QycppZ68<br />

#6 GTC Survey 11th June <strong>2022</strong> Porto Hermina Quebradillas https://photos.app.goo.gl/Us6w9tfKhjKXiJ4j6<br />


#1 GTC Survey 16th March 2021 https://photos.app.goo.gl/qxA573ergyindm2x5<br />

#2 GTC Survey 2nd April 2021 https://photos.app.goo.gl/5V5kpNBAHiGnC7K1A<br />

#3 GTC Earthday Survey 22 April 2021 https://photos.app.goo.gl/X6GNPZMvv8hobN2H9<br />

#4 GTC Bagging Ravenia fruit 6th July 2021 https://photos.app.goo.gl/SKhPmcTMCt1E9LBeA<br />

#5 GTC Garcinia cuttings and fruit collection 11th July 2021 https://photos.app.goo.gl/SZ8GLwwUH4ThoRUG8<br />

#6 GTC Ravenia urbanii seed collection 30 July 2021 https://photos.app.goo.gl/p94XPpvB24UFGMbs8<br />

#7 GTC Hormiga Valley Botanical Expedition 19 Aug 2021 https://photos.app.goo.gl/LXZwo1xTh8BhoRbL6<br />

Affiliations<br />

Amelia Merced: USDA Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry, and collaborator with the<br />

Herbarium of the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, https://www.fs.usda.gov/iitf<br />

Eugenio Santiago & Jim Ackerman: University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, and the Herbarium,<br />

http://herbario.uprrp.edu/bol/<br />

Christian Torres: Terraformation https://www.terraformation.com/<br />

Roqui Bello: The Center for Landscape Conservation https://www.conpaisaje.org/<br />

Magha Garcia Medina: Organización Boricuá, a grassroots group of farmers, environmentalists and other allies<br />

who advocate for agroecology, agroforestry, and the protection of natural resources, and founder of Pachamama<br />

Forest Garden, https://www.instagram.com/organizacion_boricua/?hl=en<br />

Alejandro Cubina & Carlos Laboy: ReForesta, https://www.reforesta.com/<br />

Dr. Mark Nelson: Institute of Ecotechnics, https://ecotechnics.edu/<br />

Anissa V Hernández: Forest Bathing PR https://www.facebook.com/forestbathingpr<br />

Academia Biosferica: https://academiabiospherica.org/


Volunteering and workshops at the nurseries over the<br />

year, as well as raising plant awareness. Many of the<br />

volunteer teams who come to the project in <strong>2022</strong><br />

assisted in the nurseries or took a comprehensive tour of<br />

them with 3t. In <strong>2022</strong>, there were three men and four<br />

women receiving paid support.<br />

In November <strong>2022</strong>, University of Puerto Rico Professors Jim Ackerman and Eugenio Santiago spent a weekend at the<br />

project teaching students about taxonomy and how to gather specimens for research and the herbarium.

Seedling nursery<br />

HURRICANE FIONA 17 th September <strong>2022</strong><br />

Just days before the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria (20th Sept 2017), Hurricane Fiona slammed the island<br />

archipelago, dumping more than 25 inches of rain on areas of Puerto Rico's south and central mountain regions, causing<br />

flash floods and power outages over the entire island. Landslides broke out in mountainous regions as waterways broke<br />

their banks. Rainbands had begun to affect the islands late on Friday 16th September, increasing in frequency and intensity<br />

through the day, and on Saturday 17th evening into the night across Puerto Rico. No one was prepared for the intensity of<br />

rain. Fiona came ashore in southwestern Puerto Rico in the late afternoon. Though the storm only reached category<br />

