Friday, September 26, 2014

QotD: "There are jungles unworthy of the name, but these vast Panamanian hothouses are a different matter"

2014.09.26-IMG_1937The pictures in this post are all from the Parque Nacional Soberanía (Soberanía National Park), myself and a colleague from the Harvard Botany Library, headed there with our very stalwart and understanding driver, Edgar. We walked about an hour up and into the park, but took a wrong turn and ended up on Pipeline Road instead of the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center.

We were also expecting a paved road and parking lot. Instead, Edgar had to drive up a single lane pot-hole ridden dirt road for over 2 km.

In addition to a wide variety of plants and fungi, we did hear many birds and did catch a glimpse of to fauna, a howler monkey up in a tree (which we heard before seeing) and an agouti, which dashed across the path on our way back to the car. He left us off to walk and we missed his obvious skill in turning the car around on the one lane road with drop offs on either side.

Because the world is small, we also ran into a group of birders who also happened to be librarians (at least they were medical librarians from Houston and no one we really knew!). As a treat and to reward ourselves for surviving the adventure, we went to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort for lunch. We sat out on the patio and enjoyed the view of the Chagras River while watching the storm clouds roll in.

The jungle is misunderstood. There are jungles unworthy of the name, but these vast Panamanian hothouses are a different matter. They are not the bottomless morasses of deadly snakes and poisonous vapors. Since men have learned how to live in the tropics these terrors have largely retreated to the highly colored accounts of tropical travelers who took one look and fled—to write a book of timely warning to the uninitiated. These jungles are not the haunts of hidden horrors and poisoned arrows. Ferocious tree-dwellers may inhabit the unknown recesses of the upper Amazon, but they do not live in the jungles of Central America and Panama. (p.43)
2014.09.26-IMG_1948 2014.09.26-IMG_1951 2014.09.26-IMG_1947 2014.09.26-IMG_1945

What makes up a jungle? Well, that's hard to say. There are mighty trees of cedar and mahogany and a hundred lesser breeds, lifting their heads into the tropic sky. There are palms and giant ferns of course. There are wonderful purple and magenta and crimson-topped trees, whose glaring flat colors fairly shriek at you like the bedlam of a paint box let loose on the sky. Sturdy lignum vitæ trees stand conscious of their high value and rare qualities. Ferns in profusion, vast, variegated and immense, line the banks of streams and hide in the shadows of the great trees. Orchids, of course, winding streams strewn with the flowers and foliage of the dense mass overhead, entrancing water streets and winding Venetian tunnels through forests so thick that the sun never penetrates the shadowed fastnesses below. There are paraqueets, parrots, singing canaries, alligators, bananas, bamboos, singing winds, warbling bluebirds, blackbirds that can render a tune, purples and blues and crimsons and browns, all poured out and mixed together without stint. It is fascinating for a few hours, but after a time you get overloaded and are ready to cry "Enough." It's great, but a little stupefying till one gets used to it. (p.45)
Prowling about Panama by George A. Miller (New York, 1919)


2014.09.26-IMG_1944 2014.09.26-IMG_1939

1 comment:

jack james said...

You described skillfully about the unworthy jungles and Panamanian hothouses. There is massive information in your blog post relating to jungles. Personally I visited the Soberanía National Park before boston tours from montreal and see lots of unique animals and insects. Hot houses are also called green houses. Am I right?