My beloved rainforest in a storm is a force to behold. Lightening and thunder booms, crashes and shakes the earth. Trees sway and are denuded in the violent winds and torrential downpours.
The storm makes you feel small and powerless. It’s amazing, frightening and exhilarating.
There are about 1.8 billion Palla across the Amazon Basin. The palm leaves have always been used by indigenous people to thatch the roofs of their huts.
The large leaves of the Palla were used to thatch the roof of my own lodge. The leaves last 5/10 years, depending on the weather and skill of the thatchers. My roof was looking decidedly sad after just three years and had several gaps through which the rain poured, but I just had it patched up rather then put a plastic or tin roof on as was suggested.
My friends, local people, were able to weave the palms too. They made sunscreens for me and room dividers.
Local people were also able to make intricate decorations from Palla leaves. They included hearts, flowers, birds, fans, insects, and so on. They sometimes made them without taking the leaves from the stem, as shown.
The Amazon Rainforest has 16,000 different species of trees, including the Palla palm. It is thought there are four hundred billion trees altogether in the rainforest. The Amazon Rainforest is truly a treasure.
Brazil-nut trees are huge. They can reach over 200 feet/30 metres high. They dominate the forest and are protected by law from cutting down. They grow in pristine forest, necessary for their complicated reproduction system.
At the very beginning of the reproduction system the Brazil nut tree needs an orchid and a bee.
The orchid bee (Euglossa) collects nectar from the flowering Brazil nut trees. These specialist bees have a long tongue that can open the flower.
As they collect nectar the bees spread pollen from tree to tree fertilising the yellow Brazil nut tree flowers and thereby the fruit…the nuts.
The male orchid bees attract females with the fragrance from a particular orchid. The larger female orchid bee pollinates the Brazil-nut Tree.
The nuts, that we know are the seeds of the tree, which are enclosed in a large husk similar to that of a coconut. The shell is rock solid and needs to be opened with a sharp machete to release the 8 to 24 seeds, so how does it get opened in the wild?
The answer is the Agouti. A large rodent with razor sharp, chisel-like teeth. The agouti eats some of the seeds and takes off others to bury them for later. If some of the seeds are forgotten they will eventually germinate and grow into new trees.
Brazil-nut husks ready for opening. The empty shells I used as plant pots and holders.
The Brazil-nut Tree needs a bee, an orchid and an agouti to reproduce. It needs pristine, untouched forest for these conditions to be met. Deforestation, even if the tree is kept in place, can affect anyone of these conditions so that reproduction cannot take place and we lose a magnificent tree as well as a delicious food source.
The Amazon Giant Water Lily has a fascinating reproduction system.
The white female Lily opens at night. A beetle, the Scarab Beetle, covered with a dusting of male pollen,is attracted to the strong, sweet perfume of the female flower and moves in to feed on the nectar. In the morning when the sun rises and the temperature increases the flower closes and some of the beetles are trapped. They continue to feed on the nectar throughout the day, distributing male pollen on the lily as they do. This results in the white female flower turning pink and become male. At nightfall the now pink male flower opens, the beetle is released covered with a dusting of male pollen and it moves onto another white female flower to begin the whole cycle again.
The reproduction system of this flower and other flowers and trees in the forest are held in a delicate balance. Disrupt this balance and the whole eco-system collapses and we will be the losers.
Fungi is an essential feature of the rainforest. It decomposes organisms and absorbs the nutrients, returning them to the soil. But, fungi also have other functions within the ecosystem. An interesting one is the wood-decaying fungi which eat holes in tree trunks enabling wood peckers to find a nest hole. They may also have a role in the weather system, have medicinal properties and a recent find–a plastic eating one, which could solve one of the planets greatest problems…plastic pollution.
Fungus can be seen growing on fallen, rotting trees and branches in the forest. It may stay on the wood for many days, or at other times it will bloom for only a short while, shrivelling up and dying at the first touch of a suns ray. That’s what happened to the first fungi I photographed. It bloomed quickly on a tree trunk after a heavy rainfall. As soon as the sun came out, it died off, leaving no sign it had ever been there.
The tiny, white fungus I found while on a trek in the forest. It seemed quite hardy. (Possibly Lentinus)
The Red Fungus (Pycnoporus sanguineus) I believe was another hardy, woody fungi. Again found on a forest trek. It is thought to have important medicinal benefits.
The yellow/orange, mushroom-shaped, fungus I found growing in the ground after we had burnt some piles of leaves, branches, twigs etc. the ashes can be seen on the ground.
Unfortunately I am not an expert, so am unable to name most of the fungi I have seen. Any fungi expert wishing to help me out and add to my knowledge would be most welcome to point out names and be credited in the post.
A tree that means a lot to me is the Astrocaryum vulgare. It is a palm tree, the seeds of which produce a black wood. Indigenous people, unable to afford gold, used the black wood for marriage rings.
Christian missionaries wore them as a sign of solidarity with the poor. A symbol of a desire for equality, social justice and human rights.
I was given by friends both a solid black wood ring and an Amazon gold and black wood ring. The man who gave me the gold and black wood ring said the gold symbolised the richness of the country I came from and the black wood the forest he came from, forever entwined. I wear them everyday to remind me of the forest to which I am eternally bound.