Scott A. Mori, Ph.D., Nathaniel Lord Britton Curator of Botany has been studying New World rain forests for The New York Botanical Garden for nearly 35 years. He has witnessed an unrelenting reduction in the extent of the forests he studies and, as a result, is dedicated to preserving the diversity of plants and animals found there.
Several posts ago, I introduced the cannon ball tree and nominated it as the most interesting tree on earth. I then challenged others to nominate additional plants for this honor, receiving suggestions such as the wiliwili tree, a species of legume in the genus Erythrina; and the sapodilla, a species so important and interesting that it is the common name for the Sapotaceae or chicle family. In fact, there are so many fascinating trees to examine that I have decided to tackle yet another unique specimen studied during my career.
The boat starts moving at about 6 a.m. and we arrive at our destination at 7:30. We anchor between Isla Hoste and a smallish island with a big name, Isla Grande, in Ponsonby Sound. As usual, I picked out today’s locality almost by random on the map. The region is immense and we can only sample a very small percentage of it, so we try to find localities of various vegetation types and moisture gradients in order to find as much of the diversity as possible. And then we hope for the best!
This morning I am lured to a small dark-looking forest in a small cove on Isla Grande. The maps and the captain all indicate that there is no stream anywhere on this island. However, as we approach the shore, it is obvious there is indeed a stream–shallow, but by all indications a permanent watercourse. Within moments of walking up the stream–one of the many advantages of rubber boots–it becomes clear this is a nice site. It is a small, rocky stream heavily shaded by the mature southern beech forest. Since most of the rocks are bryophyte-covered, they aren’t slippery and so it is easy to make my way upstream.
When the ice is away, the ducks will play! Pat Gonzalez was out and about with her bird-friendly camera recently, snapping pictures of the raptors and fowl that spend their days in the Garden. While on the prowl, she happened upon this Red-breasted Merganser, looking decidedly punk with his full mohawk. The mallards, meanwhile, wanted nothing to do with the poultry paparazzi.
What a week! Sorry for the delay in posting this week’s winners of the Tropical Paradise Photography Contest. Between Orchid Show preparations, some exciting site-wide design updates, and more, we have been so busy, it took us a few days to gather around and judge this week’s entrants. Apologies.
There is one big thing we have noticed in judging this year’s entrants: it has been hard for us to choose a favorite when it comes to sifting through a group of similar images. We know it can be really hard to pick just one from a series of gorgeous shots, but in order to increase your chances of winning, we suggest that when entering future contests (both NYBG and others) you do try. There were several instances where an image could have won, but didn’t because each of the judges liked a different version. We have never asked you to limit the number of photos you enter into this contest, but restraint can be a big part of art. Just a thought.
Since Tropical Paradise is now closed, only photos taken before the end of the show will be accepted into this week’s contest. So feel free to keep entering! Entering is easy–simply upload your pictures to Flickr (please limit it to your very best photographs taken inside the Conservatory during Tropical Paradise), add them to our Group Pool, tag them with #tropicalparadise, and then sit back and hope we pick your pix! And don’t think that just because you’re snapping with an iPhone, you can’t take part–all skill and equipment levels are welcome to participate.
Andrew Henderson, Ph.D., is a curator in the Institute of Systematic Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. His current research project concerns the systematics and conservation of the economically important rattan palms of southeast Asia.
Myself and the whole of the local WWF rattan team (Khou Eang Hourt, Chey Koulang, Ou Ratanak, and Prak Ousopha), as well as the Vietnamese director, Mr. Tam Le Viet, left Phnom Penh on Sunday, February 3, and drove almost clear across the country to Pailing, near the border with Thailand. Most of the way was through the floodplain of the Great Lake, but even there we found a species of rattan, Calamus salicifolius, growing along the margins of rice fields and sometimes right next to the road.
This part of Cambodia, near Pailing, was one of the last strongholds of Pol Pot and his followers, and the area was heavily mined in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Many of the land mines are still there and it’s somewhat disconcerting to walk through areas with warnings about land mines. Our local guides didn’t seem to care, but I was careful to try and follow in their footsteps!
We don’t move to today’s locality until this morning. The ship starts up at 6 a.m. for the five hour trip to Bahía Helada. I am told the bay is so named because in winter it completely freezes over with the ice reaching 6 inches thick. Fortunately it’s now summer! Because it is so late when we arrive, I ask if we can have an early lunch before heading into the field. Unfortunately lunch can’t be ready until 1:30 p.m., so we all head into the field for a couple of hours first. Blanka and Laura decide to forgo lunch completely and try to reach some higher elevations.
Most of the group heads to a Sphagnumpeatland while I choose a coastal southern beech forest with a large epiphyte component. The weather is surprisingly nice and mostly sunny, though a few spits of rain fall. The problem with nice weather is that it is hard to dress for because invariably it will get worse and no one wants to be out in the field with inadequate clothing.
On the edge of the forest I find mostly epiphytes, almost all of which are mosses. However, as soon as I enter the forest, it becomes strongly hepatics-dominated and so I switch gears and start primarily picking up hepatics, lichens, and fungi that grow on the two. Somehow in the scant two hours I find 50 things to collect.
They’re starting! That dainty vanguard of spring, in all its violet, white, and sunny yellow splendor–the crocuses are here! If there’s never been hope for the return of warmth and greenery before now, you can finally rest easy in the knowledge that these little harbingers are ringing in the new season.
In January of last year, I wrote a series of blog entries on “Snow-tober: No Tree Left Behind,” followed by a blog series on “Winter Injury.” These blogs chronicled the devastating October snow storm and the erratic weather that we experienced during the later months of 2011. My discussion at the time focused on the extensive damage that The New York Botanical Garden endured, giving homeowners tips on how to assess structural damage on trees and combat winter burn on evergreens.
Since then, Super Storm Sandy has drawn our attention away from the Garden and focused it on coastal areas. Over the past few weeks I have been talking to a number of professionals working in the tri-state area, detailing their personal experiences with the mega storm. This has included experts on soils and trees, garden writers, nurserymen that sell halophytic plants (salt-tolerant plants), and restoration landscape designers.
The energy from this group–individuals who were out on the front line of restoration and remediation–and the enormity of the damage from this storm are mind-boggling. My hope is that these painful lessons will help teach us how to work with and respect nature–particularly when it comes to safeguarding our coastline.
Not too surprisingly after yesterday’s physical exertion, we are all slow to get up this morning. Much to my delight, I am not nearly as stiff as I had expected I might be, but several others are. After a leisurely breakfast, I offer two options to the group, go into the field in the morning and the afternoon, or spend the morning processing the previous day’s collections–since no one did that last night. I am the only one to stay on the ship. I want to insure that the Serka Glacier collections are dry, or at least on the dryer, before gathering more. Being the only scientist to stay on the ship, I am able to process all 90 of yesterday’s collections; get them on the dryer; empty the dryer of earlier, now dry collections and move them to the engine room for storage; and catch up on the blog.
Because our Strongylodon macrobotrys is looking especially elegant in recent weeks, and because we’ve had at least a couple of requests for more pictures of it (via Twitter in particular), I figured I’d put together a sampling of the jade vine in all its unchallenged splendiferousness. You’re welcome to read more about the green and red jade vines here, but in the meantime, we’re perfectly content with you basking in the eye candy of this winter favorite. And if you hurry, you might even be able to see it for yourself in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.