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 Checking in - just back from a "Jurassic Holiday" 
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Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:01 pm
Posts: 330
Location: Maryland, USA
Post Re: Checking in - just back from a "Jurassic Holiday"
Wow, Tom...thanks for the interesting pictures.
NHK World has a subchannel of my local PBS affiliate and I sometimes watch their curious mixture of English language programming. A recent hour-long episode had an English speaker visit Ishigake and Hateruma, the latter being the absolute southernmost Japanese Island, I believe. Had read at efloras that coconuts will grow there and in Okinawa, when arguing with some idiotic troll at gardenweb who said coconuts could grow in Turkey. Lemme tell you, I was really surprised by the look of those islands. They are even more arboreally barren than what I remember the Bahamas being like. The vast majority of the land is agricultural, sugarcane mostly. I kept my eyes very peeled for coconuts, even rolling back several times in my pause buffer. Nothing. Very few trees at all...some other tropical looking palms of course,
and some Cordyline fruticosa looking things. Many of the angiosperm trees looked extremely bedraggled and windblown,
as though the place is hit by a typhoon - every year! I would have expected a look more like the lush, high rainfall forested parts of Hawaii. Guess not.
But of course I could be way off base...a TV program is just a TV program and I know from my limited travel experience in this world that you really have to go somewhere to make your conclusions valid. Are the more northerly Okinawa prefecture islands that you posted pictures of so different...or were there probably areas the producers simply didn't visit for the program I watched?

Sun Jan 07, 2018 1:31 pm

Joined: Wed Oct 31, 2007 5:52 pm
Posts: 7678
Location: Hayward- S.F. Bay area Ca.
Post Re: Checking in - just back from a "Jurassic Holiday"
Those look to be A.alexandrea? Not as cool tolerant or capable of taking lows A.achontophoenix take in stride. Worth a try in the bay area though. Troy and Ben could grow them,but I dont recall either having them in their collections.

Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:44 pm
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Joined: Mon Oct 29, 2007 10:20 pm
Posts: 3616
Location: Kyushu, Southern Japan (33.607N latitude)
Post Re: Checking in - just back from a "Jurassic Holiday"
David, yes, these are windblown islands. I asked a local naturalist about how many typhoons they get in a season, and he said normally 5 to 7, with 2 to 3 being a calm year, and 7 to 8 possible. According to other sources I've read, up to 5 typhoons IN ONE MONTH is possible! Ouch... I can tell you that I saw a lot of evidence of the wind, especially near the beach of course. I didn't see one banana tree that didn't have shredded leaves, but bear in mind this is winter. Actually, even here in Fukuoka bananas look like crap most of the time.

These islands have been colonized by people for a long time, and famine has ravaged them on and off through the years. This is due in part to the fact that they are islands having little land-based resources. If you look at them in Google Maps/Earth in satellite view, you can see that low terrain is almost completely dedicated to agricultural production, especially the smaller inhabited islands and ones without lots of mountains. I think in the past inhabitants were just trying to get as many calories out of the land as possible. Of course the sea is a great resource, but not a great place to get carbohydrate rich foods. Add to that the cultivation of sugarcane, which was imposed on many of these islands when the Japanese took control. Islanders were forced to grow cane in favor of food crops such as rice, and consequently many died of starvation. In short, these islands were never an easy place to make a life.

Some islands retained much of their natural characteristics due to mountainous terrain, tiny size, or because of active volcanoes - there are many of these towards the north end of Nansei Islands (as they are known collectively). For example, Yakushima remained largely forested due to the extreme mountainous terrain, though much of that forest was harvested at some point. Interestingly, the nearby Tanegashima with its low hills was nearly all put under agriculture. Okinawa itself is dominated by agriculture and cities in the south where the land is relatively flat, and covered with forest in the mountainous north. Amami Oshima, largely dominated by low, steep, mountains retained 80% of its forests, and therefore has remained biologically diverse. In the south, Iriomote Island is the most dominated by nature, and is the crown jewel of Japan's "tropical" islands. The tiny island of Yonaguni by comparison is largely agriculturalized, and is within eye-shot of nearby Taiwan.

As for coconuts, I saw a few on Amami Oshima, a big one in a neighborhood off the main highway and several like this young fellow at my hotel:


Botany Boy

Sun Jan 07, 2018 11:00 pm
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