Field of Science

Discovering something I didn't know?

One thing about being an academic, you constantly learn new things.  While scanning through a number of science news web sites during lunch, there was an article on the Discover Magazine web site called 20 things you didn't know about deserts.  Nothing wrong with learning a thing or three or 20 about deserts.  This is something like #3 on the list: "If you get lost in the desert, .... You can suck water from the branches of some palms, such as buri and rattan."  Wow!  What a thing to know. A real survival hint from the we-know-20-things-about-deserts-that-you-don't experts at Discover Magazine.  Well, the Phactor is going to tell you one thing that Discover Magazine doesn't know about deserts: those palms don't grow in deserts; both are native to the wet tropical areas of SE Asia-Australasia!  Duh!  Guys, that's like saying if you get lost in the desert, stop in at the first DQ you come to and get a root beer float.  They're both just about equally possible to do.  Rattan palms are actually climbing palms, lianas of a sort, so they live in forests, not deserts.  Although you can drink water from a section of rattan stem, but you're not going to find one where you need one.  Rattans do not twine; rattans climb by means of grapples, modified inflorescences, long whip-like, wiry, and armed with tough recurved  hooks that make barbed wire look friendly.  In the dim light of a rain forest understory, these long thin rattan grapples wait ready to rip asunder any unwary botanical field worker.  Did TPP mention that he does not think of  rattans fondly?  So most assuredly, rattan palms are not going to be your problem if lost in a desert, however you will probably die of thirst. 


Jenn said...

Public Service Announcement:

And DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT cut open a barrel cactus and expect to drink some kind of pulpy juice.

Javalinas can eat cacti, you cannot process malic and oxalic acids like they can, and the outcome of trying will not be pretty.

(Don't listen to the guy John Wayne is playing - Hollywood lies.)

The Phytophactor said...

Cacti in general do not make good eating/drinking, but Jenn is right, the movies give you the wrong idea completely.