Archive for the ‘botany’ Category

Caught under the Mistletoe …cactus   1 comment

Well, that’s the best I have to offer from the flowering plant department these days,but perhaps it will suffice.  Tiny simple buds are forming on what I’ve always referred to as a pencil cactus, which I thought was a type of  Rhipsalis. But since “looking it up,” I discover the plant is known by another name: mistletoe cactus. The pencil cactus is actually a type of Euphorbia, and my plant doesn’t exactly match those accompanying photos. The “pencil” cacti pictured show finer “leaf” growths than the tubular appendages mine develops that look like miniature sausage links. Somewhere along the way, I may have been misinformed and now I’m not actually sure  what’s what especially since I’ve never seen the translucent berries the “mistletoe” variety is said to produce after the pale yellow flowers. Hence its name.

Whew! I’ve always enjoyed these flighty little yellow petals flaring like tiny stars, a little pick-me-up in the dark days of winter.  The Rhipsalis is another native of the rain forest, and perhaps a distant cousin to Blanca. Why is it we’re always trying to grow rain forest plants in the arid suburbs of the North East? Will these small house plants be all that’s  left of the rain forests in ten or twenty years? Meanwhile, I look forward to mistletoe’s “insignificant” flowers blooming soon. And I’ll look hard for any sign of berries. How sweet this eve of Christmas Eve to see the plant in a whole new light. A rose is not just a rose after all.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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Posted December 23, 2010 by Canio's in botany, bud watch, winter

November Effort   Leave a comment

With some unexpected free time one afternoon last month, I went to the garage to pot up some cuttings I’d taken from Blanca just before she was brought to the greenhouse. We were loading up the tropicals, and  I was gripped with a greedy possessiveness. I wanted some of Blanca with me over winter.  So “just in case” something happens and perhaps to improve her shape, I made one bold slice.  Three small pots with three leaf cuttings each seem content enough just now on an end table in the living room near a west-facing window. I’ll keep my eye on them in the coming months. Something to look forward to. Their sprouting, a small Advent.
Meanwhile some other more mature cuttings have been adopted out. I chose good homes for them. Out into the world they went in a sudden gesture of letting go. One day, I hope they’ll spread their magnificence on others.  Light a candle against the darkness.

Posted December 5, 2010 by Canio's in about time, autumn, botany, gardening, Uncategorized

But what does she look like?   1 comment

Our guests had ever seen a night-bloomer before.  A priest, a musician, a landscape architect, an arborist, a young writer and more all crowded around and were amazed. “I’d never be able to draw this,” said David. I’ve had difficulty trying to describe this  flower. Think of the Hindu goddess Shakti with multiple arms curving from her supple torso.  Think of a long slender arm, a foot long, but curved like a saxophone, wearing a skin-tight white glove. The hand opens to many tapered fingers of white silk. Where the palm would be, a smooth white tunnel recedes to infinity. It’s fringed with 16 silken threads , harp strings strung fiber to fiber and curved in semi-circle. Within the arc of stamens a most unusual stigma, the snout of a sea creature? A spider-like figure with legs at odd angles. This is the world her pollinator might enter, crawl around in, becoming enmeshed.  A hummingbird, if it flew at night, could get entirely lost within.  We bystanders were certainly ensnared. Sally brought a lovely bottle of wine, the palest of roses that matched the shade of that indefinable area where Blanca’s bud transforms into blossom. Where does the bud leave off and the flower begin? Which part is neck , and which is face?

But none of this works. To bring Blanca’s beauty before your eyes I would have to take it further,  and avoid anthropomorphism altogether. In Mark Doty’s recent prose work The Art of Description, he reads closely four poems about sunflowers by William Blake, Alan Shapiro, Allen Ginsberg, and Tracy Jo Barnwell. Each takes the commonly recognizable image and transforms it into something entirely new.  Doty writes, “They’re self-portraits, at least in the sense of portraying some aspect of the speaker’s psyche, and they manage to be true to sunflowers, too…” Here at this latitude, I’m not so sure my description is true to the night bloomer, if I would even dare link my meager efforts here with those of a finish poem.  Sure most of us could easily call to mind an image of a sunflower, but not so with the night-bloomer.  What’s more, my mid-Atlantic vantage point may see her differently from those who grew up with Epiphylum oxypetalum  right in their own backyard.

Finally, think of a lotus blossom floating not on a pad in pool of water, but through darkest night.  Better yet, what do you think she looks like?

Posted September 18, 2010 by Canio's in botany, environment, on writing