A Fruit That Shouldn’t Exist

I’ve included this last little tid-bit in simply because I think it’s interesting and just because it may give you something to think about in your everyday life, something that really is most strange.

Most people are completely unaware of this fact but there is a fruit that is eaten by millions of people all around the world everyday that is quite remarkable and in all reality, simply shouldn’t exist. I’m talking of course, about the banana. Bananas are actually the most mysterious fruit in the world because bananas have no seeds and what makes this even more mysterious is the fact that they are found in almost every country in the world.

Now that may not sound so odd at first but let me fully explain this enigma to you: Firstly, banana plants are not trees; they are actually a perennial herb. The trunk of the plant is really nothing more than the plants outer leaves. The real stem of the plant doesn’t actually become visible until it pushes out through the top to produce the large purple flower that will eventually develop into the fruit. Then, having finished its perennial reproductive cycle, the plant dies. The problem here, is that in the reproductive cycle of the banana, seeds are completely absent from the mature fruit! A new ‘seedling’ (known as a ‘sucker’) can only ever be generated from a piece of the plants rootstock and yet bananas are found in almost most every place on earth, even on quite remote and isolated islands.

How in the world did they all get there?

The seeds certainly weren’t carried across the oceans by prevailing winds. To fully appreciate this anomaly first consider that the only other seedless plants that exist anywhere in the world are things like seedless grapes, naval oranges and the many genetically modified varieties of commercial vegetables that can now be purchased, the point is, any other seedless plants that exist, anywhere in the world, are all that way because they have genetically modified!

And yet here we have the humble banana, which is also the only food in existence that contains exactly the correct requirements of vitamins and minerals for mans metabolism completely. It is the only food that man can live on healthily, by itself, with complete nutrition, it is found all over the world and yet we have no knowledge of how it could possibly have come into being. It seems highly improbable that the worldwide distribution of a seedless fruit that is perfectly tailored for sustaining man would have just somehow ‘happened.’

It is extremely unlikely for such a plant to have ever been produced by nature all on its own and many people believe that somehow, somewhere, sometime, someone in our far distant past genetically engineered bananas into the widely dispersed and remarkably nutritious plant that we find everywhere in such abundance today.

These people cite that bananas are living daily proof of an ancient culture that spanned the entire globe in remote pre-history. Botanists also now tentatively agree that the spread of the banana plant appears to have radiated outward from the Pacific region.

The Banana plant incidentally, is not actually a fruit or a vegetable, but it does reach a height of around 30 feet at maturity which makes it the World’s largest herb and the tallest plant in existence that does not have a woody trunk.

Via: Old Maps, Expeditions and Explorations

Advertisements

Austria’s Green Lake

A rare natural phenomenon turns one of Austria’s most beautiful hiking trails into a 10 meter-deep lake, for half the year.

Located at the foot of the Hochschwab Mountains, in Tragoess, Styria, Green Lake is one of the most bizarre natural phenomena in the world. During the cold winter months, this place is almost completely dry, and used as a country park where hikers love to come and spend some time away from urban chaos. But as soon as temperatures rise, the snow and ice covering the mountaintops begin to melt, and the water pours down, filling the basin below with crystal-clear water.

Water levels go from one-two meters at most, to over 10 meters, in the early summer. The waters of Green Lake are highest in June, when this extraordinary place is invaded by divers, curious to see what a mountain park looks like underwater. Fish swimming over wooden benches, a grass-covered bottom, trees, roads, roads and even bridges create a surreal setting that feels like it belongs on dry ground. That’s because for half of the year, that’s exactly where it’s at.

Via: OddityCentral

The Ruins of Fordlândia

Via: Neatorama Written by Alan Bellows

In the early 20th century, a cartel of Dutch and English rubber barons had a stranglehold on the vast majority of the world’s supply of rubber. At that time the sole source of rubber was the South American tree Hevea brasiliensis, whose sap is natural latex. In the 1870s a gaggle of entrepreneurial smugglers had secreted a stash of wild rubber tree seeds out of the Amazon rain forest, which they used to establish sprawling plantations in East Asia. These smothered the output of Brazil, causing their owners to eventually enjoy the majority of the world’s rubber business.

