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Our Heads in the Clouds; Cloud Forest or Rain Forest?


Phyllis Mc

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Our Heads in the Clouds

Several years ago, I was explaining to a friend that we had bought property in Alto Jaramillo and that it was in the rain forest.

"Nope," she said. "It is in the cloud forest."

"What's the difference?"

"Uhm, I don't know, but Boquete is cloud forest. The lowlands are rain forest."

So I looked it up. Do you know what turns out to be the big difference between a cloud forest and a rain forest?

Clouds.

You've all noticed them, I'm sure. You look out from a vista and see the clouds covering the land. They sit resting over the greenery with that mañana attitude. As if it is too much trouble to climb all the way up into the sky like they are suppose to, so the clouds just take a siesta.

We live in a land of lazy clouds.

Cloud forests are at higher elevations than rain forests, about 500 to 3,000 meters above sea level. The cooler temperatures hinder the evaporation process and therefore it is more humid, providing the plants a lot of moisture. Because there are so many hills and valleys, we tend to have a lot of different micro-climates. I see this all the time. It is sunny and dry up at my home and cool with bajareque in town or vise versa. You can start out wearing a jacket, drive for 10 minutes and end up wishing you were in shorts and a sleeveless top. Micro-climates. Blame the cloud forest.

Rain forests get an average of about about 80 inches of rain a year, while cloud forests get about 300 inches. About 60% of the moisture cloud forests get come from the clouds going through the forest. If you were to take away the trees, we'd get only about an average of 150 inches. (The amounts of rainfall varied greatly depending on the article I read. I just took an average.)

Because the clouds hover right near the flora, there is a lot less sunlight. This is why you see so much moss on the ground and on the trees here. The cool, moist weather makes it possible for not only moss, but orchids, ferns and bromeliads to grow in abundance here; creating a most beautiful place to take a walk. Because there are so many hills, valleys, and mountains scattered here and there, cloud forests have better vistas than rain forests, which tend to be flat. Better vistas when you can see through fog, that is. Seems like there is always a catch.

We have plants and animals that are endemic to the cloud forest --meaning that you will not see some of the critters and plants that you see here anywhere else. The odd terrain and the fact it is ecologically remote means that living things evolve in a restricted area so they are less likely to live outside of the cloud forest. Cloud forests can have different mammals, reptiles, orchids, plants, insects and trees than you will find in Panama low lands. For instance, some of our mice sing. It takes a special species of mice to notice all the beauty around them and then sing about it, and we have them right here in our cloud forest. Another example of an endemic critter, although not a resident of Boquete, is the Panamanian Golden Frog which lives in the Cordilleran cloud forests of west-central Panama.

There you have it--the big differences between the rain forest and cloud forests of Panama. I've done my best, but I am not a biologist so any additions and corrections are ever so welcome.

Here is a list of all the flora and fauna that makes Panama unique. http://lntreasures.com/panama.html

We're lucky to live here. So turn off those TVs, shut down your laptops, and step away from your iPhones. Get out and take a walk in the clouds. Not every can say they've done it, and you get to do it every day.


 

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Phyllis,

So glad that you are doing your blog. Interesting topics, and thought provoking at the same time. And this blog post has yet another nice picture.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with our community. Good job!

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