The flower gatherers of the Serra do Espinhaço in Minas Gerais state, Brazil, offer an example of how traditional communities play a key role in conserving ecosystems over successive generations. Image © João Roberto Ripper. “The mountain range is our soil, our life,” affirms Maria de Fátima Alves, head of the Commission for the Defense of the Rights of Extractivist Communities (CODECEX). Known as Tatinha, she lives in the Serra do Espinhaço, a mountain range more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) long in Minas Gerais state, that marks the eastern transition from the Cerrado savanna biome to Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Tatinha is one of many inhabitants in hundreds of Serra communities who earn their living by gathering flowers, known as sempre-vivas (always-alive), that grow wild in the hills, and selling them. The name, sempre-vivas, is apropos: the Serra’s beautiful flowering plants are hardy survivors: blooming again and again despite being rooted in shallow, nutrient-poor sandy soils, atop rocky outcrops. Unable to grow long roots to access water and minerals from subsoils, these flowering plants have evolved alternative strategies for surviving drought. These include producing few leaves, so the plants don’t wilt in long hours of sun, and flowers that survive for weeks or even months without losing their color, allowing them to attract pollinators — and admirers. The “sempre-vivas” are in big demand by Brazilian flower arrangers and artisanal craft producers. The rugged long-lasting blooms also provide Tatinha and others like her with sustainable livelihoods, along with a vibrant symbol…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer