Elaphoglossum tripartitum

by Chuck Nishihira

Recollections of Maquipucuna all those years ago puzzles me, I do remember seeing a cathedral of the tallest Heliconias ever, and Elaphoglossum sprucei also stands out very vividly with it’s 3 foot long white hairy leaves.  A tiny Huperzia comes to mind too.  Even though beautifully rich forest surrounded us and an incredibly knowledgeable friend from the Atlanta Botanical Gardens was pointing things out, that was all I specifically remember. Images of the hikes and the forest as a whole are still floating around in there too, but that is about it.  While already in love with plants and field tested by then, my appreciation for plants must not have been fully waken yet.

Over the years many photographs with the caption “Maquipucuna” have left me shaking my head. The one that confuses me the most was Elaphoglossum tripartitum- How could someone miss such a special fern?! I kept thinking that one day I would make it back there and see this species for myself, and hopefully see those long pendant leaves of E. sprucei again (In the end, that one goes into the pile of “Maybe next time”).

Emily and I were on our way to the Maquipucuna area, when we stopped to stretch our legs. Emily was the first to spot one and said to come and look at this fern.  She immediately knew it was special.  Unceremoniously growing on a rock next to the road was a small specimen of a lazy man’s  Elaphoglossum peltatum (A close relative and a more commonly seen species).  A simpler less branchy leaf.  I could not have been happier and I know I had a silly grin on my face. Even though the memory of the find includes cars driving past, it is one of my new favorites.  Further into the forest this species was growing from trees as well as rocks.  Beautiful specimens. Some with long skinny leaves, others stubbier in appearance.  We both took photographs and these are a few that we like.

The ease of spotting them as well as their captivating appearance, left me wondering what exactly was I looking at all those years ago in Maquipucuna.