Entering Ibicoara from BA-142, one of the first things anyone with a love for plants will notice is a distinct presence of purple glory trees (Tibouchina granulosa), especially if you arrive in the fall, when this species known in Brazil as quaresmeira (Lent tree) is in full bloom.
Nearly 70 purple glory trees grace the streets of Ibicoara. Each one of them came from seeds planted by Janildes Silva Xavier, a local tour guide, current director of ACVIB (the Ibicoara Association of Visitor Guides), vice president of COMAM (the Municipal Council for the Protection of the Environment) and a member of the consulting council involved in the inception of the Chapada Diamantina National Park, acknowledged in the park's management plan.
"I planted the trees from seeds that I brought from Vitória da Conquista", said Janildes Silva Xavier, who is known as Sr. Janu (Mr. Janu; "Seu" Janu in more informal address). The purple glory trees from these seeds grow shorter than the ones endemic to the area and are therefore better adapted for Brazil's urban areas, with their hanging electricity wires.
On a walk around town with Seu Janu, he points to trees and remembers when each one was planted. For some of the work, he had help from environmental education students. The city administration paid for some of the saplings.
Born and raised in Ibicoara and constantly busy as a tour guide to the main attractions, Seu Janu is also involved in efforts to preserve a 148-acre property he owns in the region, with native vegetation inhabited by several endemic bird species.
"I would like to leave the property intact, as a legacy for the future," he said. A complex task, he says, as it's not so easy to tap into resources to help a landowner turn a property into an RPPN (a private natural heritage preserve).
Seu Janu has also been involved in the administration and preservation of Parque Natural Municipal do Espalhado, which encompasses some of the top natural attractions in Chapada Diamantina (see the next page).