Friday, June 25, 2010

Drift seed- Prickly Palm

I wasn't sure what these were the first time I found them. I was unsure whether they were a type of drift bean or drift seed. One was polished and shiny while the other was not. "Shiny" was rounded but "Dull" was not.They both had three weird holes on their sides. I've never seen seeds with three holes on the side though. Maybe they are made of plastic and the holes were for lines, like a float. "Dull" had a pointy top crown though that made it look organic. Plus, if they were manufactured then they would have been molded into the same side.

After a little more research, I found these out to be nuts from the prickly palm (Acrocromia sp.). The common name is the corozo palm. Imagine a coconut palm with crazy long spines on the trunk! There isn't a consesus as to what species they are, so I will just leave the name as that. They are apparently drift seeds from tropical Americas and the Carribeans that drift their way around the Gulf of Mexico.
I've only found 3 so far. I don' tthink the prickly palm exists here or on Guam. I wonder if they really drifted from as far away as Central America?The corozo palm nut polishes quite nicely and people in Central America still use them as ornamental beads. I don't think we can find enough around to be of that use.

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber

Fun Guys: Hiking and Caving

Once in a while we will hear from our friend Niko to go on a hike or some other adventure. He and some of his coworkers were supposed to go on a day trip to Tinian but it got cancelled leaving them a rare 3 days off from working at the hospital.

Form left to right: Cecille works at Physical Therapy. Niko works at Medical Telemetry. Laurina works are Pediatrics. RC works at MedTele with Niko.
We met RC via Niko last year and we went on a few outdoors excursions with them until he got hired at the hospital and got too busy with work. I am glad we had another chance to explore nature.
Niko wanted to take RC and Cecille to some Japanese WWII caves in Navy Hill that were built more than 60 years ago as a refuge against the Allied forces. You have to follow a usually dried stream bed and navigate through the slippery limestone forest to get there. The Pierson's shared this hike with us a few years ago, and Dr. Ken was familiar with the place since the Xterra Races go through the caves and the trail as an obstacle.

After a few minutes walking along the stream bed, you'll spot the first opening of the caves on the left. You can see how they were hewn out of the limestone cliff.
There is a lot of room inside but it is pretty dark so you'll have to bring flashlights.
This is our second trip here with Niko. Niko is one of my first friends here on Saipan along with Laurina since I met them together going through nursing school. We all got our nursing degrees from the Northern Mariana College in 2004 and still occasionally hike or hang out together.

We sometimes call these the "crystal caves". They are full of deposited calcite and aragonite that seep through the limestone walls as they are dissolved by rainwater. Limestone is porous and even man-made caves such as these start to develop natural cave features or speleothems (like stalactites and stalagmites) given time. The picture below gives you is a pretty good clue as to how the water and dissolved minerals flow through the roof and down to the walls and floor of the cave.
The crystal formations are beautiful, almost like frosted sugar. The picture bellow illustrates a gorgeous flow stone formation. They are also very delicate so we try our best each time we visit not to destroy or disturb the site. Imagine the Xterra racers going through here though.

Here is RC pointing out soda straws. A soda straw is a speleothem that is a hollow mineral tube of calcium carbonate or sulfate. As each drop of mineral rich water hovers at the tip and a ring of minerals is left at the edge when the water drops. Each drop of water can deposit a little more mineral before dripping, slowly building a tube. Stalagmites or flowstone can also form where the water drops to the cave floor.

A soda straw can turn into a stalactite if the hole at the bottom is blocked, or if the minerals are deposited outside surface of the tube.
Can you see patterns of the water deposit?
Here are some really delicate flow stone features on the cave wall. Amazing and beautiful!
Amazing and beautiful, but this time in the form of my BFF!
We had a little snacking moment outside of the caves after we reached the end. We still had some energy and decided to hike up the trail a little more.
I started finding some seed that I blogged about for one of my projects. This is the source of the sea or drift beans! The round ones are from what the Chamorros call Nonnak (Hernandia sonora), the big round one is called bayogun dankulu (Entada rheedii), and the dark flat ones are bayogun dikike (Mucuna gigantea).
I totally made a mistake on my first blog about sea beans on the identity of the Black Marbles. They are not from the glass eye vine (Oxyrhynchus volubilis). They are from the Nonnak after all! Here are the fleshy pink pericarps on the forest floor.
A Nonnak sapling grows quite readily from the seed on the forest floor. I need to collect some for my native tree planting projects. They are gorgeous trees for landscaping and the bowed trunks were once used for canoe outriggers.
I wanted to explore more since I spotted the woody vines or lianas of the bayogon dankulo.
Laurina spotted this one that can probably support a man's weight! This is what Tarzan probably used to swing from tree to tree.
I didn't see a "monkey ladder" formation though that develops when the vine grows in a spiral or twisty manner. I truly wanted to spot its huge seed pods though.
I was only able to spot parts of the huge pods on the ground. I want a complete one for my personal collection but they are so hard to find!
This is a picture of one from the Thursday Night Street Market that showcases a complete seed pod. This seed pod is a few feet long and you can see the bayogu seeds made into dolls in the display here.
Only fragments were found. I have to search harder for a complete one it seems.
It's interesting how the woody side structures are retained and the middle pods are separately discarded to split up and release the big seeds.
We also found some wild chiles! These are locally known as donne sali (donne means chile and sali is the endemic Micronesian starling or Aplonis opaca) and is a variety of Capsicum annum or domesticated chiles. In the Philippines, we call these types siling labuyo (Labuyo is a jungle fowl) and is reported in both cultures as being very spicy. One day, I'm going to have to see where it really is in the Scoville scale.
I hope the crows and the jungle fowls don't mind us gathering their donne. These will make a deliciously hot marinade after the hike! Who is cooking, guys? Anyone?
I had to let the party go ahead most of the time so that I could explore a little bit more of the place slowly. We were just following the trail back to get to the vehicles. There goes Laurina the Explorer!
Maple leaf-shaped leaves? Big football-like fruits? What is that? I don't know what kind of tree that is? Wow! A mystery tree!

