News Traveling into a landscape

Travelling into a landscape and a hymn to a plant hunter

Trailer “Homo botanicus”

“stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus”
(“Il nome della rosa” (The name of the rose), by Umberto Eco)

Who is a plant hunter? Would we recognize him while walking on the street?
Each one of us probably imagines him in our own way, maybe a sort of Indiana Jones and MacGyver.
A passionate, handsome and brilliant man, adventuring to the ends of the earth, with broad shoulders, a proud look and strong hands.

Julio Betancur is a plant hunter.
He is brave, smart, passionate and an adventurer. He throws himself into the heart of a luxuriant forest, but above all things he is delicate, with light movements and ways.

So what does a plant hunter like Julio Betancur do?

Julio Betancur loves.
He loves his plants. You can feel it. He caresses them while picking them up, with sweetness and lightness.
He touches them, smells them, looks at their ribs, colours and structures against the light.
Like in a magical ritual.

Julio Betancur sings, or at least he seems to be doing it.
Professor at the National University of Bogotà, he repeats the botanical names of all the plants he discovered (over 9000 items).
Like a lullaby, a nursery rhyme, a sing-song.

His assistant, Cristian Castro, also repeats the names to glue them to memory.
“A plant is a poem in an unknown language,” says Betancur.
They walk, nose up, two centimetres above the ground.
Through the luxuriant, Colombian jungle.
They collect, mark on the notebook and sing, reciting the botanist’s song.
The leaves, the roots, the seeds and the branches that they discover, are gathered and carefully wrapped in newspaper, so that they arrive safe and sound at the Herbario Nacional de Colombia.
That place is dream and magic: piled up books with swollen pages that preserve pieces of Amazonia.

This is what a plant seeker does: he gives life.
He gives life to a plant in a language: an ancient rite of naming.

Nature evolves, gets lost, changes. So many plants catalogued in that huge mazelike Herbarium have disappeared, so many, not yet disappeared, will be catalogued and then vanish. So many will disappear before they are catalogued.

Naming is an ancient rite,
First it was nature, the plant, now it is a name.
Soon it will be history. And memory of species.

“Homo Botanicus” by Guillermo Quintero. Presented at TFF 2018