But by the late 1920s, the infamous automobile tycoon Henry Ford set out to break the back of this rubbery monopoly. His hundreds of thousands of new cars needed millions of tires, which were very expensive to produce when buying raw materials from the established rubber lords. To that end, he established Fordlândia, a tiny piece of America which was transplanted into the Amazon rain forest for a single purpose: to create the largest rubber plantation on the planet. Though enormously ambitious, the project was ultimately a fantastic failure.

In the year 1929, Ford hired a native Brazilian named Villares to survey the Amazon for a suitable location to host the massive undertaking. Brazil seemed the ideal choice considering that the trees in question were native to the region, and the rubber harvest could be shipped to the tire factories in the US by land rather than by sea. On Villares’ advice, Ford purchased a 25,000 square kilometer tract of land along the Amazon river, and immediately began to develop the area. A barge-toting steamer arrived with earth-moving equipment, a pile driver, tractors, stump pullers, a locomotive, ice-making machines, and prefabricated buildings. Workers began erecting a rubber processing plant as the surrounding area was razed of vegetation.

Typical Fordlandia houses

Scores of Ford employees were relocated to the site, and over the first few months an American-as-apple-pie community sprung up from what was once a jungle wilderness. It included a power plant, a modern hospital, a library, a golf course, a hotel, and rows of white clapboard houses with wicker patio furniture. As the town’s population grew, all manner of businesses followed, including tailors, shops, bakeries, butcher shops, restaurants, and shoemakers. It grew into a thriving community with Model T Fords frequenting the neatly paved streets.

Outside of the residential area, long rows of freshly-planted saplings soon dotted the landscape. Ford chose not to employ any botanists in the development of Fordlândia’s rubber tree fields, instead relying on the cleverness of company engineers. Having no prior knowledge of rubber-raising, the engineers made their best guess, and planted about two hundred trees per acre despite the fact that there were only about seven wild rubber trees per acre in the Amazon jungle. The plantations of East Asia were packed with flourishing trees, so it seemed reasonable to assume that the trees’ native land would be just as accommodating.

Henry Ford’s miniature America in the jungle attracted a slew of workers. Local laborers were offered a wage of thirty-seven cents a day to work on the fields of Fordlândia, which was about double the normal rate for that line of work. But Ford’s effort to transplant America– what he called “the healthy lifestyle”– was not limited to American buildings, but also included mandatory “American” lifestyle and values. The plantation’s cafeterias were self-serve, which was not the local custom, and they provided only American fare such as hamburgers. Workers had to live in American-style houses, and they were each assigned a number which they had to wear on a badge– the cost of which was deducted from their first paycheck. Brazilian laborers were also required to attend squeaky-clean American festivities on weekends, such as poetry readings, square-dancing, and English-language sing-alongs.

One of the more jarring cultural differences was Henry Ford’s mini-prohibition. Alcohol was strictly forbidden inside Fordlândia, even within the workers’ homes, on pain of immediate termination.

This led some industrious locals to establish businesses-of-ill-repute beyond the outskirts of town, allowing workers to exchange their generous pay for the comforts of rum and women.

While the community struggled along month-to-month with its disgruntled workforce, it was also faced with a rubber dilemma. The tiny saplings weren’t growing at all. The hilly terrain hemorrhaged all of its topsoil, leaving infertile, rocky soil behind. Those trees which were able to survive into arbor adolescence were soon stricken with a leaf blight that ate away the leaves and left the trees stunted and useless. Ford’s managers battled the fungus heroically, but they were not armed with the necessary knowledge of horticulture, and their efforts proved futile.

