Tuesday, September 11, 2007
One of the most popular trees for urban landscaping here in the Amazon is Ficus benjamina, an exotic originally from India. Now why would a tree from so far become so popular in the Amazon, land of the forests that boasts of more than 5,000 species of trees? I'll leave that question up to the historians, but I'll take a stab at the question by saying that shade is important anywhere in the Amazon, especially in the sun-absorbing cities like Belém, Manaus and Santarém. As you can see in the attached image, this young fig tree is already producing a lot of blessed shade for the taxi drivers who hang out at their post next to the Santarém Municipal Hospital. The tree has high density foliage, allowing very little light to penetrate onto the ground. This attribute also allows for decorative pruning, which is important for us urbanites and also for the endless numbers of wires and cables stretched out above the sidewalks. Yet another important characteristic of the ficus is that it's a "clean tree", seldom does it drop its leaves, like most other trees. Furthermore, it's a tree with maximum stability because of its penetrating root system. I have never seen one blown over by the wind, as happened with a number of other trees here in the city this past weekend.