Tag Archives: plants

You can’t always trust Google Maps!!

So Isabela is a really pretty and traditional Puerto Rican town in the north-west of the Island! This where we are staying at the moment! We arrived on Monday and after a nice refreshing day off Tuesday we set off early on Wednesday morning to find the site which was Guajataca State Forest or known to the locals as Bosque Estatal de Guajataca! We rose early and left the hotel at 6.30 with Google maps at the ready! We could see it was going to take us about 45mins to get there which was a bit longer than we had expected! I manned the GPS in the passenger seat for Harry who was driving so Wuu-Kuang could concentrate on refreshing himself on the species we were going to be looking for that day. We were all a bit worried when the route we were taking started leading us up the narrowest and windiest roads up the side of a mountain! I’m not one for heights so there were a few “head in hands” moments!! But we trusted the map and kept going never loosing faith in it until we reached our destination…..

An old farm on the side of a hill??!
An old farm on the side of a hill??!
They were happy to lead the way to the forest if we waited for them to load the calf into their pickup!
They were happy to lead the way to the forest if we waited for them to load the calf into their pickup!
Leading the way, cool as you like!
Leading the way, cool as you like!

These two very helpful chaps meant very well and with very little English did their best to lead us to our site but alas we had hit another dead-end…

Not exactly what we were looking for!!
Not exactly what we were looking for!!

So after having a chat with some very helpful people in this scout camp, once we got over the language barrier of course we were on the road again and after another half an hour driving we had hit another dead-end, a local man even claiming that we were nowhere near this Bosque Estatal de Guajataca!

So once again when all else fails we went for coffee!! No Starbucks this time though! We found a local supermarket and had a very long chat with an old gentleman who gave us the directions we needed in return for our company and listening to his stories for a while! He was living on his own away from his family and had been injured in a workplace accident ten years ago and so had been in the wheelchair ever since! He told us the general directions we were looking for and we were happy to meet such an interesting and friendly guy!

Meanwhile back at the car Wuu Kuang had had another brain wave! We have a handheld GPS device to mark the locations of the plants we tag in each site. Wuu Kuang thought it might be an idea to look at the old herbarium label of one of the plants that was in the Smithsonian herbarium in Washington that was collected in Bosque Estatal de Guajataca and get the GPS coordinates from this. He inputted the coordinates into the GPS and using this and the directions from ‘Angel’ the friendly guy from the supermarket we eventually reached our destination!!

The herbarium label that Wuu Kuang took the coordinates from to help us find the site!
The herbarium label that Wuu Kuang took the coordinates from to help us find the site!

Even though we spent most of the day driving around it was definitely one of the most fun and enjoyable so far! I really enjoyed the adventure and the comical locations we ended up in, the farm really topping it off of course!! 🙂

View from the top of the tower when we eventually reached the forest!
View from the top of the tower when we eventually reached the forest!
Selfie from the top of the tower!! Great day! :)
Selfie from the top of the tower!! Great day! 🙂

Ever heard of green Caribbean magic?!

I’m off on the adventure of a lifetime, exploring the subtropical forests of Puerto Rico and helping out a team of researchers from UCD with a major project in my spare time!!

I jest! 🙂 I have been given an amazing opportunity to carry out an internship, assisting three researchers from UCD with a project they are working on and this summer they just happen to be doing this in the sub-tropical forests of Puerto Rico! I’m feeling very lucky to be here with them!

Having arrived myself on Monday after a smooth and uneventful 20hours of travelling I was eagerly anticipating meeting the rest of the group on Tuesday and getting to our first destination. I met with Michelle, Wuu-Kuang and Harry at the airport on Tuesday morning and got a much appreciated warm welcome! We loaded into the rental car and finding that our sat-nav wasn’t working we ended up taking a few U-turns, numerous trips through a toll and over a certain bridge before deciding that Starbucks was our best hope to finding our hotel. Yep, coffee and Wi-Fi got us there in the end! We arrived at our accommodation that evening looking forward to the prospects of the following day and exploring our first site which was Cambalache State Forest.

Welcome to Cambalache!


Not having much experience doing fieldwork previously I was a little apprehensive. Worrying about what I knew were trivial things: Did I bring the right gear? Should I have learned off the list of 165 plant species that we were going to study? How will I deal with hiking boots and long pants in 30 degrees of heat? And most importantly, how will I cope with my frizzy hair in the field? All off these questions turned out to be trivial of course except for my hair, it definitely doesn’t love this climate as much as I do!

My first visit to a subtropical forest was, in a word, stunning! I’m not sure what I was expecting but I know this exceeded my expectations without a doubt. It was hot and humid but that fell to the back of my mind for most of the day. None of the numerous photos I have taken do this place justice!



The abundance of unusual species was incredible. We first noticed the amount of epiphytes present on the trees, some extremely big like the one below.


My knowledge of sub-tropical plant species is minimal to say the least but another thing I did notice was the amount of plants that looked very familiar from the houseplant section of the garden centre I work in back home, except all of them ten times bigger. It was fascinating to see them in their natural habitat! Below is a photo of Sansevieria trifasciata or Mother in laws tongue as its more commonly known, a popular house plant back home!


Or another popular one from home, Monstera deliciosa or what is more commonly know as a cheese plant!



Of course one would expect to see some wildlife in a subtropical rainforest, spiders, lizards and the likes and while I thought I might prefer to go home without that experience we have seen some wonderful creatures during our fieldwork so far! Below are photos of one of the many spiders we have come across and also a cute little lizard roaming the picnic area!






Stayed tuned for more on my sub-tropical adventure!