This giant of the secondary forest began its life after a clearcut, and has meandered its way towards the sky for the past forty years or so. With buttresses that top out at six vertical feet and a girth of five man hugs, the tree shares all the characteristics of a typical mid-successional species. It’s a nutrient hog that is pre-programmed to strangle its elders in an attempt to fulfill a biological destiny. Much like the cottonwoods and tulip trees of North America, strangler figs (Ficus insipida) grow fast and large in a race to the top. Once there, they bask in the light of day and propagate effusively with a productivity that feeds a complex tropical web.
This particular ficus has been a favorite photographic subject. Located along a mangrove trail in the Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge, the fig tree is a landmark between the lodge and an egret rookery. I am drawn to the curvaceous buttress, asymmetric branches, and its largess. The challenge of capture is my muse. I dream of perfect light that is so rare below a rainforest canopy and am always forced to yield my preconceptions in search of a compromise between what is offered and what I can take. This tree has been pictured here in the past (see “Road-tripping Through Ecosystems #4“) and I am certain that I will shoot and show it again. Ok... so it’s not really my ficus, but I wish it were.
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