Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Mucajá palm (Acrocomia aculeata) roots
In between slippin' and slidin' on that muddy trail going out to the northern end of Bosque Santa Lucia a few days ago, I took quite a few photographs. Part of the motive was that stabilizing myself from the risk of falling in mud and oxen dung, in part to take pictures. The above image is that of the lower end of a mucajá palm (Acrocomia aculeata), in other words, the roots. New roots are always more interesting than old ones because they are so bright and shiny. You may ask why the root system is up so high. Aren't they supposed to be underground? Well, yes, that's normal. Trees (palms are technically classified as trees) can be very adaptive in their quest for survival. I'm not a forestry engineer, but I can deduct that surface roots have the function of finding food, just like the ones underground. In the case of most tropicals soils, they are very poor in nutrients, thus the underground root system is poorly developed compared to trees growing in fertile soils. The nutrients for survival are for the most part on top of the ground, for example decomposed litter. The "hungry forest" (my coinage) sends out surface feeders to gobble up all this food. This attribute is less noticeable in palms, but they try. It's strictly a supposition on my part, but I figure that the mucajá palm also grows roots further up on the trunk in order to increase its ability to take in oxygen. It's not a water specific palm, thus it becomes asphyxiated if the root system is under water for long periods of time. There is one mucajá at the Bosque that developed a root system at the height of approximately 1.5 meters. As one visitor asked, "why is this palm wearing a skirt?". Coincidently, the palm is on the edge of the lowland area that gets flooded every rainy season.