Nature's signals from the trees
Changes in our natural environment usually go unnoticed, save and except when they are extreme and human lives and activities are directly affected. The more subtle changes almost always go undetected though they signal major occurrences in the natural world.
This year has had rainfall on a continuous vein throughout our two seasons. Some say that we really had no dry season at all. During what should have been a period of intense heat during the first half of the year turned out to be a rainy time.
People who work closely with nature or whose work is directly affected by the seasons have shared their observations of the effects of these prolonged periods of rain. According to them, though the hills and valleys seem verdant, there are signs among the individual trees that things are not what they seem to be.
Huntsmen in the forests of the Northern Range report the failure of the balata tree to bear fruit this year. Normally the balata bears fruit every four years and was expected to bear a bumper crop this year. The berry, yellow in colour, is a favourite of almost all animals in the forest.
The balata has also become a favourite on the local market. Vendors' stalls are flooded with golden delight when the fruit is in season. This year, there is no balata for sale.
The Immortelle is regarded as an integral part of cocoa estates. It grows up to twenty five metres tall and provides ample shade to the cocoa trees. At the end of the rainy season into the dry season, the immortelle sheds its leaves to make way for the brilliant orange blossoms for which it is well known.
Cyril Cooper, a cocoa farmer, is drawing attention to the current blossoming of immortelle trees on his estate and others in the area of Blanchisseuse.
"When you look around the hills and valleys on the estates in the area, they are colourful with immortelle. For this time of year, it is very unusual. Normally, the immortelle flowers in December and January as a sign that the rain is almost over and dry time is beginning. For the immortelle to be flowering now is a sign that we will have a very early dry season."
The yellow poui too has flowered early. The hills of Blanchisseuse and Aripo are sun-shiny bright with the yellow of the poui. Every year, the poui sheds its leaves in the dry season months of April to May to blossom into the bright yellows that you admire in the hills. It is regarded as the surest sign that the rainy season is near. The present blossoming of the poui in the rainy season has had the effect of confusing everyone.
The mango is a tree nearer to the home. It is considered the most widely favoured fruit tree. However, the mango, too, has had a poor year. In previous years, the mango tree has always been laden with fruit. Everyone enjoys partaking of the large fleshy fruit, so too do the birds and animals.
The bearing of the mango has been sparse this year. Raymond Hernandez, a huntsman of Carib bloodlines, gives the reason for this based on his observations throughout the years.
"When it is a leap year, we are accustomed seeing more fruits than usual, a surplus of fruits especially the mango. Hikers always walk with lighter load during July/August because they know that they could depend on the mangoes to get belly full.
This year, everybody was missing the mango, especially along the Paria Trail where you always walk and pick up how ever many you want.
"The reason for this scarcity of mango is the heavy rain we have been having all the time. The rain beat out the blossoms without giving them a chance to bear fruit.
"Only a few trees managed to put out some mango and even this was a poor amount when compared to previous years."
It is now obvious to everyone that our two seasons have gone awry this year. Besides the effect on the normal flowering and fruiting of trees, fauna that depend on these for sustenance have been severely impacted in their patterns of behaviour. Birds and insects have had to adapt to these changes, animals too.
We continue to monitor the signals that our trees give us as nature resets her clock to changing times.