Nature reserves are in many ways becoming islands that are surrounded by land no longer suitable for the plants and animals that formerly lived there.
Story Two
The Garden
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Two Stories

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The bed and breakfast where he’s staying in London has a 9:00 A.M. sitting for breakfast, the last sitting of the morning, and it’s only a half hour away.
He has to take a bath, try out that luxurious old bathtub.
‘Dammed ducks!’ he thinks, looking out the window. In a neighbor’s garden, waddling.
He rubs his eyes.
Quack! Quack!
Dressed and ready, downstairs there’s only one person seated.
The lady is from Toronto visiting a daughter who lives in London.
“Did the ducks bother you?” Kewe smiling asks. “The noise was bad enough I could hear them mixed in my dreams. Qua, Qua, Quew! Quew!” he imitates not very well. “I thought I was on the bank of some river.”
“Oh, you’ve been there too,” the lady says. “I love Kew. We didn’t get as far along as the bank of the Thames. We wanted to see the glasshouses and it takes time to see....”
“No, Kewe is my name,” Kewe responds. “I was talking about the ducks.”
“Well, I didn’t get an opportunity to see the ducks but I was agreeing with my daughter what an exceptionally interesting place it is.”
“It is?”
“Kew I thought you were there,” the lady is rummaging in her bag. “You should go. I have the brochure. I know I have it.”
A search through her handbag, a pamphlet is brought forth that she hands to him. “The glasshouses are superb. Don’t miss them.”
Kewe is staring at the pamphlets. “No.... I guess I won’t.”
Riding out on the London underground, Kew station above ground, he walks over the bridge, down the steps to the flower seller, then past the tiered, old houses, to cross to a major street that has a long wall — Kewe Gardens — a wall that takes him to the entrance.
Given a pamphlet with the ticket, he buys a small descriptive book at the shop.
The glasshouses are recommended and that is where he finds himself. The one he has come to is the largest ornamental glasshouse in the world, the book says.
Stepping inside, breathing fresh wonderful oxygenated air, plants and trees from regions covering the world surround him.
Sprawling conifers in the center, towering up to high roof glass. Temperate and subtropical at the outer edges.
Giant lemons the size of grapefruit, past a five-sided Babaco native to Ecuador, he walks.
He remembers eating the juicy and seedless fruit known as mountain papaya — a flavor that is a mix between pineapple, strawberry and papaya. This is the first time he’s seen the fruit growing.
On this tour of the temperate house, he sees plants from the Himalayas, from the Cape of Africa, from Lord Howl Island, New Zealand.
One wing has rice paper plants and Indian lilac. Mountain rhododendrons from Malaysia and Indonesia — even rhododendrons growing in areas of the Himalayas — are flowering.
High above him people walk on a platform around the edge, just under the glass roof. At one of the corners, hidden among the trees, is a circular metal staircase for him to climb.
Sixty feet above the ground, his hand on a metal balustrade, in the top of one of the trees a small English robin — who must have flown in via a vent window — is trilling away. Accompanied by taped nature sounds from a nearby speaker.
Singing amongst the leaves, the small bird is producing a vibration that echoes throughout the top of the glasshouse.
Kewe entranced, and a little high with the oxygen from the plants, looks down at so many groupings of Earth’s wonders.
The splendor of the majestic white palace is breathtaking. How can it be he asks himself, that many of us allow ourselves to live the way we live without any of this?
Kewe clambers down reluctantly, walks and stops to view such rarities as a coffin tree from China, a giant Chilean wine palm that a sign says is over a hundred years old — started from seed here at Kew. The sprawling wine palm is propped up by wood supports.
Taking a quick tour of the central park with maroon and blue hyacinth decorating edges of the manicured lawns, he makes his way to the other large conservatory that some people had the foresight to build in the Victorian era, the Palm House.
Here it is warmer, tropical, more mysterious. Dark fronds droop in thick, humid air. A ylang ylang growing in the shade with its green and yellow flower fragrance pervading everything.
A sign near the tree says perfumes of the world contain the oil from the flower. Distilled the oil acts as both an antidepressant and as a sedative in aromatherapy.
A screw pine nearby, woody brace roots — long wooden stilt sticks that reach high above Kewe’s head. He reads the plant is named for the spiral fashion in which spiny edge leaves arrange themselves round the upper trunk.
Near the screw pine is another small notice:
Palms are an ancient group
of plants that date from the
Age of Reptiles.

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Palms - Belonging to the botanic
order known as principes,
or the princes of the plant
world, palms beautify and
give shade.

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Palms - Rope is made
from them. They are used as
timber.

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Palms - Oil can be extracted as food
and for lighting.

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Palms - The sugary sap is made into
sweet drinks, distilled and
brewed to be intoxicating
beverages such as arrack,
palm-toddy and wine.

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Palms - Today many of the wild
strains are being obliterated.

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A double coconut palm grows underneath one of the taller palms. Seven feet high, with large fan-like leaf fronds, Kewe stares at the brown skinned seed — two American-football look-alikes, fused together.
A sign beside the plant indicates the seed — the ripe interior jellied and sweet — can weigh up to 50 pounds.
By the seed is an environmental notice. It warns that over-harvesting as well as an ever increasing tourist industry is threatening the survival of this plant as it grows in the wild.
Palms - The slow growing palm
grows in the wild today on
only two small islands.

