Monday, April 16, 2012

Saladillo blanco – a promising native tree!

Saladillo blanco seeds
For the 2012 planting season Amazonia Reforestation is planting 5 hectares of Vochysia obscura of the Vochysiaceae family at its La Pedregoza plantation. Known locally as Saladillo blanco this tropical tree has many of the characteristics foresters look for. It is fast growing to harvestable maturity (10 to 15 years). It can be planted in marginal soils with high pH content. It does well in low lying areas subject to inundation, allowing for the economic use of areas that do not have good drainage. Best of all, it has a trunk that grows straight and tall, producing fine wood with great commercial acceptance.

Saladillo blanco flowers
The seeds can be collected from wild trees, providing foresters with the opportunity to select the trees with the best apparent genetics. Unlike some other native tree species, the seeds are abundant and do not attract as many animals and birds, making their collection easier. Foresters generally select from which trees they wish to collect seeds when the trees have their bright yellow flowers during the dry season in the Orinoco River basin. The flowers make the trees easy to distinguish and mark for later seed collection activities. The show of flowers also allows the forester to determine just how abundant seed production will be in each tree.

Sprouting tables are used in the tree nursery, with high germination rates observed for the Saladillo blanco. Once the sprout is thumb tall it is transplanted into a planting bag filled with treated soil and placed in the nursery. Like many other tropical trees Vochysia obscura sets deep roots, so forestry engineers determine when the sapling is ready to be transplanted into the field. While the seedlings are in the nursery plantation tractors prepare the soil, deep plowing to a depth of 75 cm (30 inches), which allows the root to go deep quickly. At planting in moist areas tree planters add lime and special forestry fertilizer for best growth results.

Saladillo blanco tree
Thanks to their straight trunks, these trees reach 20 m (65 feet) in height and some 55 cm (22 inches) in diameter at breast height when they are ready to be harvested. The tree has been planted as an ornamental, but finds its greatest use as cut lumber and as wood for handicrafts, which explains its folkloric history in the llanos orientales or great plains of eastern Colombia. Several authors have recommended this tree for reforestation and afforestation projects, including Luis Enrique Acero Duarte in his “Plantas Utiles de la Cuenca del Orinoco” or “Useful Plants of the Orinoco River basin”.