There are whole lot of them here! They look amazing! I've got to figure out what they are!
I thought these seeds were dokduk or the Seeded breadfuit (Artocarpus mariannensis) but they are not! The seeds were all over the forest floor and were readily sprouting. Oh, well. I'll figure it out one day!
On the way out, we saw that the Japanse shrine at Sugar King Park was open- a rare event! We wanted to see if we could ring the bell, but there was a solemn prayer going on inside.
Thanks for suggesting the hike, Niko! Let us go again soo!
Ti napu.
The Beachcomber

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Heart Seed

Here's another heart seed. Love is truly all around us.

This is the papery-winged seed of the African Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata). They're blowing all over right now.

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Yes, sometimes

"Much of life cannot be explained, it can only be witnessed."

from The Wise Heart

Saipan Lagoon's purple sunset
Guahan's tiki sunset.

The moon and Venus' twilight dance
All this beauty & grandeur around me.
Yet I still think of you.

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Celebrate the Mango- Part2

Mango season is in full swing and I wanted to update my mango post from last year adding more varieties available on Saipan. The "local" or Saipan mangoes started out plenty and early this season but they were not very sweet. It is only in the last 2 months that trees started producing sweeter batches. Good thing too because as you see in the picture above, they are quite appetizing! Green, yellow, red- all ripe and all from the same tree. Carabao mangoes this year are not as productive but taste just as good as last year.
You can drive down Tanapag and San Roque Village now and buy a sample of Saipan's reputedly best "local" mangoes. They usually sell mangoes on the roadside so keep a look out for them. I had some last year for about $6 a basket and they were quite plump and delicious.

Carabao-Local Hybrid
This is a small variety that has a sweet, almost butter-like scent. Some people don't like carabao mangoes because they have a bit of a turpentine taste but this hybrid doesn't smell as strong and has a good balance of sugary sweet and mild tartness that you find in the local mangoes.
It is difficult for the natural taxonomist in me not to know the names of some mango varieties that I've encountered. I do not think that there is anything formalized in branding or naming our mangoes and a lot of people are really just confused with what is what which makes me even more confused. I'll just have to sit down with our expert people in Forestry or Land & Natural Resources to figure these out one day.

"Small Golden"
I tried these smallish golden mangoes from a friend last year. They were quite aromatic with very little fibers. As I said earlier, these do not have an official name and she just called them Small Golden. I haven't seen these turn up this season but I remember these to be really really good.

"Beaked- Haden Type"
Here is another variety that people called Haden but the beak is uncharacteristic of the breed. I remember that the flesh didn't hold a lot of moisture and reminded me of eating toa (half ripe) mangoes.
This is a good size mango & sweet but just not very juicy."Giant Hawaiian Mango"
I do not have a lot of information on this huge type. I got it at the local vegetable/fruit stand and the guy who sold it to me called it Giant Hawaiian. This was the only sample he had and I haven't seen one similar again. It was not very sweet but the flesh was firm and juicy.

"Green Pico"
Someone brought these by the office calling it a Pico type because of the shape. It was totally ripe even thought it was this dark green color. I remember it tasting like a Pico, sugary sweet with just a hint of tartness.

"Saipan Dikike"
I loved these tiny mangoes! They are obviously "local" or Saipan mangoes but tiny like plums. They were a good mixture of sweet and tart you usually find in the bigger varieties. The people at Asin's Store called it dikike or small in Chamorro so that's what I'm calling it. I need to find more of these since they were really tasty and easy to eat!

I should have bought the lot of them. They were really juicy and the flesh were firm.
I hope I get to find and sample some more varieties. After a long dry spell caused by the El Niño, it is starting to rain again. That means that the rainy season will soon be here and mango season will soon come to a close. We will then have to rely on the preserved kinds or the ones they ship in. Lets go out there and get some more before they are gone!

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber