In early December I spent 10 days in southern Costa Rica preparing sites for a tropical forest restoration experiment using fig trees. Figs are classic keystone species; that is, they have a large influence on their ecosystem relative to their abundance. Figs produce fruits that are eaten by many animals throughout the year. These animals disperse other plant species’ seeds below the figs’ crowns, and as a result, forests around fig trees often have diverse types of seedlings.
Some figs are also capable of resprouting from vegetative cuttings, meaning that one can cut branches from adult trees and plant them as though they were seedlings. If cuttings are taken from fruiting adult trees, the cuttings can even produce fruits in the first year after they are planted, potentially attracting seed-carrying animals.
On one humid night last week, I woke up at 2AM, my bed shaking from a nearby magnitude 6.6 earthquake. The next day a co-worker cut through his shin to the bone with a machete. It rained every day, but flowering corteza amarilla (Tabebuia ochracea) trees signified that the dry season is nearly here.