From Baracoa, the oldest city of Cuba, Arlet narrates on her trip to nurseries growing Magnolia minor, an endemic and threatened Cuban tree. The exquisite aroma of the magnolias in the mountains brings back memories of the Taino culture, in a region where their footprint is everywhere.
Project: Conservation of threatened mountain species.
As I approach Baracoa, one of the richest pre-Colombian sites in Cuba, I keep thinking of a time when Taíno communities lived in harmony with nature. I wander if back then the flowers of magnolia were also appreciated by their beauty and scent, contrasting the pristine white colour of the flower with the black hair of Taino women. I am travelling with another team of Planta! to work at nurseries where Magnolia minor grows, an exclusive tree of our country, and also to look for new individuals of the species in the wild.
We travel by boat to the river mouth, to reach the entrance of the protected area. There is no other access than through these emerald waters. The ascent to Belete station is made by a sinuous path of about 6 kilometers that borders or crosses endless times the Yumurí river.
Upon arrival, we find that the nursery of the station is ready, a great effort of local workers. However, there are no seedlings at the moment because the magnolias on the banks of the river do not have fruits yet. Specialists in the area continue to monitor the plants looking for seeds, so hopefully the new magnolias will start to grow really soon. We continue our journey amazed with the beauty of this site, the effort to reach it was completely worth it.
After working at locations near Baracoa, we left for Yamanigüey, a coastal town a few kilometers from the mining town of Moa. Few places in Cuba are as beautiful as this place of fishermen and miners. Any time of the day, delicious rivers and sea waters are a treat to endure the intense heat.
Sixty species of birds are silencing our steps in our search for new individuals of Magnolia minor. We are also hoping to collect seeds from trees we known from previous expeditions. They are like old friends welcoming us with their distinctive fragrance.
We monitored the mouth of the streams Yarey and La Hoya, where we found 11 new individuals. We also found three specimens at the Yunque de Baracoa, and another two in Yumurí del Sur. At this last site, we met a farmer who claims to know a population of another five trees. However, we were running out of time, so visiting this new population will be a priority for our next expedition. What a better reason to come back?