Like an ancient carven sculpture, the incredible buttress roots of this huge rainforest tree (Tachigali panamensis) belie its fleeting nature. Sometime called the ‘Suicide Tree’, it is truly monocarpic: after reaching maturity it will flower and set fruit only once and then die. Although monocarpy is a common adaptation among small herbaceous plants in seasonal habitats, it is extremely rare among large tropical trees, especially since rainforests are generally quite stable environments. This strategy may have evolved because it provides several possible advantages for the tree’s seedlings. For one, the infrequency of fruiting means that fewer seed predators can specialize on this species. Also, as the mother tree withers and eventually falls over, it creates an open gap in the forest canopy which is vital for the development of its young saplings underneath. Colón, Panama.
- © Chien C. Lee
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- Contained in galleries
- Plants, Central & South America