Parotas are one of the largest trees of sub tropical forests; they grow quickly to become majestic canopy trees. Many characteristics of these trees demonstrate their adaptation to the wet and dry seasons of their native habitats. They delay seed maturation to coincide with the onset of the rains thus giving young trees the full extent of the wet season in which to grow and send down roots to survive the dry months. They are briefly deciduous in the dry season to minimize moisture loss due to evaporation through the leaves. They also go to sleep at night.

As usual when examining anything, I like to look at my subject in terms of its timeline.

How did this species fit into its ecosystem, what purpose do the large seedpods serve and why are they curved? The pods are similar to those of other legumes except that one side of the pod does not grow so the resulting shape resembles a ruffle made out of fabric gathered along on side. Scientists believe that the pods provided the Pleistocene mega fauna, like the giant ground sloth and armadillo, with food just at the end of the dry season. The tapir is the only wild mammal that still takes advantage of this food source. The animals return the favor by transporting and scarifying the seeds to insure germination far from the parent tree.

Because of the typical restraints of growing families in our society I had not seen the seedpods for years. By the time I arrive to these sub tropical forests in August the pods have disintegrated on the wet ground and released their seeds. So it is thanks to Reina who gathers and keeps dry a large supply of pods until I arrive to record their many shapes and spirals.

© spiabooks 2011