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D. cab speculation

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Rising Star
Senior Member
My backyard is out to get me.

Approaching the end of the growing season in my semi-tropical locale, I was out there literally with machete in hand trying to regain some order of semblance in my landscaping. Summer temps are getting to be too much for my (gracefully) aging body to do much out there when it's anywhere north of 90F. So it's a relief to have some days that top out in the 70s.

But there were some surprises waiting out there for me. The worst was that I have a Class 1 invasive exotic called cat's claw. Not the good one, una de gato Uncaria tomentosa that we all know and love, no, this one is Dolichandra unguis-cati, and I found it attempting to eat the east end of my house. It had put shoots up at the foundation and they went behind the aluminum siding only to emerge and leaf out close to the roof overhang. Fuckers went fifteen feet without light? That's one determined plant.

And the more I look the more I see it everywhere. Along the fence, which I knew about already, but also now shot through the lawn and under and up in the azaleas and holy crap this stuff is everywhere! I had always assumed it was just a rambunctious native but it finally occured to me to look it up. So it appears that I now have a long term eradication project on my hands. Wonderful.

So with that in mind whilst attempting to tame a few self-inflicted invasives (did you know the the humble and common pothos will turn into a landscape blanketing monster if given the chance? And that caapi vines will eagerly attempt, and no doubt are fully capable of eating 45 foot tall cherry trees?) I began musing on the mystery of the scarcity of live Diplopterys cabrerana plants.

It has been an object of discussion off and on for quite a few years now why, given the relative abundance and ease of acquiring dried D. cab leaves, is it seemingly impossible to source live plant material and get it into the states?

There have been several miscues over the years. The now defunct vendor Native Habitat obtained what they thought was D. cab ten or fifteen years ago. Once they released it for sale their loyal customers almost immediately pointed out that the plant they had was inactive. Native Habitat apologized for the error and withdrew the plant from their catalog.

More recently as many here know, kiwiboancaya, the Peru-based vendor (now apparently also defunct), began offering seeds of what they assumed to be D. cab. Once grown out though it was obvious that these weren't D. cab. Our very own Zaka was the first to properly ID the plant as Alicia anisopetala. TLC and GC/MS analysis showed the plant is devoid of DMT and indeed no psychoactive component at all has ever been identified.

Back in the '90s Rob Montgomery from Of the Jungle intended to put D. cab in their catalog but was unsuccessful. I recall him telling stories about how unpredictable it could be to propagate. Carefully tended cuttings died for no apparent reason, no matter how meticulously they were cared for, yet other specimens roughly yanked from the ground and later transplanted did just fine. And that pretty much formed my mindset about the plant for the next 25 years, but with no actual live plants available there was no way to confirm or refute any of this.

Finally, in 2016 a vendor offered what appears to be the real thing, so I ordered some. The first try ended with failure. Got the plants but an improper soil mix did them in. Second try went better and out of the three plants I ordered one has survived a full calendar year and enjoyed our extended hot, humid summer.

Intitial TLC and colorimetric reagent look positive for DMT. For the TLC I used a known strain of Psychotria viridis as a reference standard. GC/MS confirmation awaits me getting off my butt to submit a sample.

I guardedly think we might be out of the woods with this one, as it put on very strong growth this summer. Much more in fact than a simliarly sized caapi cutting would have done, giving rise to the possiblity that this is a truly rambunctious vine and might be fabulously productive.

So all of this is leading up to the speculation that hit me...

What if the south american vendors, realizing how quickly the plant grows once established, might fear loss of their monopoly on the supply of dried leaf should live material escape their control?

Too conspiratorial perhaps? But nearly 30 years of many people searching and hoping it would become available makes a pretty good case for something going on.
On an entheo community over here there is a guy who has managed to acquire and start growing some of this fabled plant. But the reality is it has been really hard for him to keep alive, even as a dedicated horticulturist and the plants are under constant attention and exist in a highly controlled environment. So I highly commend your success with it, even if it did take a few casualties to get it established. Well done! :d

Maybe it's just the finickiness of it in propagation that stops it going global, rather than being a South American conspiracy. :?

Hopefully it will spread further and wider as people grasp it more, it can protect so many beautiful trees just by it's existence.
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