Jane Goodall Reveals Her Lifelong Fascination With…Plants?

After studying chimpanzees for decades, the celebrated scientist turns her penetrating gaze on another life-form

Goodall’s travels have often brought her face to face with exotic plants. In Cambodia, she was “awestruck” by the giant roots of an ancient strangler fig she found embracing the Ta Prohm temple at Angkor Wat. (Ignacio Ayestaran / Flickr / Getty Images)
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As Survivor stood proudly upright in her new home, a reporter said to Richie, “This must be an extra-special day for you, considering it’s the ten-year anniversary of the day you were shot.”

Before he started working at the Bronx nursery in the spring of 2001, Richie had been a corrections officer at Green Haven maximum-security prison in New York. He left the job after nearly dying from a terrible gunshot wound in the stomach, inflicted not at the prison, but out on the streets when he tried to stop a robbery in progress.

Until the reporter pointed it out, Richie hadn’t even realized the date was the same. He told me that he couldn’t speak for a moment. “I could hardly even breathe,” he said. And he thought it was probably more than coincidence—that the tree would go home on that special day. “We are both survivors,” he said.

While overseeing the design, Ron made sure that the tree was planted so that the traumatized side faces the public. Some people, Ron told us, weren’t pleased to have the tree back, saying that she “spoiled” the symmetry of the landscaping, as she is a different species from the other nearby trees. Indeed, she is different. On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, when the memorial site was opened to survivors and family members, many of them tied blue ribbons onto Survivor’s branches.

One last memory. Survivor should have been in full bloom in April when I met her. But, like so many trees in this time of climate change, she had flowered about two weeks early. Just before we left, as I walked around this brave tree one last time, I suddenly saw a tiny cluster of white flowers. Just three of them, but somehow it was like a sign. It reminded me of a story I read in a newspaper. In the aftermath of the horrifying tsunami and Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan, a TV crew went to document the situation. They interviewed a man who had just lost everything, not only his house and all his belongings, but his family also. The reporter asked him if he had any hope.

He turned and pointed to a cherry tree beginning to bloom. “Look there,” he said, pointing toward the new blossoms. “That’s what gives me hope.”


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