This winter’s severe cold and abundant snow have led me to recall the hundreds of comfortable nights I have spent sleeping in a hammock in a rain forest as part of my expeditions to collect plant specimens for the NYBG’s William and Lynda Steere Herbarium.
The hammock, an invention of Amazonian Indians, is the most practical way to sleep in the rain forest. Although it took me a while to get used to sleeping in a hammock, I now look forward to climbing into one after a long day of collecting and preparing plant specimens. The most comfortable hammocks are the traditional ones made of cotton, but the lightest are called garimpeiro hammocks, using the Portuguese word for prospectors or miners because Brazilian gold miners favor them. Made of synthetic fiber, they weigh less than a pound. In combination with a mosquito net and a large backpacking tarp, the garimpeiro hammock is ideal for trips requiring long hikes in the forest.
Scott A. Mori is the Nathaniel Lord Britton Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. An expert on the Brazil nut family of trees, he has also investigated the co-evolution of plants and the insects and animals that pollinate and disperse them.
Among the most spectacular of tropical cultivated trees is the Pride of Burma (Amherstia nobilis), a tree in the legume family that is known from only a few localities in the wilds of Myanmar (formerly Burma) but commonly cultivated in tropical botanical gardens throughout the world.
The tree is stunning because of its long, pendulous clusters of flowers, or inflorescences, and its crimson-colored petals painted bright yellow at their tips. These images were taken at the Botanical Garden in Rio de Janeiro, where I recently presented a week-long course on tropical botany.