A seed gatherer’s ode to a boab tree
I came by sea, as hungry as cement,
in search of the ancient boab’s seeds.
I knew they stood beneath a desert sun,
far away from grasslands of wheat.
From legends told by ancestors,
who had lived among manicured roads.
Their trunks are fat,
As fat as coal trucks filled with stones.
Look for the wrinkled package,
keeping fresh stories of time and water.
A reservoir of history, from seed
to nimble branches of thirsty leaves.
Seek the lonely shapeshifters,
adorning the arid sands.
Like us forced to the fringes of liveable dirt
from the felling of brethren in wetter lands.
Follow their perfume of shy flowers,
filling the twilight with quiet myth.
Sending the hot day to its sleep,
Guiding the marsupial as desert neoliths.
And if I find the seeds of the boab tree,
will I eat them to live one more day?
Or learn the economy of breathable air,
ripe with wisdom of the long lived, and old age.
Clare L Rolfe 2021 Photo Boab Derby WA
With the recent climate change talks via the GOP26 conference I was pleased to read about agreements to end deforestation by countries like Brazil, Russia and Indonesia who have some of the largest areas of forest in the world.
Trees are the best engineers on the planet, and were probably the reason animal life including our can exist at all. They once ruled earth as the main living species in pre-historic times. An interesting perspective about trees in what is called the Anthropocene age (ie age of the human) as environmental engineers, and that animals are mere props to the vegetal life system which existed before us and is now in serious danger of decline due to human activity. Without plants specifically trees this planet would be uninhabitable. Lets face it we need O2 to breath and they are very efficient at making it from CO2.
Boabs or the genus baobab are indigenous to Africa and Madagascar. They are also found in Western Australia. How they arrived in Oz is still a matter of botanical anthropology with numerous theories of being human introduced, seeds making the journey across the ocean. Their distinctive shape makes then eye catching, as they stand silent loners among the aridity of the dirt they grow from. A famous boab is the prison tree of Derby Western Australia which is 1500 years old and considered sacred in indigenous culture. It was thought its hollow trunk was used to place prisoners while waiting to be tried in court. It is not certain how accurate this history is but to the indigenous cultures the boabs had sacred significance their seeds were also a food source.
Treebeard of LOTR fame is a sentient tree life form who acts as a herder or shepherd to keep the forest under control. He talks about the personalities of trees, and their individual histories. And when he sees the destruction brought about by Sarumen’s quest for power with the deforestation of Fangorn Forest calls the Ents to war.
Treebeard Illustration Alan Lee
Agriculture and logging are the main causes of deforestation but there are stories of hope in terms of developing models for sustainable farming to replanting forests and also models of symbiotic modern food production with restoration of natural forested or bushland with pest control using natural checks and balances of the restored ecosystem.
I have put in some weblinks to show some of the more hopeful aspects of managing climate change. Actions always speak louder than words.
Replanting the cane fields with rainforest in Northern QLD, Australia
Rainforest Alliance - seeks to balance human need and sustainable ecosystems, and human rights.
Re-seeders of the Amazon Rainforest