Workers’ discontent grew as the unproductive months passed. Brazilian workers– accustomed to working before sunrise and after sunset to avoid the heat of the day– were forced to work proper “American” nine-to-five shifts under the hot Amazon sun, using Ford’s assembly-line philosophies. And malaria became a serious problem due to the hilly terrain’s tendency to pool water, providing the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

In December of 1930, after about a year of working in a harsh environment with a strict and disagreeable “healthy lifestyle”, the laborers’ agitation reached a critical mass in the workers’ cafeteria. Having suffered one too many episodes of indigestion and degradation, a Brazilian man stood and shouted that he would no longer tolerate the conditions.

A chorus of voices joined his, and the cacophony was soon joined by an orchestra of banging cups and shattering dishes. Members of Fordlândia’s American management fled swiftly to their homes or into the woods, some of them chased by machete-wielding workers. A group of managers scrambled to the docks and boarded the boats there, which they moved to the center of the river and out of reach of the escalating riots.

By the time the Brazilian military arrived three days later, the rioters had spent most of their anger. Windows were broken and trucks were overturned, but Fordlândia survived. Work resumed shortly, though the rubber situation had not improved. A British journalist writing for the Indian Rubber Journal visited in 1931, and wrote, “In a long history of tropical agriculture, never has such a vast scheme been entered in such a lavish manner, and with so little to show for the money. Mr. Ford’s scheme is doomed to failure.”

The intervening months offered little evidence to counter the journalist’s grim depiction. In 1933, after three years with no appreciable quantity of rubber to show for the investment, Henry Ford finally hired a botanist to assess the situation. The botanist tried to coax some fertile rubber trees from the pitiful soil, but he was ultimately forced to conclude that the land was simply unequal to the task.

Blight-stricken rubber tree

The damp, hilly terrain was terrible for the trees, but excellent for the blight. Unfortunately no one had paid attention to the fact that the land’s previous owner was a man named Villares– the same man Henry Ford had hired to choose the plantation’s site. Henry Ford had been sold a lame portion of land, and Fordlândia was an unadulterated failure.

Fordlandia's barren fields
Fordlandia’s barren fields

Never one to surrender to circumstance, Ford purchased a new tract of land fifty miles downstream, establishing the town of Belterra. It was more flat and less damp, making it much more suitable for the finicky rubber trees. He also imported some grafts from the East Asian plantations, where the trees had been bred for resistance to the leaf blight. Starting from scratch, the new enterprise showed more promise than its predecessor, but progress was slow. For ten years Ford’s workers labored to transform soil into rubber, yielding a peak output of 750 tons of latex in 1942– far short of that year’s goal of 38,000 tons.

Be that as it may, Ford’s perseverance might have eventually paid off if it were not for the fact that scientists developed economical synthetic rubber just as Belterra was establishing itself. In 1945, Ford retired from the rubbering trade, having lost over $20 million in Brazil without ever having set foot there. A company press release announced the abandonment of Belterra with a bland epitaph: “Our war experience has taught us that synthetic rubber is superior to natural rubber for certain of our products.” The Ford Motor Company sold the land back to the Brazilian government for $250,000– a token sum.

The solid structures of Fordlândia and Belterra were left largely empty for the decades following the towns’ demise. Teams of Brazilian workers were tasked with maintaining the areas to preserve the buildings, but their remote locations left the Brazilian government wondering how it could possibly take advantage of the modern facilities.

Henry Ford with his Model T

Until recently the resources have gone largely untapped; today the plantation towns are being marketed as stops on Amazon tours. At Belterra, a building once used to coagulate rubber was briefly reanimated for the purposes of producing surgical gloves and condoms, but it was a short-lived enterprise. Much of the plantation land is now used for local agriculture, producing crops such as beans, rice, and corn. Many of the towns’ residents today are squatters.

