Friday, February 25, 2011

Termite factor

Last month, I visited Australian Northern Territory and was keen to see examples of naturally dwarfed plants in tropical savanna. It was a wet season, the time when many plants undergo a period of rampant growth. Very familiar young eucalypt trees boasted very unusual one-foot-long leaves. However, I did observe an unexpected natural force which can suppress plant growth even at this time of the year. Termites. The tree on the picture is stunted because it is virtually growing on a termite mound. Whenever any part of this tree dies due to heat, wind, insects, fungi, virus or bacteria it is immediately consumed by termites. I have a feeling that both the tree and the termite mound are quite old. From the trunk line we can see that its apex died back a few times and one of the side branches grew to be the new tree top.

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