Sunday, October 18, 2009

Part 1: Yes, you can predict natural events (with plants).

Fire tree blooms only in summer. Early
rain brings blooming to an abrupt end.

Abe V Rotor

1. Kapok laden with pods means there’s going to be a poor harvest.

Ceiba pentandra, or cotton tree, has large secondary roots to compensate for its lack of primary root that can penetrate the deeper source of water. Nature endowed this plant with fleshy trunk and branches to store large amount of water for the dry season. Insufficient rains or early onset of summer triggers flowering, as it is the case in many species under stress. Thus it is one of the indicators of poor harvest farmers rely on. It has been observed that a bumper crop of kapok fiber occurs during El Niño, a climatic phenomenon characterized by extreme drought.

2. Someone will die if the fire tree blooms.
It sounds more of a plan than prediction. In olden times there are tribes that go headhunting when the fire tree (Delonix regia) is in full bloom. In the Philippines the early Ilongots of the Cordillera Mountain used to descend to claim their victims from among the lowlanders. The sacrifice was part of a ritual to win a woman’s heart. How true is the story, we do not know. But among the Aztecs and Mayans, sacrificing human beings to their gods was a common practice before they were converted into Christianity.

One explanation of this belief is that the fire tree blooms to its fullest in the face of extreme drought, most likely due to El Niño, a condition that causes untold death and misery. It is the upland dwellers that is worse affected, forcing them to go to the lowlands in search for food or seek refuge, inevitably causing trouble.

2.Sporadic and massive brush fire accompanies dry spell or predicts the coming of the El Niño phenomenon. Usually it is at the end of the rainy season that grasses like talahib (Saccharum officinarum) and cogon (Imperata cylindrica) reach the end of their life cycle. In the absence of subsequent rains, these ignite into brush fire, so bad in certain cases that even trees and whole forest burn. Worst scenarios are forest fires as what happen in Australia last 2006, and Indonesia in 2000, the latter sending smoke as far as the Philippines.

3. Flying kites while rice plants are in bloom causes poor harvest.
You risk your precious kite from sequestration and even face beating from the old folks when you fly kites before the rice panicles have fully set. Old folks won’t let you call the north wind too soon because it is the cause of poorly filled grains.

It is not the children’s fault at all. The initiative of kite flying is the Siberian wind (amihan) which may arrive early. In short, kites are an indicator and not the cause of poor harvest. The rainy season (habagat) simply ended too soon, depriving the rice crops of soil moisture they need at maturity, while the chilly Siberian wind affects pollination and grain formation.

4. Color of Hydrangia flowers tells us if the soil is acidic or alkaline.

Have you wondered why there are pink and blue Hydrangia, a popular ornamental plant found growing in Tagaytay and Baguio? This annual plant is nature’s litmus paper turning from pink to blue if the pH (power of Hydrogen) is basic or alkaline, and blue to pink if acidic if the soil is acidic. Thus pink Hydrangia tells us that the soil it is growing on is acidic. Acidic soils are usually rich in organic matter or rich in hydrogen ions. High Aluminum content is one of the causes why Hydrangia flowers are pink. Blue flowered Hydrangia is likely to be growing on alkaline soil which means it is rich in hydroxyl ions. A clinical eye can even gauge the pH level by basing it on the varying levels of coloration occurring as sky blue, lavender - or combined hues of blue and pink which means that the soil has a neutral pH which is around 7.

Hydrangia is Nature's litmus paper.

Reference: Living With Folk Wisdom, AVR, UST Manila

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