“Did you plant anything this year?” I asked Hernán while he was sailing us out of Gobernadora Island. “Absolutely not! What for? The changamé eats it all…” was his answer.
In Panama’s countryside, the great-tailed grackle is called by its proper name in Spanish: changamé. In Panama City we call it talingo, but that is the name of a different “tick-eater” species…well, actually of three species, all from the genus Crotophaga.
After a long wait, and with the help of some rain, we just spotted a Canna flower in our backyard, just like the one we are showing you here. It was a small wonder which encouraged us to look for more information about this plant.
Quizás sorprenda a algunas personas la presencia de "carpinteros" en plena ciudad. Pero lo cierto es que hay una buena cantidad de ellos y aun en sitios congestionados como la vía España o la calle 50. El Carpintero Coronirrojo (Melanerpes rubricapillus) es la especie que vive en la ciudad capital y en muchas otras ciudades y poblados de las provincias centrales.
En áreas boscosas aledañas, como el Parque Natural Metropolitano o el Cerro Ancón, se observan hasta dos especies adicionales, ambas más grandes que el coronirrojo y con copetes de plumas rojas terminados en punta sobre la cabeza (de esos que se parecen al “pájaro loco” de nuestra infancia).
Lemongrass, oil grass, or “hierba limón” (as it is called in Panama) grows easily with enough sunlight and water. Its scientific name is Cymbopogon citratus. Although quite simple in appearance, it has a very good reputation as an everyday health ally.
It can be seen in plains, gardens, and even flowerpots all over the city. If you ask about it to someone familiar with its properties, you will hear only good things about it.
Several years ago, Agripino Ríos and me were working on a book about the history of Cébaco (1). We thought it would be appropriate to talk about seeds in the chapter devoted to agriculture in the island. With almost 20 acres, Cébaco, located in the Gulf of Montijo, province of Veraguas, is the third largest island in Panama, after Coiba and San Miguel.
Mr. Francisco Calle, nicknamed “Maestro chico” or just “Maestrín” (Little Teacher), lives in Platanares, a community in Cébaco. He has worked the land for seven decades now, his whole life, and has been witness to the changes in the environment and how they have affected the island. He was very young when mahogany and other forest trees were harvested, especially during the late 40’s and the early 50´s. Francisco could experience also the shrimp (langostino) “boom”. Recently, he has noted that many species, specially sea creatures, are no longer available for consumption or have suffered a significant population decline because of commercial exploitation; for example: manta rays and sharks (for their fins). In the last 15 years, he has seen how his neighbors have sold their land, particularly to alien people unfamiliar with the island, while he kept holding on to that part of the mountain inherited from his parents, where they planted and cared for the trees that stand tall today on that unofficial, isolated sanctuary…there in Platanares, very close to the sea.
Brother Shrub and Sister Sand, Brother Moss and Sister Spring, Brother River and Sister Stone, Brother Dust and Sister People.
Arturo Corcuera (Suggested translation of the original poem in Spanish)
I wanted to hurry in writing about this tree because we can still find some of them in full bloom, even when it is June already. This time I will talk about the Jacaranda (Jacaranda caucana) tree, from the Bignoniaceae family, a very beautiful tree that serves as ornament on both streets and parks all over the country.
This is a medium-sized tree, not as large as the corotú (Enterolobium cyclocarpum), but larger than the nance (Byrsonima crassifolia), with a straight branched trunk than can achieve a 50 cm diameter. The top of the tree is rather wide and long, with a downward tendency.
The tree sheds its leaves as a protection against excessive transpiration during the dry season/drought. Its leaves are small and pointed. The flowers are gathered in “terminal panicles” with bell-shaped flower crowns that burst into a vibrant, vivid purple when in bloom. A few weeks after, the fruits can be seen: oblong flattened capsules that open in half, leaving the seed exposed.
The scientific name for this bird is Thamnophilus doliatus but it is better known as the barred antshrike in English or “gallito” here in Panama. In my opinion, this is one of the most fascinating birds that can be found in both towns and cities in the country. If you have not had the chance yet, look for it right in your backyard, garden, or at the park. It is important to note, however, that you would more likely hear it singing than see it. Chances of seeing it will improve if you look for it at the most suitable places (near shrubs) and times (whenever it wants to be found!).
This full moon, I would like to talk about the cormorants and a seasonal phenomenon that happens very close to our Biomuseo. The upwelling in the Bay of Panama occurs starting from mid-December. Foto: Flickr - Fernando Flores / CC BY-SA 2.0
The laughing gull or Larus atricilla, without question the most common of gulls in Panama, chooses the month of March for going back to its nesting territories along the coasts of the U.S., the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahamas and other islands in the Caribbean.
The Malay apple tree blooms around this time of the year in Panama, where it is known as marañón curazao. Its scientific name is Syzygium malaccense and it is part of the Myrtaceae family; you could say it is related to the Plum rose or Pomarrosa (Syzygium jambos), which is a tree with a small fragrant fruit that smells and tastes like rose petals not so commonly found in Panama City.