By Melissa Abdo, June 16, 2009
Field reporting contributed by:
Ms. Lois Morgan (Royal Botanic Gardens, Hope, Jamaica)
TUESDAY, JUNE 16, 2009
The wonderful chef and staff sent us off to our field research today with a sumptuous breakfast of calalloo omelettes, locally grown coffee, and fresh papaya. Being a first timer to the Cockpit Country, I expected a warm welcome from plants, trees, birds, and bees. The team today consisted of Melissa Abdo, D’Owen Grant, Stephen Hodges, and myself.
The plants were amazing: they spoke in loud tones telling me that there was so much more to learn about the Cockpit Country’s endemic and flowering trees and shrubs. Birdsong was everywhere – the warblers, doves and the sweet sound of the John to whit!
Early on our trail, I was eager to collect a Pecluma fern I spotted. I leaned over into a rocky crag to collect a few specimens from a clump. As I went in to carefully collect it, I was instantly stung by some kind of insect that had the power to cause a scream which undoubtedly echoed across the many pits of the Cockpit Country! The burning was quickly relieved by the ever-quick-thinking Mr. Grant who suggested that I rub some pepper elder on the spot. Within 10 seconds of the resident field doctor Melissa administering the remedy, the burning had subsided.
The walking trail we made reminded me that it helps to be physically fit to successfully do a floristic inventory of the Cockpit! The cardinal rule when hiking is: only pack what you can carry and then remind yourself that 2 pounds will feel like 10 when climbing steep limestone trails. As the day ended, my imagination reminded me of how good it felt to smell wafts of sweet vanilla arising from nearby flowers, and to encounter the wonderfully scented bark from wild Prunus trees…