Have you ever taken a walk with a botanist? They act totally normal until the first glimpse of green. Then they are off like a shot, clippers for cutting samples appearing mysteriously from pockets unknown.
My theory is that the best part about plants is that plants are everywhere. And they don't run away. The worst part about it is ticks, I think, as botanist Wilmer Díaz reaches down to wipe a tick with a pinch of liquid tobacco – a home remedy for getting rid of them.
This is the second time I have been to the field with Wilmer, the first time being the Río Caura AquaRAP. A freshwater RAP (or AquaRAP) is very different than the terrestrial trip we are on now. An AquaRAP has boats and piranhas and the emphasis is on rivers – not vegetation. Here, working in the heart of the rainforest, I get to see Wilmer in action for the first time with his favorite research topic, plants.
|Sample of a plant from the |
TOOLS: Learn more about the equipment Wilmer uses in the field.
"This one is Heliconia," he tells me. "The hummingbirds love it."
There are so many types of trees in the tropics, that it is impossible to know most of them by species, but a good botanist can get them down to family and genus by sight – the final ID is usually up to the experts back at a laboratory, though.
I ask Wilmer what is the single plant that got him the most excited. His hearty laugh rings out though the camp. "Que vaina!" he cries, "What a fiasco! In Venezuela, they say that there is a single fern that flowers at midnight. Supposedly, if you can get this flower, you can make a pact with the devil. I had just started my career collecting plants, and some friends told me they had heard of a fern in flower. I thought to myself, 'Maybe it is true after all,' and I ran off searching for it all excited, but it turned out to be a hoax!" Ferns release spores, they don't flower.
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