How on Earth Did I Land This Gig?!

Linda referred to my recent absence from the blog – but it was in the name of education, I swear!

Cocos nucifera, the iconic coconut palm.  My office for the past two weeks. Or a Corona advertisement. You pick.

This study abroad to the Dominican Republic sent Virginia Tech students (mostly biology and natural resources majors) to the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation for the entire semester, with faculty rotating in for two-week stints on topics from ornithology to geography. My topic was “tropical horticulture”.  The professor previous to my session had to cancel his trip; by the time I arrived, the un-chaperoned students had basically gone feral.  Corralling them with promises of beer and French fries, I coaxed them out onto plant i.d. walks.  By the time our field trip to the national botanical garden rolled around, they were blurting out plant names left and right.  Made me proud!

Identification walk featuring salt-tolerant plants. That’s red mangrove, Rhizophore mangle, on the right. Feral students on left.

The ecological foundation’s shade houses, orchard, and organic veg gardens grow some of the produce for the resort and made for a great learning experience (unusual greenhouse pest problem: tarantulas).  I’ll post more tropical plant pics and factoids in January – when we’ll really, really need to see them.

Morinda citrifolia, better known as Noni.  Though chock full of vitamins and all manner of secondary metabolites of medicinal interest, the smell of ripe Noni is comparable to Limburger cheese left in the sun for several days.  Shrieks of “NONI!!!” meant someone was about to get pelted with over-ripe fruit.


9 thoughts on “How on Earth Did I Land This Gig?!”

  1. I had to laugh at the last paragraph. I had a friend whose grandmother's nickname was "Noni." Bet they didn't know about this fruit!

  2. @ Hap:

    "Feral" might be too strong a term. They were super smart & nice kids; but for whom hygiene, shoes, schedules, etc. had become optional.

  3. Thanks a lot, Hap, you just made me snort tea through my nose. Holly, thank God you got there before clothing became optional, too…

  4. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama. We had a Noni tree in the backyard right over the pit latrine. The latrine didn't stink, but the tree sure did!

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