Pop Quiz #4!

Test your knowledge on the flora and fauna growing along UGACR campus trails and throughout the Monteverde Cloud Forest here in Costa Rica. You never know when a trivia night will call for tropical ecology facts…

True or False?

The spaces between the horizontal rings on a cecropia tree, Cecropia obtusifolia, indicate how much the tree has grown over the course of a given season.

Cecropia

True.

Typically, wider spaces represent a wetter season and thus more growth, whereas smaller distances between rings mean less growth during the dry season.

Cecropia is a hollow pioneer plant. This means they are among the first to spring up in secondary forests because they require plenty of light. Growing quickly (up to 4 meters per year) and living for about 25-30 years, cecropia trees allow less light-dependent species to sprout in their shade. Because the trees have a short lifespan, they need to be sure to remain healthy; their symbiotic relationship with ants is key for successful longevity. The tree provides housing for the ants and the sugar produced by its leaves acts as ant food. In return, ants protect the tree from all types of predators from monkeys to epiphytes by releasing a formic acid that dispels predators. Not every cecropia tree is home to ants, however; those without symbiosis are likely covered in vines and epiphytes.

Blog contribution by Alex Fylypovych, UGA Costa Rica Photojournalism Intern

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