Field of Science

Rainforest Field Trip - Hats off to Cyclanths

Panama hats are one of the Phactor's few vices, at least in his own opinion. And of course everyone knows where Panama hats come from, right? That's right, Ecuador! Panama hats are woven from a structural fiber, which are monocot leaf vascular bundles, from the aptly named Panama hat plant, a terribly uniformative common name, so that does not conjure up a plant image for most of you. Even when you first see the Panama hat plant you will probably overlook it and simply place it in the non-descript, to be ignored category of "palms". A lot of tropical plants get so lumped, and many like the cycads, most inappropriately so. This is certainly true for our students most of whom suffer from a bit of plant blindness, so the plant screening their cabina, and refugee camp clutter, from general view simply has not registered with them at all. As the image shows Carludovica sulcata does look very palmy, but this is a member of the Cyclanth family, not the palm family, and actually this is not the Panama hat species (C. palmata), but people do so like common names. The flowers and fruits really give it away that this is not a palm.

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