1 intensity—with sustained winds around 85 miles (135 kilometers) per hour—it moved slowly and had more time to cause<br />

damage. The system pounded the southern coast with strong gusts and relentless rain totaling over 25 inches(630 mm). In<br />

succeeding days, there were several other devastatingly heavy rains. The 184 main road between Patillas and Guavate,<br />

near TVREF’s forest land was devastated, and the drive-way and land on the Las Casas homestead was equally impacted.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/<strong>2022</strong>/09/21/puerto-rico-hurricane-fiona-flooding/<br />

https://www.elnuevodia.com/noticias/el-tiempo/notas/areas-aisladas-en-puerto-rico-recibieron-cerca-de-35-<br />

pulgadas-de-lluvia-durante-el-paso-de-fiona/<br />

Arrow indicates location of project


After Hurricane Fiona, the wet weather persisted. There were<br />

three more extreme torrential rain events; one at the end of<br />

September, then on 25/26/27/28 October, and then 5/6/7/8<br />

November when 8” (200 mm) of rain fell in 3 days. It was a<br />

desolate time for 3t, who was living at Las Casas solo. It was three<br />

weeks before electricity was restored. There was water/humidity<br />

damage to many items and mold issues became a problem; fog<br />

sat over and inside the main house, for days on end after Fiona.<br />

Much of October was spent working on the main road drainage<br />

and clearing landslide debris to get access to the badly damaged<br />

river-water system.<br />

Although all plants required urgent care due to the flood of water and had to be re-bagged or repotted with new medium<br />

or soil, the shade nursery and seedling nursery created last year to withstand winds survived. Following the hurricane, it<br />

was discovered that several saplings on the homestead were leaning because of wind and too much water in the soil.<br />

We tied young trees back into place over a day.<br />

Fundraising will play a significant role in 2023 as 3t enlists the aid of NRCS and any other organizations that can offer<br />

technical or financial assistance. The perennial bunchgrass known as vetiver, or Chrysopogon zizanioides, is a member<br />

of the Poaceae family. Vetiver is the best plant for preventing landslides and controlling erosion because its roots spread<br />

downward and reach a depth of around 6 feet. Vetiver planting to prevent erosion is already in progress.<br />


Established in 1983, the 930-acre mountainous forest property known as Las Casas de la Selva is the home of Tropic<br />

Ventures Sustainable Forestry & Rainforest Enrichment Project, is a certified Stewardship Forest, and has an approved<br />

Forest Stewardship Management Plan under the auspices of the Puerto Rican Department of Natural Resources, and the<br />

International Institute of Tropical Forestry. Additionally, it is designated as Auxiliary Forest. Tropic Ventures Research &<br />

Education Foundation is a Puerto Rican not-for-profit and has a contract with Tropic Ventures (the managing entity) to<br />

conduct scientific studies and educational research work on the entirety of the land for the next 50 years. Established in<br />

1983, Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry & Rainforest Enrichment Project has planted over 50,000 hardwood trees on<br />

300 acres of the secondary forest using line-planting to minimize disturbance, leaving the rest as a ‘wilderness’ zone and<br />

to observe dynamics in undisturbed secondary forest. Minimal selective-thinning and removal for the sale of harvested<br />

timber on the land has been conducted since 2003. Between 2013 and 2015, the project established new populations of<br />

federally listed trees Styrax portoricensis (Palo de Jazmin) and Cornutia obovata (Palo de Nigua), in a collaborative project<br />

with the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

The property is characterized as subtropical wet forest in the Holdridge life zone system and is known locally as<br />

“tabonuco forest”, with Dacryodes excelsa Vahl being a dominant tree. It is located in the southeast mountains of the<br />

island of Puerto Rico, adjacent to the 6,660-acre Carite State Forest. It is a spectacular site with steep, thickly forested<br />

slopes, and beautiful rivers and waterfalls. The location and the quality of the habitat of Las Casas de la Selva are ideal<br />

for the establishment of projects assisting toward the recovery of various endangered endemic plant and tree<br />

species. The forest is located on steep slopes at an elevation range of 600-350m, receiving an average annual rainfall of<br />

3,000 mm (118 in).<br />

Report by Thrity Vakil, December <strong>2022</strong>

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