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Palms - It used to grow in a chain of
more than a hundred islands.

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Kewe begins to notice many small placards set beside plants.
Many state that due to increasing harvesting directly from the wild, the unfarmed species are being eradicated.
‘Look up!’ A sign at eye-level invites. ‘Jade Vine in flower.’
Above is a slender, long stem growing right into the glass of the ceiling. ‘Jade Vine has its origination in rainforests of the Philippines,’ the marker states — the vine must be close to sixty feet long.
RainForests - 20% of the Philippine forests remain.

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Rainforests - The speed at which these
ancient rainforests are seen
to be vanishing adds a sense
of urgency to research into
the floral biology of Jade
Vine.

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Rainforests - The speed at which these
ancient rainforests are seen
to be vanishing adds a sense
of urgency to research into
the floral biology of Jade
Vine.

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Now looking at cycads, living fossils in our time. Extinct genera grew as far back as 270 million years, helping to feed the dinosaurs.
The ligneous plant Kewe is staring at has a stout trunk, a crown of large, divided leaves.
He reads most cycads have male pollen cones and female reproductive structures on separate plants. A notice describing destruction of the cycad species in their natural environment.
Cycads - Once a common sight, these plants have been in the wild greatly reduced.

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Cycads - Half of the species are
threatened.

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Cycads - Some, such as
the Microcycas in western Cuba, are facing extinction.

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“Cycads,” someone is saying next to him. “They contain toxins that scientists have yet to understand — poisons that might well have properties as medicine. If future generations are allowed to discover their secrets.”
Wandering in this enormous glasshouse, and then another recently built, he sees many signs pointing to new levels of mass extinction of plants.
A glasshouse opened by Princess Diana in July 1987, has a placard besides the planting of desert myrrh:
Myrrh deserts - Bush cleared and burnt,
wind, rain makes underlying
soil infertile.

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Myrrh deserts - Habitats in
deserts are under increasing
threat.

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Myrrh deserts - More than one fifth of the
world's land surface is desert
and semi-desert....

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Myrrh deserts - Cultivated native myrrh and
other species could provide
much protection, as well as a
valuable crop.

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Kewe opens a glass door separating desert air from sultry, tropical wet areas.
He is now among vines and tree-climbers, and a canopy filled with flowering orchids.
Goldfish and silver Koi swim in the water under the bridge he’s walking across.
On the surface of the water, a mass of giant Amazonian water lilies grow.
These are from the plants that habitat many backwater, black rivers feeding the Amazonia giant rivers.
In this micro world of the tropics, there’s also a rare water palm endemic to a small region of southeastern Madagascar.
‘Ravenea musicalis,’ is the scientific name, due to the delicate sound that the leaves make, moving pliantly in the soft breeze.
Titan Arums are on display. Discovered in shaded forests of Sumatra, the plants bloom only a few times in their forty-year life span.
Showing the biggest ‘phallic flower’ in the world when they bloom, they grow a single umbrella-like leaf as thick as a person’s thigh.
Flowers in this glass-house forest: brightness of the whites, purples in their royalty, yellows that are translucent, the strong greens and the accented lime, intoxicating reds, a complexity of astonishing blossoms and shades.
And, of course, there are ubiquitous signs.
Forests - ...as the trees are felled for
timber, as the land is cleared
for agriculture,

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Forests - ... as the land is cleared
for agriculture, crops and ranching, large areas of most rainforests are seeing vast areas being destroyed.

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Forests - ...Nature reserves are in many by land no longer suitable for the plants and animals that have formerly lived there.


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Forests - for the plants and animals that have formerly lived there.
and for lighting.

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Forests - ...Destruction of forests continuing, native plants and animals in many areas are being driven to extinction.

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Forests - ...The vast Rio-Atlantic
rainforests, the might of the
Amazon, Central American
forests,

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Forests - the African forests,
the Indo-Malaysian forests,
Sumatra Indonesian rain
forests destroyed for palm
oil,

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Forests - all the tropical forests of
the world are threatened.

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A cool enclosure of a simulation of a cloud forest, shrouded in watery mist has trees finely draped with fern and mosses. Here small ‘air plants’ perch, their flimsy roots clutching at a tree branch or upon a strong, healthy plantleaf.
He reads the sign:
Cloud forests - In many tropical mountains,
it is possible to observe the
agricultural frontier moving
rapidly towards the steeper
areas.

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Cloud forests - Cloud forests are rare and
unique ecosystems.

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Thinking of the animals and birds that share mountain regions, Kewe pictures the blazing red, Andean cock-of-the-rock.
He thinks of the spectacular, golden-headed quetzal, the woolly and the spider monkeys jumping and frolicking through the trees.
He thinks of the jaguars who roam at the base, and the distinguished bears that look as if they have spectacles climbing large cacti to get to the fruit at the top of the trees — a bear today almost extinct.
Cloud forests - Many of the remaining cloud forests in the world, as well
as the species that live within
them, are in danger of total
extinction.

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A woman is in a heated conversation with a man standing next to her. “We are cutting down all the trees, allowing no place for wildness.
“In one half of our lifetime, less than fifty years, the peoples of our world have destroyed more than any other people could.”
The man responds, “I would agree if you will agree with me that no species has a right to survive? Isn’t that entirely a human thought?”
Endnote.

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