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It is October, the scary season of the year, and Ferrebeekeeper is working towards our annual Halloween special feature at the end of the month. Before we get there however, let’s pause to appreciate an exceedingly beautiful snake, Drepanoides anomalus, the black-collared snake of South America. The tiny but handsome snake can be found in the neotropical forests of the great Southern continent in a range stretching from French Guyana across Brazil, and from Colombia down through Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. For those of you following along on a globe, that is an epic range…and yet, so little is known about this tiny snake here in the north (or anywhere online, for that matter) that it is hard to speak sensibly about its habits and proclivities. It is a rear-fanged snake notable for a nocturnal lifestyle and for its propensity for eating eggs of he many many sorts found in its region. This genus contains only the single living species. What we can say for certain is that this is an endearingly winsome little snake with appealing eyes and a gorgeous red body. I can’t decide whether its tiny white headband looks like a clergyman’s collar or like a cartoon bandage, but it does make me think we could do better in English than “black collared snake.” If anyone out there knows anything about this mysterious creature, please let us know!

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This is Las Lajas sanctuary in Colombia.  It was built on a bridge 50 metres (160 ft) tall which crosses the Guáitara River not far from the Ecuador border.  This beautiful sanctuary, a gothic revival mini cathedral, was completed between 1916 and 1949, but previous chapels have existed at the site for a long time.  According to folklore, the Virgin Mary appeared to a woman, Maria Mueces, and her deaf-mute daughter, Rosa, at the site in 1754.  The two were passing by the Guaitara River when a storm broke out.  They sought shelter by a waterfall coming from the canyon wall.  Suddenly Rosa began shouting to her mother that the Virgin was calling to her and the pair witnessed the goddess above the gorge.  Later when Rosa unexpectedly died, Maria went back to the canyon to pray, whereupon her daughter was restored to life.  The modern church also features its own “miracle”: there is a fresco of the Virgin mother behind the altar…and nobody knows who painted it! To an artists, this latter miracle seems a little less like a miracle and more like an improperly executed PR plan. Also look at the Virgin’s enormous crown!

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Wax palms in the Quindio area of Columbia

The Quindio wax palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense) is a tree which lives on the western slopes of the Andes mountains in Quindío (a region in northwest Colombia).  This palm tree has a smooth waxy trunk topped by a crown of dark gray green leaves….and what a trunk it has!  The tree grows to heights of 50 and occasionally 60 meters (160-200 feet) a bit taller than the space shuttle or the Statue of Liberty (without its base).  They are the tallest palm trees in the world. They are exceedingly beautiful and magical.

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(Monilemor photography)

The Quindio palms almost went extinct since people relentlessly overharvested them to make wax candles and torches and for palm fronds (which have a religious significance in Christianity).  This would have been a tremendous shame since the palms are not just magnificent in their own right but also provide a habitat for astonishing animals such as the yellow-eared parrot.

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Although the palms are still in trouble due to habitat loss, they are now stringently protected by law (and they have been named the national tree of Colombia).  Additionally landscapers grow them in warm climates around the world. Somehow I still find it hard to believe they are real…just look at them.  The world is filled with beautiful wonders!

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