Friday was our final day in the field. We measured all of the samples and as with the previous site we collected the measured leaves which will be sent to UCD, USP, the Smithsonian (Washington DC) and the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin. Wuu Kuang and Michelle stopped to celebrate taking the very last measurements of the last leaf in Natua. This is the end of three summers of fieldwork which has seen them travel to Alaska, Maryland, Puerto Rico, Arizona, California and Washington DC in 2013 and 2014. They could not believe it was all coming to an end!
Wuu Kuang, Michelle and Benny at the last sample
Throughout the day Benny pointed out some more uses of the forest explaining they use Gardenia hilii as a natural source of chewing gum. The tree produces a gummy substance which protects the bud and it can be used as a natural gum. I tried some of the ‘chewing gum’ and it was flavourless but had the same texture as gum. He also pointed out that Myristica, a member of the nutmeg family, which can be easily identified by slashing the bark. When the sap comes in contact with the air it turns red and gives the effect that the tree is bleeding!
Natural ‘chewing gum’ from Gardenia hilii
At the end of the day we dropped Benny back to the village and said our goodbyes. One of the most memorable aspects of the trip is definitely the friendships we have made with the local communities, in particular with our guides at both sites. They went above and beyond to help us as much as possible during the last two weeks and we are extremely grateful for all of their help.
Saying goodbye to Benny at Natua
We also dropped in to the Cakaudrove Provincial Office once we arrived back to Savusavu to let them know we had a very successful field trip and to thank them for their help. The last order of business was to press all of the samples collected in Natua and pack up our fieldwork equipment.
It’s all in the pressing 🙂
On Sunday Wuu Kuang will bring all of the pressed samples to USP in Suva. They will arrange shipping them back to Ireland. Wuu Kuang will also be spending a few days at USP taking samples from their herbarium.
Two weeks of work ready to travel to Suva