UK Premier of Apaporis

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh will screen the UK Premier of Apaporis at 7.30pm on the 3rd of August in the RBGE Lecture Theatre.

Apaporis, Secrets of the Forest, is a travelogue through landscapes of paradise in an Amazon jungle unknown to the vast majority of Colombians. Following in the footsteps of ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, the documentary traces the journey from Mitu to Apaporis documenting indigenous knowledge and revealing ancient myths and secrets.


The film pays homage to the botanical knowledge of indigenous peoples and highlights the conflicts that are threatening their unique culture and language that are in danger of disappearing forever. The film was inspired by the book “One River” written by Wade Davis, a student of Schultes.


It is rare for documentaries to be screened at Colombian cinemas but this one was and is currently the most seen documentary in Colombia.


“Apaporis tells of the devastation of the cultures of the people that understand the secrets of Amazon rainforest conservation and the use of many plants unknown to our civilization. It tells of the brutal disappearance of their languages, rituals and cosmogony”. Alfredo Molano Bravo, El Espectador.


“….an overwhelming wave of information and images…” Variety Magazine, USA.

Antonio Dorado, the director, will be present for a question and answer session at the conclusion of the screening.

Further information about the film can be found on the website

Tickets are available from the John Hope Gateway shop and RBGE shop online ( at a price of £7 (RBGE members get a 10% discount when shopping at these outlets).

We hope you can join us in supporting this event.


Expedition Amazonia

IMG_2915Photo: Cañón del Diablo, Araracuara Escarpment, Caquetá.

RBGE has been conducting a research program on the family Sapotaceae for nearly a decade. This family is distributed throughout the tropics usually in wet forests. In recent years we have expanded this research into northern South America and specifically into Colombia. Research by undergraduate student Ariadna Mondragon of the University of the Andes will be complemented by that of Julieth Serrano who worked on the family for her Masters project and will begin a PhD at RBGE in September. We are also working with undergraduate student Paola Piñeros and Masters student Dayana Sanchez on taxonomy and DNA barcoding of Micropholis in Colombia respectively, supervised by Professor Rocío Cortés of the Universidad Distrital and RBGE’s James Richardson.

IMG_2925Photo: Expedition team – Paola Piñeros, Miguel Guerrero, Dayana Sanchez, Pedro Rodríguez and Rocío Cortés.

As part of this research effort Rocío, Dayana and Paola recently travelled to a relatively unexplored region of Colombian Amazonia in the Department of Caquetá. This area is characterized by typical Amazonian wet forest but also by areas of the distinctive vegetation found on white sand substrates that are the subject of a PhD by RBGE’s Peruvian student Roosevelt Garcia. Roosevelt is investigating the biogeographic history of several genera that are found on white sands throughout Amazonia and the Guianas. This substrate is low in nutrients and high in aluminium and thus provides a challenging environment for plants. The vegetation is easily distinguishable from typical closed canopy tropical wet forest as plants grow to a lower height and are more numerous in number.

IMG_2622Photo: White sand vegetation, Cerro de La Gamitana, Caquetá.

In their 10 day trip, on which they were accompanied by Fabio Avila, the curator of the Herbario Forestal (UDBC) of the Universidad Distrital, they collected 200 individuals including 23 of Sapotaceae, 15 Chrysobalananceae, species of numerous other families and a newly discovered Colombian endemic genus of Rhamnaceae named after the capital of the department of Caquetá, Araracuara. These samples will be incorporated into molecular phylogenetic studies of each of these groups.

IMG_2640Photo: Paola and Dayana in white sand vegetation with Araracuara vetusta (foreground left).

The expedition began with a flight from Bogotá to Araracuara via San Vicente del Caguan. From there boat trips were made along the Rio Caquetá and Río Yarí for six hours. The team trekked through the jungle for two hours in search of the target species. It was a surprise for the team to find the recently described Araracuara vetusta (Rhamnaceae) dominant in the Cerro La Gamitana with plenty of fruits. From there the team travelled to Quebrada Quinche, a journey of ten hours. The trip was a huge success visiting stunning landscapes, a range of different vegetation types and making numerous interesting collections.

DSCN1115Photo Rio Caquetá.

New lichen species discovered close to Bogotá

A new species of lichen has been described in Páramo vegetation close to the Colombian capital Bogotá. The fact that new species are still being discovered close to a city of approximately eight million people highlights the need for taxonomic studies in countries such as Colombia. The new species was described by Bibiana Moncada of Universidad Distrital. Bibiana was recently at RBGE for a six month research visit to examine specimens held in our herbarium. See the link below for further information.

Highlighting the environmental consequences of illicit drug production to rock revellers

As Scotland careers headlong into its annual music festival season – and usual concerns are raised regarding the safety of unwitting revellers – rbgeColombia are aiming to increase awareness of the environmental and social consequences of illicit drug production at venues from Inverness to Wigtown. We are helping put into context the relationship between drugs, crime and conservation.

RBGE is better known as a visitor attraction than an evangelical protagonist and we are new to the festival scene. However, we appreciate the opportunity to engage with a wider public whom would not normally breach our gates.


“Our intention was to provide a comfortable area where revellers can relax, listen to Colombian music and enjoy some tasty delicacies from that amazing South American country”, explains RBGE Education Projects Officer Suzanne Harris, who joined the throng at the Rockness Festival near Inverness on the weekend of the 7th to the 9th of June.


“It’s no secret that drugs – both prohibited and ‘legal highs’ – are an issue at festivals. Too often we hear about needless casualties. However, the role of a botanic garden is not to lecture on the pros and cons of drug taking. What we can do is talk about what we witness first-hand: the way in which drugs such as cocaine have a direct link with crime, poverty and environmental devastation in the countries where they are grown”.

RBGE tropical botanist Dr James Richardson, who is currently undertaking fieldwork in Colombia, added: “In the UK we recognize cocaine as an addictive ‘Class A’ drug, the consumption of which may result in serious health consequences to users. What is perhaps not so well known is the environmental devastation caused as a result of illicit coca cultivation.”

“Colombia is believed to be the second most biodiverse country on Earth and home to an estimated 28,000 species of plants. This exceptional biodiversity is under threat because of coca cultivation, logging and mining. These activities also threaten the way of life of indigenous groups who have lived in the region for thousands of years. To these groups the coca plant, the source of cocaine, is sacred and they are horrified by its abuse by western societies. The extent of environmental damage caused by illicit coca cultivation is also shocking. For example, it takes four square metres of area formerly occupied by rain forest to produce just one gram of cocaine. RBGE is working alongside our counterparts in Colombia to help document its biodiversity, determining how it evolved and providing information that will assist in developing conservation strategies. But, that isn’t enough. Working together with the multi-institute Shared Responsibility program we aim to provide all the available information to help individuals understand the full environmental and social consequences of the production of cocaine.”


An estimated 1500 festival goers visited the Colombian Cafe at Rockness and in the wake of RBGE’s first rock festival outing, plans are well in hand for a presence at the Wickerman Festival on the 26th and 27th of July before presenting its own two-day, Festival Colombiano at the John Hope Gateway Building on the 3rd and 4th of August.