Ravenala madagascariensis





I apologize for including something on this blog that may be of use to someone, as it is not my wont to educate; nevertheless, there are times that such bonhomie, such unstinted desire to share, such generosity of spirit is practically inevitable–the case (and casing) of the ravenala seed being one of those vainglorious examples.

The seed, velvet-black, and almost certainly evil, is covered in a heavenly blue wax, as though having been embalmed by a secret gathering of funereal hands.

By-and-by I will get to the useful information promised, but first we must linger a bit longer in language’s sandbox. When you are ready, we shall begin (unless we are sidetracked by some impromptu exegesis on the part of this blogger, who, some may have noticed, is prone to explaining–at the drop of a clunky cowboy hat–the many iniquities which befoul our peripatetic planet (it puts on a pair of Nikes in the morn and walks around the sun all day, after all)).

So here are the steps to planting your own Ravenala madagascariensis (Travelers Palm).

1) Befriend someone in Madagascar (for obvious reasons). This may require the exchange of intimate photographs, but the internet is a safe and wonderful place.

2) Ask for seeds (among other things).

3) Go to post office and chat with the fluttery-eyed postmistress. Return home when after several hours it becomes apparent that your letterbox is as empty as a banker’s heart.

4) Repeat trips to post office till you either receive an offer of marriage or till your seeds arrive. If the latter, continue to point 5.

5) Store photographs in a safe place. Remove seeds from package. Admire your purchases.

6) Scrape away the blue wax to expose devilish seed.

7) Plant seed in a pot (if you need to be told to add soil you are at the wrong place). Hope for rain.

And that’s it.





The final product:DSC_4968_sm



Below is my grass replacement experiment. I think Truman Capote hated grass too, but this may be simply a projection from my agitated mind. (In case you ask, it’s some moon-white Zephyranthes stolen, if memory serves,  from a Texan in the dreary summer of 2032).


Pictured is Boophone disticha, of course, which will bloom, according to a Capuchin friar seen skulking in the gardens, in 27 years—and if that seems to be a long time to you, take comfort in the esoteric knowledge that a poison extracted from its leaves can kill a man in a few seconds and that there’s really no reason to wait for it to bloom in order to avail oneself of its distinct properties.

Boophone disticha

Again this blog is drifting into the macabre. But that’s your fault for reading.

Hopefully I’ve done this correctly. It’s been such a long while since I’ve posted something I’ve  forgotten the basics.

I also had to remind myself that this is an educational blog, therefore feeling obliged (no, compelled) to tell you that a group of foxes is a skulk.


Aloe excelsa


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Aloe excelsa

Aloe excelsa DSC_8053 sm

Retiro Station




The Great Grapes of Wrath

(one of my best books–if only I had tightened up the title I think it could have been big)

Colville's Glory

Garcinia hombroniana, Seashore mangosteen

Seashore mangosteen

Eugenia selloi. a.k.a. Eugenia neonitida, Eugenia nitida, Pitangatuba


Myrciaria x – Red Hybrid Jaboticaba, Jaboticaba


Malpighia emarginata, Acerola


Annona cherimoya, Cherimoya


Garcinia intermedia, Lemon Drop Mangosteen

Lemon drop mangosteen

Glycyrrhiza glabra, Licorice


Morus nigra, Black Mulberry or Blackberry

Black Mulberry or Blackberry

Dionaea muscipula, small infants

Dionaea muscipula

Plukenetia volubilis, Sacha Inchi, Sacha Peanut, Mountain Peanut or Inca-peanut

Inca Peanut, Jungle Peanut

Ceropegia stapeliiformis var. serpentina


Some people grow petunias, others cultivate Ceropegias.
Some people read E. L. James, others read William Faulkner.




I have no idea what this story is about, hence the question mark. It doesn’t seem particularly lyrical. It’s rather prosaic (except for the bit about Betty’s eyes–and should that be lyric or lyrical?).

And so, my pseudolithos (pseudo-false, lithos-rock–so clever these botanists) is also rather prosaic. Certainly not as lyrical as, let’s say, a rose. Still, I love my ugly-duckling rock.

They say (and ‘they’ are probably nightclub types–to which one should pay little attention) that watering a pseudolithos is very tricky. One error and you have a mound of mush. My solution is not to water it for nine months of the year, and then, in July, August, and September, dab its bald head with a damp cloth.

Beware of any species named ‘infausta’ because it sounds dreadful and means, in other languages, to suffer misfortune.

DSC_2048 Vangueria infausta_sm

Who would grow a tree known to possess evil powers? Only a sorcerer, whose research would confirm that one is specifically interdicted to make fire with the wood, and that the fanatical malediction is in reference to one’s cattle only bearing male offspring. I have surveyed Ariel’s garden and surrounding Eden and can safely say that there is no cattle around. There’s the odd skink and one particularly ugly toad, but no bison or yaks–I would have noticed.

In Africa Vangueria infausta is known as ‘wilde mispel’ (please don’t misspell it). The fruit is said to be similar to the apple (Eden again!). For those of you with a hankering for apple sauce (or male cattle), you may go to the garden section of your nearest Home Depot and purchase the seeds, which germinate freely when sprinkled with powder of algaroth and suspended over a cauldron of boiling ambergris.

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