Work hazards

There are not many dangerous organisms on Puerto Rico – very different from the continental tropics, where it can feel like everything has it in for you. Here is an exhaustive sample of all the unpleasant plants and and animals I’ve been hurt by on this trip – it is fortunately not a very long list!

First, Urera baccifera – a plant in the nettle family (Urticaceae). Its leaves and stems are covered in stinging hairs that cause a painful sensation when touched. The pain lasts for about fifteen minutes and it is somewhat itchy. Fortunately, this plant is not very common!

Second, an unpleasant liana, Dioscorea altissima (yam family). The thorns are very large, and all over – not fun when the forest is tangled with this on the ground and in the air.

Third, termites – here, Nasutitermes costalis, probably. The termites make small covered galleries in the bark of nearby trees out of saliva and feces. Unfortunately these galleries are easily crushed by passing scientists, causing large numbers of termites to swarm out and bite. The pain is not bad but it is multiplied many times, and termites have a way of finding their way underneath clothing too…

But still – no poisonous snakes, large mammals, or bee swarms. We are very lucky!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Greg says:

    Good list! If I could add my two cents, I’d put in for spiny palms and fire ants. Both are happily absent from our part of El Yunque, but I’ve encountered enough elsewhere…

  2. bblonder says:

    Yes – those are both very unfriendly species! I’m very glad they don’t reach El Verde. I once camped on a fire ant nest and had a very unpleasant evening…

  3. Do you all have the GruGru palm there? That’s a pretty mean one we’ve encountered on the islands. Edible fruit, at least, but those spines are mean and the fronds fall and are covered with them. Like needles!

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