Guy Shrubsole’s ambitious plan to map Britain's rainforests

Atlas Obscura spoke to Guy Shrubsole about his conversation project aiming to map the rainforests of Britain:

Woodland conservationists consider the few fragments of ancient temperate rainforests that survive in Britain to be in more danger than their tropical counterparts, says Shrubsole, who describes himself as a “very amateur, but very enthusiastic naturalist.” “Knowing where the rainforests are is a crucial part of knowing how to save them,” he says. So Shrubsole, using crowdsourced information collected through his Lost Rainforests of Britain website, has begun plotting Britain’s first comprehensive rainforest map.

I had no idea Britain had rainforests but, after reading, these aren’t the same kind as you find in the Amazon. Due to the wet and mild conditions, Britain has temperate rainforests where plants called epiphytes can grow on other plants. It’s an interesting project and I wish Guy the best of luck.

The Woodland Trust has a great page on temperate rainforests, noting that they’re possibly more threatened than tropical rainforests like the Amazon. But I think we need to save them all regardless of priority. Damn humans and their pollution and expediting of climate change.

Figs and wasps: a mutual relationship

Do Figs Really Have Dead Wasps In Them?

My mum reminded me that I explained how figs were formed a while ago (I’d completely forgotten this but I blame that on the pandemic). The above video explains how wasps play a pivotal role in the survival of figs (their relationship is known as mutualism) but here’s a brief excerpt from Julie R. Thomson:

In simple terms, figs are technically not a fruit ― they are inverted flowers. Fig trees don’t flower like apples and peaches. Their flowers bloom inside the pear-shaped pod, which later matures into the fruit we eat. Each flower then produces a single, one-seeded, hard-shelled fruit called achene ― that’s what gives the fig the crunch we know ― and the fig is made up of multiple achene. So when we eat a fig we are actually eating multiple fruits.

But that’s not the end of the uniqueness that sets the fig apart.

Because fig flowers bloom internally, they need a special process for pollination. They cannot rely on the wind or bees to spread their pollen ― that’s where the fig wasp comes in. The fig cannot survive without the fig wasp to spread its genetic material, and the fig wasp cannot live without the fig, because that’s where it lays its larva ― this relationship is known as mutualism.

The female fig wasp enters the male fig ― we don’t eat the male figs, by the way ― to lay its eggs. The male fig is shaped in a way to accommodate the laying of wasp eggs. The female wasp’s wings and antennae break off when entering the small passage in the fig so once it’s in, there is no way out. It’s up to the baby wasps to continue the life cycle. Male baby wasps are born without wings, because their sole purpose is to mate with the female offspring ― technically their sister ― and dig a tunnel out of the fig. It’s the female offspring that make the journey out, bringing pollen with them.

If a fig wasp enters a female fig accidentally ― the ones we eat ― instead of a male one, there is no room in the interior for it to reproduce. And it cannot escape, because its wings and antennae have broken off. So the wasp dies inside, which is unfortunate but necessary because that’s how it delivers the pollen giving us the fruit we love.

Because of this relationship, figs aren’t considered vegan.

What is it with wasps and weird relationships with nature?

The natural photography of Théo de Gueltzl

Théo de Gueltzl is a Paris-born photographer who has found himself in a lot of different place since he left his native France.

When we last spoke to Théo in 2017, he was living in Bogota following a road trip he had undertaken from Los Angeles, through Mexico, and into South America. There he established a studio and began planning his future trips. He had “the bug for travelling” and, four years later, he still does. His recent photographic work is full of far-flung landscapes and portraits of different communities. This kind of work, he says, is integral to his practice and is the very reason he continues to pick up his camera. “I think I have been very much driven towards telling the stories of communities from other parts of the world in the hope of helping to preserve the diversity of culture,” he explains. “In a time where we are all looking at the world through the same filtered window, and living on a planet that is always growing and changing, I like the idea that photographs can act as proof, carrying information about how people lived in a certain place at a certain time.”

via It’s Nice That

Théo’s passion lies in nature and its richness. You’ll find jungles, beaches, lakes, and foliage in his work and beautiful backdrops to complement them.

Follow him on Instagram for more.

When Solomon Leyva took his titan arum to an abandoned gas station

Photo of a titan arum.
source: Flickr, via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), is a flowering plant also known as ‘the corpse flower’ due to its stench similar to a rotting corpse. Solomon Leyva owned one of these plants and decided to take it to the site of an abandoned gas station in California for others to admire. Atlas Obscura interviewed him about the idea:

What made you decide to take the flower out on the town?

What’s the point in having it? It was only going to bloom for a day—I mean, I have to share it. I don’t know what else I would have done.

There’s a really great, cute little community in the city that I live in, and I just thought everybody would enjoy seeing it. I was out from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and again the next day. The first day, it was really cold and [the plant] wasn’t enthusiastic about opening all the way. The second day, it had been in my greenhouse and opened more. Everybody was fascinated and happy—they’ve had their [vaccine] shots and are wanting to come out.

The cute Art Deco gas station that’s been out of commission for over 30 years across from city hall—I couldn’t think of any better place to bring it. Everywhere else has sidewalks or patio seating for restaurants. Also, I had to put in a wagon and was pulling it down the street, and I didn’t want to go across town. I couldn’t fit it in my van; it was too tall. I’m 5-foot-10, and it was a few inches shorter than me.

Nearly everyone remarked about the smell, but some didn’t find the smell until it wafted up with the breeze. Everyone took their mask off to smell it. I let kids play with it, dogs jump up on it. There’s no sense in protecting something that’s only going to live for a day. Everybody just has their memory, and that’s all you get. What better way to say goodbye to the pandemic than to watch a corpse flower bloom?

Not even the foul, deathly odour of a plant could stop people from keeping their masks on. Incredible.