Darwin’s Day

Here I first saw a tropical forest in all its sublime grandeur — nothing but the reality can give any idea how wonderful, how magnificent the scene is. If I was to specify any one thing I should give the pre-eminence to the host of parasitical plants. Your engraving is exactly true, but underrates rather than exaggerates the luxuriance. I never experienced such intense delight. I formerly admired Humboldt, I now almost adore him; he alone gives any notion of the feelings which are raised in the mind on first entering the Tropics.
-letter from Charles Darwin to John Stevens Henslow, 1832

My mother recently sent me a newspaper clipping with a picture of a blue Morpho butterfly, which vividly called to mind my own first sight of a tropical forest, in Monteverde, Costa Rica; before even leaving the property I was staying on I saw a large, iridescent blue Morpho dart out and then fly far away before I even had my camera turned on. An incredible sight. And then, a few steps further on, at my feet marched a column of leafcutter ants, their leaf-fragments bobbing as they walked. I must have watched them for a good half hour.


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