April 7, 2005
Publicado no livro Plantworlds como capítulo referente à América do Sul
On the day that some of the living beings (or – maybe we could say – almost living beings) found a chemical way to store solar energy for a future and more convenient utilization, the split between vegetal and animal took place. If this occurred inside the mind of God, before (out, above or beyond) the time of creation, or after, during evolution (which requires much more credulity), it is another problem. Anyway, since then, animals – the ones that could not develop the new ability – began to parasitize plants, stealing their portable packed solar energy production, just like the bad men did with the poor farmers in the pictures “Shichinin no Samurai” (Seven Samurai) and “Magnificent Seven”, or grasshoppers with ants in “A Bug’s Life”.
But it is not only food that we take from plants. They are source of inspiration, evidence of physical, chemical and geometrical order, etc.
A plethora of vegetal forms torrentially demands comprehension to our spirits. How many words had to be invented to correspond to stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seed features? And how many will still be necessary to invent? Did you know that imbricated is a way to put something upon another without covering it completely, like bricks on a wall or petals of a rose? And that thyrsus means a solid composed by two cones united by the basis? And so on… It’s endless.
Plants not merely influence climate, making it bearable. They made the air we breathe!
In South America are all known ambiental climates, including approximately polar climates, and all vegetal answers to these conditionings. From Chile’s deserts, where never rains, to Amazon basin, where rain fails not even one day; from Piauí’s high temperatures to Tierra del Fuego’s ice, all ambients are filled with an unthinkable variety of green shapes. (Well, before we get any farther, let’s agree that an ambient is a place where there is, or can be, life.)
In this continent live the tallest palm tree (Ceroxylon qüindiuensis), the largest bromeliad (Puya chilensis), the biggest leaves in area (Coccoloba grandiflora), and 99% of the Veloziaceae – arborescents lilies, as Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martius called them. The international Bougainvillea, albeit it’s French name (in honor of the ship’s captain that brought it to be baptized by Karl Ludwig Willdenow) is a Rio de Janeiro native. The heliconies that live here are not fragrant, but are extremely colorful, to attract hummingbirds and bees, while, on the contrary, those from other places, being pollinated by bats and moths, do have perfume but no colors. By the way, hummingbirds live only in Americas and below equator exists one (Ensifera ensifera) that has a bill longer than his body in order to suck a precise flower (Passiflora mixta) whose nectar is reached exclusively by him. This extreme example illustrates the link with a flora that in the “Mata Atlântica” (Atlantic forest) has the higher known diversity, considering trees.
South America is a great place for plants, but the fact is that the “green” records are well distributed all over the planet. It looks like, as human beings, plants are champions of the world, each one in his specialty, which may not be known yet.
For this and many other reasons, let’s look at plants with some more attention, gratitude, respect and… attention again.