People | Eyewitness

The Woman Who Lives on a Disappearing Mountain

She told me that if I took her picture my camera would break, but I smiled and asked to try. Two weeks later my camera broke.

Although Phnom Sor is small, that doesn’t make it inconsequential. These limestone peaks dotting the region—called karsts—are unique ecosystems. Their isolation and geology provide a home for specialized flora and fauna. The porosity of the outcroppings protect and provide unique environments for a variety of plants. These karsts rarely get as much water as the land below, resulting in many species of cactus-like plants evolved from tropical flora. Andrew McDonald, a professor of botany at the University of Texas Rio Grande studies these karsts, and recently, in one short trip, identified several new species. McDonald believes there are many more waiting to be discovered.