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This week in the Photo of the Week:

"Tall 'n Green"

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photo of the week

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Tall & Green

They are known as stranglers, or 'killer trees', and I think of them while skipping from one buoyant tree-picture to the next in the new Photo of the Week edition.

I first met this tree in a Mexican rainforest, where it is called a Matapalo. They are mostly of the fig family. In order to avoid the harsh struggle for life that goes on in the soil of the forest, it starts its horrorrific life from higher regions: birds and monkeys leave half eaten figs behind in treetops from where the seeds of the strangler start to drop roots to the ground. Until they get there they look somewhat like lianas, but they stay closer to the trunk. The reason for this is that once they hit the ground, they still refuse to join the rat-race for the soils nutrients. Rather, they clasp onto the trunk of their host and start to feed off of it.

In fact, the matapalo completely devours its host. It sucks the life out of it until nothing, absolutely nothing, is left. In its place, the matapalo remains, and finally starts to behave like a tree – that's to say, feed off of the soil and the light and the rain.

What you see, is a hollow trunk with man-size holes in it. The lianas have 'melted' together where they connected, much like human flesh after severe burns – thus creating a huge monster of a tree that spreads eerie beams of light through the forest.

But get this; a man called Chan Kin (Little Sun, he translated), one of the last descendants of the Maya, said the following about this killer tree, and I quote:

'The matapalo is a good tree, for it feeds more plants and animals than the one it devours.'

Good trees. Full of life. Positively radiant with life. Yes. Photo of the week 118.

How beautiful is that?

Text: Peter-Jan Vermeij
Website Peter-Jan (in Dutch)

Until the next Photo of the Week!

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Texts and photography –unless stated otherwise–
all rights reserved © 2010-2012 Maarten Zeehandelaar

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