A Man, A Snake, A Flower

Ethan Freedman

May 23, 2017


Rainforest Trust’s partner has the unique distinction of having not one, but two species named in his honor in the span of a few months.

  • Rainforest Trust's partner Guido Berguido recently had this species of flowering plant named in his honor. Photo by Carla Black.

Last year, Guido Berguido, a Rainforest Trust partner and the founder of ADOPTA (Asociación Adopta el Bosque Panamá), became the namesake of the Chucanti Centipede Snake, Tantilla berguidoi. The snake was named to honor Berguido’s creation of the Cerro Chucantí Nature Reserve in Panama where the snake was first discovered. Now, Berguido can add a plant, Heliconia berguidoi, to the list of organisms named after him.

Researchers Rodolfo Flores, Carla Black and Alicia Ibáñez described the newly-discovered flowering plant species earlier this year in PhytoKeys. Like the Chucanti Centipede Snake, scientists first observed H. berguidoi in the Cerro Chucantí Nature Reserve. Characterized by pastel pink flowers peeking out from bright-red, arc-shaped structures known as bracts, H. berguidoi has a total estimated range size of just four square kilometers.

  • The pink flowers and red bracts of H. berguidoi. Photo by Carla Black.

In their paper, the researchers explained that they honored Berguido for “first [bringing] national attention to Cerro Chucantí after witnessing not only its natural splendor, but the rampant ongoing deforestation.” Cerro Chucantí is an isolated massif or “sky island” in eastern Panama, which rises from sea level to 4,721 feet in elevation. The closest peaks with similar elevation and vegetation are at least 90 miles away. This topography isolates the Cerro Chucantí mountaintop and enables extensive evolutionary differentiation of the region’s flora and fauna. Hence, Cerro Chucantí has several locally-endemic rainforest species likely found nowhere else on Earth, including H. berguidoi.

Despite current protections, these species and the entire ecosystem remains imperiled by encroaching slash and burn activity, logging and cattle ranching. When asked about ongoing threats, Berguido said, “Even though we have made great progress in learning about the unique flora and fauna of Cerro Chucantí, and now, with Rainforest Trust’s and International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC)’s support are almost doubling the size of the original Reserve, in a recent patrol of the farther flanks of the mountain we witnessed ongoing slash and burn of primary forest to give way to farming and cattle ranching.”

“This is a wake up call that we can’t slow down our efforts to protect this unique Sky Island!”

As a gateway to over 60,000 acres of public lands, the Cerro Chucantí Nature Reserve lays the foundation to designate government protected areas. ADOPTA has worked with Rainforest Trust and ICFC to expand Cerro Chucantí Nature Reserve by 260 acres, protecting more of this unique and diverse ecosystem from deforestation.

For more information: Protecting a “Sky Island” of Cloud Forest for Threatened Amphibians

Article by Ethan Freedman, Rainforest Trust Publications Officer.