Healing Powers of the cloud forests

Blog by Terry Richmeier

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Boquete is one of a select few places in the world that has a cloud forest. What are cloud forests you may ask? They are nature’s “water towers,” providing billions of gallons of fresh, clean, filtered water. They are home to thousands of indigenous people, and storehouses of biodiversity, at least 80 percent of which has not yet been catalogued. A cloud forest, also called a fog forest, is generally tropical or subtropical, evergreen, moist forest characterized by a persistent, frequent or seasonal low-level cloud cover, usually at the canopy level.

Ok, so what does that mean for me and why do I care about a cloud forest? First it has a “Watershed Function”. Because of the cloud-stripping strategy, the effective rainfall can be doubled in dry seasons and increase the wet season rainfall by about 10%. Essentially, It’s almost impossible to re-create this level of humidity in a glass house or greenhouse. The second is vegetation: Tropical montane cloud forests are not as species-rich as tropical lowland forests, but they provide the habitats for many species found nowhere else. For example, the Cerro de la Neblina, a cloud-covered mountain in the south of Venezuela, accommodates many shrubs, orchids, and insectivorous plants which are restricted to this mountain only. We also use many of the vegetation for modern medicines. Third is Fauna: The diversity in animals is also very high. In Peru, more than one-third of the 270 endemic birds, mammals, and frogs are found in cloud forests. One of the best-known cloud forest mammals is the mountain gorilla (Gorilla b. beringei). Many of those endemic animals have important functions, such as seed dispersal and forest dynamics in these ecosystems. By changing this environment, we will lose many animals that rely on the cloud forests.

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Wow, this seems to be a lot of big stuff to take in. Essentially, we know that there are many of our cloud forests that are being lost to population growth, poverty, and uncontrolled land use. Significant areas are being used for plantations, agriculture, pasture, tea and coffee farms, and lodging. Cloud forests are being strongly affected by climate change as well.

Here in Boquete, we know of two expat women, Elizabeth and Dianne, who purchased some land in our own cloud forest area. What they found on this land was that there were many plants that were once used for medicinal purposes. As they began to discover these plants, trees and shrubs, they started to put together the thought that this area and space was once a live pharmacy of the indigenous type. The two ladies felt that the indigenous people may have used these plants as help for their ailments and sicknesses.

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You can read more about their adventure through their webpage: http://cloudforestbotanicals.com/

They offer tours at the Cloud Forest Botanicals where you can learn the medicinal value and uses of the various plants. Many of these lotions, tinctures and creams are available for purchase as well. We can assist you in setting up these tours when you come and stay with us at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast.

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