Friday, 5 May 2017

The Walking Palm Tree

There is a palm tree that has allegedly developed a rather unique ability unbecoming of a plant “the ability to walk”. The palm tree is “Socratea exorrhiza”, also nicknamed the “Walking Palm”. The scientists are incapable of elaborate the tree’s strange stilt-like roots. This palm tree can found in tropical rainforests of Central and South America, develops long and sturdy roots, grow outwards from the base of the tree, several feet off the ground, and take root in the soil around, giving it the appearance of multiple legs. It wasn’t long before people started to observe that palm tree roots actually act like legs enabling him to literally walk in the forest. This unbelievable story of the walking palm tree has been told by rainforest guides to visitors for many years, and appears in many sources both in social media and print. It is believed, tree “walks” from shade to sunlight by growing roots in the direction it wants to travel, and then letting the old roots to gradually lift into the air and die. This allows the tree to sluggishly move towards the side where the new roots are growing. This process takes couple of years, however, one palaeobiologist signifying the tree moves two or three centimeters per day. It’s such a fascinating story that many tend to believe it, like our palaeobiologist friend, unluckily; the walking tree is a myth. In 1980, John H. Bodley first present the idea of the walking tree, who thought this ability lets the palm to “walk away” from the point of germination if another tree falls on the seedling and knocks it over. Hence, this way the tree can move away from obstacles that are major hazards for immature palms. S. exorrhiza flowers mostly during the dry season and is considered to be beetle pollinated, seeds weigh around 3.5 g and are around 2 cm long and 1.5 cm wide, only around 45% of them germinate and around one quarter of these die. The palm tree trunk is used in the construction of houses and other structures, as well as hunting spears. It is usually split lengthwise before it is used, but it can also be hollowed out and used as a tube.

The Socratea exorrhiza, detailed study observed that the walking tree can't walk because its roots don't move. A few roots on one side or another may die off, but the trunk itself remains rooted to the spot. Some people want to see the Socratea exorrhiza walking. Also, no such time lapse movie exists. Hence, the belief of the walking palm is just a myth. The palm tree could actually track canopy light changes by moving slowly over the forest floor is a myth that tourist guides find diverting to tell visitors to the rainforest. This myth was also debunked in the December 2009 when no one is around trees walk the rainforest floor, it is a mere myth. However, researchers are still uncertain what role these exclusive stilt roots play. Some suggest that the multiple roots let the tree to be more stable in swampy areas, or when there is too much debris in the ground as they can avoid it by moving their roots. Moreover, it has been suggested that stilt roots let the palm to grow taller to reach light without having to increase the diameter of the stem, thus investing in less biomass in underground roots than other palms. Of course, none of these theories have ever been confirmed. Thus, the noteworthy point is that, nobody has seen these palm trees walk.

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