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).


34 steps to growing Darwin’s favorite plant


I was going to tell the story of an erudite fellow, formerly a grammatician, formerly a bovine grief counselor at an abattoir, who, at some prepubescent soccer game, where the word incompetence passed involuntarily from parent to parent, was regrettably caught streaking: he stood in the middle of the field, dangling his modifier.

Instead, I have returned to my favorite subject, ecclesiastical studies. But since developments in that sphere have been slow in the last several months, I have sought green pastures.

The 34 steps to growing Darwin’s favorite plant

Early in the process of writing this article, I made the strategic decision to skip the first 33 steps, as the handling of catarrh and buffalo faeces is not everyone’s cup of tea. Incidentally, buffalo dung tea is excellent with manuka honey–make sure to have handy a fly swatter though.

The legal maneuvers to procure carnivorous plant seed and import them to this island (which is by all measures much nicer than the Galapagos) make the bureaucracy of Jarndyce v Jarndyce look feeble in comparison.

I am a great admirer of CD (not Dickens, the other CD), even though some of his conclusions strike me as absurd, as we surely did not evolve from primates. This stupefyingly dumb theory is so typical of 19th century thinking–or rather, 19th century fantasizing–fostered in part by the infamous lingerie catalogues of the day, mostly originating from Paris, where bipedal fashion is made scintillating–and at times positively chimpanzeesque, if I can coin a term. Nevertheless, Darwin’s Origin of the Stiletto Heel is incomparable. But the more cogent theory that the whole shebang we call life was willed, is far more likely to find favor in the minds of so-called Millennials, including those perplexed by the notion of gender and who have difficulty making binary choices. What goes around, comes around. Incidentally, I once knew a man who thought himself a woman, only to later think himself a man. Please note that this is a far different person that the one who thought himself to be a man without ever revisiting the subject.

Clearly, I do not wish to split porcupine quills over the issue of gender. What is self-evident to me may not wash on Main Street, O.W.G (One-World Government).

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.


O tempora o mores

Suddenly, in a hardware store. A man pretending to know nuts and bolts loiters in aisle 666. I approach in the hopes of making electric conversation with fellow DIY geek, but then notice a name tag stapled to the man’s breast plate. There’s some blood on the tag and the name appears to be Alvin.

“I think I want to build a garden shed, Dirk.”


“…and I need expert advice.”

“Glad to help. But I ain’t no garden shed expert.”

“I don’t need an expert, Dirk. If expertise were a color, I’d be red, Dirk. Full on red. Do you know what that means, Dirk?”

“No, sir.”

“Cut the sir crap, Dirk. It means I’m an expert. If I were salmon pink I’d be an expert’s expert.”

“Got it.”

“Do you sell plans? I mean plans for military grade garden sheds?


“Damn. You disappoint me, Dirk.”

“Try the internet.”

“I did. Spent four days glued to the screen. I bought a BBQ.”

“We sell BBQs.”

“Not a good idea to send people to the internet then, is it Dirk?”

“I suppose not, sir.”

“Some habits die hard… don’t they, Dirk?”

“I’m on my break soon. You’ll have to talk to my supervisor.”

Supervisor, in a super disheveled state, saunters into aisle. He’s a furry rodent, with flaming apricot streaks, looking for a hamster wheel.

“Simon, this guy wants to build a shed. I’m going on my e-cigarette break.”

“If your face blows up you’ll have to get a new picture ID,” says Simon informatively.

Turning to me. “So you want to build a shed?”

“Not really, Dirk. I’ve selected the site for a garden shed. That’s all.”

“Do you want some books then? South American authors. Bolaño, Borges, Cortázar.”

“No. I just bought a killer BBQ from a store in Australia. That’s when I started to have second thoughts about a garden shed.”

“A few shelves are as good as a garden shed.”

“Here’s the thing Dirk. I want to build an opera house. The garden shed was a teaser.”

“You’ll have to YouTube ‘building an opera house.’ I can’t help you. I do book bindings.”

“You’re a clown, Dirk. But stop over at the house anytime. Join me for some crudités. I’m told the celery and cheez whiz is good.

 Synsepalum dulcificum

Miracle fruit DSC_2742_fss_sm




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

Red Jaboticaba

Jaboticaba hybrid

You live by the sea and you like to eat jaboticaba (who doesn’t). So you go to the hardware store (with limitless floors, like a Borgesian library) and you get the seeds. You’re in luck as they’re on sale. As soon as you get home, you speak to the bailiff. He tells you there’s a jaboticaba cross that sets fruit in four years. Mine, he contends, will take at least 10 years to bear its delectable navy blue plums. You thank him for the information, and then, in a controlled rage, tell him to get the hell off your property. He laughs, you kick him in the groin, he cries (carefully modeled after the infamously great apotheosis of comma spicedom: I came, I saw, I conquered).

You go back to the hardware store and look up the hybrid the storm-tossed fellow was touting. You find it on the millionth floor (or thereabouts), exchange the seed, and get lost on the way out. In fact, you never get out.

But this is how the plant would look if you had, in a drunken stupor, planted the seeds, by the fulminating sea.

(Posted under “the Mysteries of Fiction, or why an infallible narrator can still get himself suspended from school.”)

Garcinia humulis

mangosteen family Garcinia humulis

Having gone to the hardware store and having seen a packet of seeds emblazoned with the name Garcinia humulis, achingly displayed next to Detroit beets and plentiful packets of Nantes Scarlet Carrots, I say to myself confidentially–why not?

Purchase in hand, I fetch the mules and ride back to the farm, place the tiny seeds in a dirt patch (tiny is a relative term–most seeds are tiny when compared to the megalomaniacal coconut), cover with volcanic ash, wait impatiently for rain, heavy dew, or tears from a grief-stricken angel, and, several headaches later, there is a tree in the mangosteen family to boast about.

Mangosteen family Garcinia humulis

Ceropegia stapeliiformis var. serpentina


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

Cinnamon–the spice of literature!


After last week’s exhausting 1,000 word composition and short biography (yes, writing more words is harder, but only proportionally!)
(graciously published by Flash Fiction Magazine)

…there’s this: Cinnamon–the spice of the literary minded.

Some of you may remember my seemingly unsuccessful attemps at growing cinnamon. But now, there is hope, in the form of new growth–and lustrous red leaves at that. What have I learned about growing cinnamon? Cinnamon likes it hot and dry. It is a mistake to overwater the plant in cooler weather–I know, I lost several plants this way. If you are a blogger from Sri Lanka you are probably laughing quietly to yourself (I say ‘you’ because I have it on good authority that there is only one blogger from Sri Lanka).

Cinnamon plant

Of course I have a long way to go before I can harvest cinnamon quills! I read somewhere (probably inscribed on on the back of some pamphelet on the many virtues of communism) that the leaves will impart a cinnamon taste to one’s tea.

Cinnamon plant

Then there’s the story of my Bolivian garcinia (a kissing cousin of the mangosteen). More on this later. And more compositions, perhaps. Thankfully my biography is already written and can be recycled. The three R’s of waste management are, incidentally, reuse, recycle, and redo–how did that get in there?