Regrowth in a Tropical Rainforest
A Florida orange-grower would turn gray if he had confronting him the problems which face
anyone who attempts to grow fruit in Panama.
The grass problem alone is enough to stagger the heart of the bravest planter. Think of
your own vegetable garden in midsummer, when the days are steaming hot and the weeds are
growing about as fast as you can pull them out; project these conditions indefinitely, for
there is never any winter to check them, and you will get the endless vista of weeding
that confronts the tropical planter.
Grass is certainly the curse of agriculture in the rainy tropics, and he who imagines
tractor-work or the use of any of the ordinary tools of our northern agriculture in use on
tropical farms should never lose sight of the grass.
There is really nothing so hopeless-looking to a northern fruit-grower as a little
orchard in a clearing in a tropical jungle. The great forest insists on taking back the
little clearing to itself, and it is one continual fight with a machete to keep it from
When I was shown what looked from the deck of a launch like a virgin forest, with great
trees covered with creeping lianas, and was told that it had all grown up in eight years
from cleared land, and when I recollected how fungus and insect pests haunt a clearing, I
could better comprehend the feeling that, after all, for the individual of small means,
there really is no other way to farm than to cut down and burn, plant and get a crop or
two; then, when the plants and weeds of the returning forest drive you out, move on. It is
the way of the native everywhere; clear a spot, rush in, rush out again, and let the land
grow up in trees. (Fairchild, 1922, pp.