Serendipity of the Day

On the road...again!!! 
Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams 
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester  
By Dick Pellek 

 

 

SERENDIPITY OF THE DAY 

 

Occasional pictures of huge trees with buttresses on Facebook prompted the Footloose Forester to research some selected literature on Costa Rica in an attempt to put a species name on the most recent one that he was seeing.  Facebook users frequently post photos of unique landforms and trees, but often without any indication of location or species names.  Not unexpectedly, other Facebook users who show a personal interest in such unique photos want to know where it is, and what species name it has.  The trendy concept is one form of distance learning and is truly a valuable tool within modern computer technology.  And the Footloose Forester is among that fraternity of distance learners who depend on names of things to go along with the photos.  Having said that, the latest AI search led to the Serendipity of the Day. 

An unnamed buttressed tree devoid of identifying information about location prompted the Footloose Forester to search out some research data from Costa Rica, a place where he suspected the buttressed tree might be found.  To his delight, he uncovered a link to the name of a prominent tropical forester who had done on-the-ground, in-the-forest research of a tropical tree species that always exhibits buttresses. The glowing biography of Dr. Gary Hartshorn popped up.  It was a pleasant surprise to discover and a delight to read.  It was also a gratifying serendipity, because Gary Hartshorn taught the Footloose Forester a goodly dose of tropical dendrology during an Organization for Tropical Studies course there in 1970.  

But that was not the biggest serendipity of the day.  The Footloose Forester was actually looking for the name of the tree species that Gary was currently researching at the time.  And his biography contained that precise information.  Serendipity of the Day! 

Pentaclethra  macroloba was that buttressed tree species.  The next step in filling in the gaps of information was to look for photos of Pentaclethra online, to compare photos and their buttresses.   Distance learning was already paying dividends.  At that stage, the Footloose Forester thought that he might concoct a suitable chronicle, worthy of the effort, about tropical trees and Gary Hartshorn’s intimate role with them.  The drafting was going to be an abuilding project for personal archives and for a fond reminder of the whimsical days, On the road...again!!! In Costa Rica. 

 

Pentaclethra tree

 

Gary Hartshorn played the leading role in this in-draft chronicle because Footloose Forester followed him for a couple of days in the forest where we encountered Pentaclethra trees and other exotics that were not well studied.  In the ensuing years, Gary Hartshorn earned prominence in the world of tropical forestry by identifying and describing three other unnamed species. His colleagues in the world of plant taxonomy honored him by assigning them specific species names, thus: Macrolobium hartshornii; Meliosma  hartshornii; and Ocotea  hartshorniana.  Some years later, Sir David Attenborough was hoisted by pulleys 100 feet up into the branches of an Ocotea hartshorniana, to marvel at what he remarked was an ideal view of a tropical forest.   Serendipity comes in many forms.  

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