Friday, April 15, 2011

Know Your Local Ecosystem, #1

A couple streets over from our house there is this really, really magnificent tree.  Our neighborhood seems to have wisely left a number of big trees growing smack dab in the middle of its streets.  This is annoying for motorists but brilliant once that fierce midday sun starts to beat down.  Our street is home to a mango tree, but it is a mere shrub compared to this baby.

This is an ent-tree.  The trunk is worthy of a Giant Sequoia, the canopy is like a cathedral roof.  This would be the perfect tree for climbing were I somehow three times larger - it's like an apple tree on steroids.

At the close of a great article entitled "How Species Save Our Lives" Richard Conniff offers a list of 13 practical ways we can work toward saving species and preserving biodiversity.  One of them was this:
7. Learn to identify 10 species of plants and animals in your own neighborhood, then 20, and onward.
Now the amount of biology I don't know and never learned would fill, well, a lot of biology textbooks. But since we're now living in a new ecosystem I thought I would try to see if I could actually identify 10 species.

So this is the first one: our neighborhood arbolón is more properly known as the ceiba or kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra, if you want to see what the Encyclopedia of Life has to say about it).  It probably evolved in the Americas but has since spread to the tropics in Africa and Asia.  In Mayan mythology, the world tree was a ceiba.  We've seen a couple other ones around Managua (there's another in the parking lot of the fancy mall) and it's nice to see that at least sometimes people try to keep them around rather than just bulldoze 'em.

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