Found growing on the beach outside Santiago de Cuba. Sunburn relief is conveniently located within arm’s reach!
If you’ve been to a tropical country you have probably come into contact with one of the many species of this tree, the Pandanus or Screw Pine. Although not a pine but commonly named for the spiral growth of the leaves, this tree is not native to Cuba but is often planted in tropical countries due to it’s strong fibres that are extremely useful for making ropes, weaving clothing, hats and all sorts of helpful items. It has medicinal uses too although I am not sure what they are.
Our first sighting of a Pandanus was in the Jardin Gran Piedre, a botanical garden and former coffee plantation located high up in the Sierra Maestra mountains. [I will write more about this garden in the future.] The tree was a female and covered in large, interesting fruit, leading us to spend several minutes speculating on what it could be, our guesses almost completely uneducated and based on absolutely no experience whatsoever. We love to do that; pretend like we’re really knowledgeable about things we’ve never seen in our lives and possibly have a clue. We concluded it had to be some kind of breadfruit-like plant until our guide intervened revealing the plant’s name and explaining that the fruit is inedible to humans.
Aerial roots grow down from high up in the tree functioning as prop anchors holding up the heavy, fruit-laden top of the tree during stormy weather.
Another photo of the first tree showing the prop roots. Apparently soil and plant matter is trapped in the roots making the plant a good erosion preventer.
A Pandanus flower
We’re back! I’ve got a lot of email to get through, laundry to wash, and photos to organize so I’m not officially back to work until Monday but I couldn’t wait to share a taste of the planty goodness experienced on this trip. The ride through the countryside from the airport to our hotel alone was amazing… I got a little teary-eyed when I spotted massive trees drenched in the largest tillandsia I have ever seen. Some were flowering!
We spent our first day exploring the natural life around our hotel. The grounds are fronted by the ocean and backed by a rocky range. We located a box canyon down near the beach cove where we made some exciting discoveries.
The first was an orchid plant just laying there on the ground. There it was, an orchid laying there at my feet like it’s no big deal for an orchid to just lay there, on the ground, hanging out.
Then I turned around and spotted my first tillandsia within touching distance!
I’ve posted a few additional photos to my flickr stream but believe me there is a lot more to come. Much, much more.
So we were supposed to be in Cuba last week over the Holidays however our plane left without us, 11 hours prior to the originally scheduled departure time. Who has ever heard of such a thing? I certainly haven’t but can tell you that it will never happen to me again. We started checking and rechecking flight plans over a day ago. So far so good. And so we have spent the week here trying not to mope around in anticipation of getting on that plane and heading out this week. Admittedly I am finding it difficult to get back the level of sheer excitement I was experiencing last week but hopefully that will return once we are safely on the plane and on our way.
Sort of like this except in real trees rather than in a greenhouse.
From a plant-lovers perspective alone our trip should be nothing short of fantastic. We are staying in a UNESCO Biosphere nestled within the Sierra Maestra mountains and located just outside the city of Santiago de Cuba where there are a reported 138 endemic plant species in addition to all sorts of tree ferns, cacti, and epiphytic plants. I’ve still not decided exactly which film cameras I will be bringing but I have stocked up on extra digital camera cards to avoid any situations that would require deleting images in order to make room. I can’t wait to make all kinds of amazing discoveries and I can’t wait to come back and share those here with you (okay maybe I can wait to come back).
All-in-all not a bad way to start the year.
Like this but 20,000 times better. And with tarantulas. (At the Montreal Botanical Gardens. Oct 07)
Until then, I want to wish you all a very relaxing and enjoyable New Year. See you in 2008!
I watched “Everything’s Cool” yesterday afternoon, hot on the heels of the UN conference on climate change held in Bali last week where my country was globally humiliated ONCE AGAIN by our Prime Minister’s refusal to support a new climate change agreement — an action supported by the rest of the planet, excluding our neighbours to the south. As 2007 comes to a close it is hard to believe that any nation would continue to deny that global warming needs to be addressed seriously let alone deny that it exists at all. It is this massive example of it-ain’t-real-until-I-say-it-is psychology that is at the heart of what the film makers attempt to expose and challenge in this documentary.
The movie begins in 2004 as the filmmakers cross America in a giant biodiesel-powered public service announcement delivery system talking to Americans about their views on climate change and conducting talking-heads-style interviews with well-known global warming “messengers” like Ross Gelbspan, one of the first investigative journalists to take the topic on, and Bill McKibben, acclaimed environmental writer and the author of several books including “The End of Nature” (in addition to my personal favourite, “The Age of Missing Information“).
The film goes on to address the controversy surrounding global warming and trace the roots of this controversy laying blame in the politicization of what is essentially a scientific matter, positioning global warming as a postulated theory rather than fact. The filmmakers explain that it is the uncertainty created by this never-ending “debate” that feeds indifference and inaction.
I am not a journalist with a need to present an unbiased opinion so I can say here that I believe global warming exists. I believe it is not a theory but a reality. My beliefs are based on the information I have read and on my own experiences as a human who has lived in this area long enough to see the changes that have occurred and as a gardener who experiences the climate and the seasons with all of my senses. Unfortunately as a believer this film felt a bit too simplistic and out-of-date, however I will say that I don’t think I am the intended audience. I don’t think it was made to convince the already convinced or speak to the choir but was instead meant to tip fence sitters over from the “wondering” side to the “believing” side. Because once we’re all on the same side of the fence we can actually start to get some shit done.