A dilapidated building from Fordlandia
A dilapidated building from Fordlandia

Henry Ford’s losses in Fordlândia and Belterra are equivalent to $200 million in modern dollars. Certainly he was unable to buy his way into rubber royalty, and his efforts to spread his American “healthy lifestyle” were met with resentment and hostility… but history has repeatedly shown that obscene wealth gives one the privilege– perhaps even the obligation– to make bizarre and astonishing mistakes on a grand scale. From that perspective, Fordlândia could not have been more successful.
Fordlândia on Google Maps (3° 47′ 60 S, 55° 28′ 60 W)

The Mysterious Dancing Forest of Kaliningrad

Located on the thin Curonian Spit that splits the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea, lies one of the strangest natural phenomena on Earth. Known as the Dancing Forest by caretakers of Curonian Spit National Park and as the Drunken Forest, by locals, this unusual pine forest is made of trees of various shapes, most of them twisted in circles and spirals, along the ground.

According to tourists, the Dancing Forest looks more like a site near Chernobyl, with 20-year-old pines tied into natural knots and loops, like lumpy contortionists. A few years ago, the park manager invited students from local universities to conduct studies, and get to the bottom of the mystery.

Since then, several theories emerged, including one suggested by a psychic who said the forest is located on a spot where massive amounts of positive and negative energies collide. Others say the causes are geological, that it must have something to do with the unstable sandy soil. But the most widely accepted theory is that the Dancing Forest was manipulated by the powerful winds blowing in the area.

Whatever the reason, the Dancing Forest of Kaliningrad is definitely an interesting site, especially if you’re into strange natural phenomena.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rainbow Eucalyptus – Nature’s Painted Tree

Via Kuriositas

It might look like someone painted these by hand, but the only artist responsible for these living works of art, is Mother Nature.

The incredible looking Rainbow Eucalyptus is the only species of eucalyptus that grows in the northern hemisphere. It can grow to impressive heights, of up to 70 meters, and it is normally grown for its pulpwood, used to create white paper. There are many other interesting facts regarding Rainbow Eucalyptus, but the obvious question arises: why does it look like it’s been painted?

The secret behind the Rainbow Eucalyptus is actually pretty simple. The trees shed multiple patches of bark every year, but not at the same time. As the patches are gone, the green inner bark is exposed, and, as it matures, every new patch first turns bluish, then orange, purple and maroon. This creates the rainbow effect that makes these trees so nice to look at.

Rainbow Eucalyptus can be found in New Guinea, New Britain and the Philippines.

Read the rest of this entry »

Angel Oak

Via: OddityCentral

Angel Oak is one of the oldest organisms east of the Mississippi. Believed to be over 1,500 years-old Angel Oak is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Charlestone, South Carolina. It has a height of 20 meters, measures 2.7 meters in diameter and it’s crown shades an area of 1,600 square meters. It’s longest limb stretches out 27 meters. Its name comes from the Angel estate, but local legends say ghosts of former slaves sometimes appear around the tree, as angels. Angel Oak has survived countless earthquakes and floods, as well as human interference. It was damaged by Hurricane Hugo, in 1989, but has since then recovered.

The Living Bridges of Cherrapunji

Via: rootbridges

It might sound like an exaggeration, but the root bridges of Cherrapunji are indeed alive. Unlike most parts of the world, these bridges are grown, not built.

Known as the wettest place on Earth, Cherrapunji is home to some of the most amazing plants. One of these is the Ficus elastica tree, a sort of rubber tree that grows a ind of secondary roots from higher up in the trunk. The War-Khasis, a local tribe, noticed this plant and realized its potential.

Using hollowed-out betel nut trunks, the tribesmen are able to direct the roots in whatever way they like. When the roots grow all the way across a river, they are allowed to return to the soil, and over time, a strong bridge is formed. It takes up to 10-15 years for a root bridge to develop, but it becomes stronger with each passing year and are known to last for centuries.

Boulders and stones are placed among the rubber tree roots for an easier crossing. The living root bridges of  Cherrapunji are incredibly sturdy, able to sustain more than fifty people at a time.