Myths and better myths


The ancient Greeks and the old-time Romans were great at inventing tepid mythical beings: think half-horse-half-man or, quiveringly, three-headed puppy dogs, but this lack of imagination is probably the product of bad wine or, respectively, a demonstration of the deleterious effects of having gotten rabies from one of Hercules’ pets (which are not necessarily from the animal kingdom, but that’s another subject) .

And yet what I am about to advance is no more imaginative, probably less so. But still, you are a captive audience and have little choice but to hear of how floriferous trees sometimes shred their ambassadors of color, making a rainbowy carpet for the downtrodden to rest upon. But what if these flowers did not come from a tree? What if they weren’t even dropped out of a florist’s van (oh those hairpin turns)? What if they grew straight out of the terra firma? That would be mythical, don’t you think?

So consider Kaempferia rotunda, a lovely ginger that flowers directly from the ground. Who needs the jaundiced mythology of the Greeks and the Romans? Incidentally, the species is native to China–just like the Papillon.



Night-blooming Cereus

If only these bad boys of the plant world would read the botanical literature, they would know that they are supposed to bloom at night, hence the colloquial name Night Blooming Cereus. I took this photograph in the morning and later had a little epiphany–my gosh, there seems to be little excuse for this sort of ignorance. Today, all a self-respecting epiphytic cactus has to do is search the internet for protocols regarding flowering habits. Gone are the days of having to find mobile libraries and having to deal with books that are out of date, and, even more worryingly, having to endure the unwholesome glow of haughty librarians. And even though I am not prone to vaticinate, I reckon that cactus of the future will rely heavily on information gleaned from search engines. Can running for political office or spearheading a death cult be far behind? The inglorious future is full of uncertainties; however, I am confident that educated plant life is the key to our success, because there seems to be little hope of educated man ever getting his sorry act together.











no words, no music, only the vaunted language of flowers







For Mary…

Mary, a long time reader of these pages, wanted to see some island flowers and to feel the touch of warm ocean breezes.

So here are some flowers. You’ll have to use your imagination for the ocean mist, as social-media technology has not evolved to the point of producing the sensation of having the Atlantic ocean embrace your skin with a sprightly tingle. You’ll also have to conjure for yourself the perfumed effect of passing under a Frangipani in early morning.

There’s so much work for the poor reader to do that I’m including some music–so much easier than having to imagine the abluent nature of warm sea water or the intense fragrance of certain tropical trees.

This is another take on the blithesome changes to Pachelbel’s Canon. And you are probably thinking to yourself–that’s the only piece he knows! And you’d be right.

Well almost. I also know this ethereal piece too…

P.S. Mary’s pages are found at
and if you are quick enough, you can see the blue vase I like so much.





Heliconia rostrata

Heliconia rostrata

Black Mission fig

Black Mission fig





Holy Basil


I obtained Holy Basil seeds from my neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Slabs. Apparently the Slabses had a family relation (Virginia Slabs’s brother, so I was told) that frequently visited India, where the basil originates. The story was that, unable to hold down a job, the intrepid explorer had scurried off to the misty depths of Asia in search of elephant graveyards, in the belief that he would find there an elixir, or some incunabulum foretelling the future, or, offering direct proof of his business acumen to those that doubted, return to civilization with a bezoar that he could sell for a handsome profit. But it was all hush-hush, a pilgrimage of uncertainties—though he called it a banishment. This may sound a little unusual to you, and it did to me.

Anyhow, it’s not the sort of thing that you just blurt out over coffee and cakes, yet one Saturday afternoon, Mrs. Slabs invited me to her home in order to thank me for the geometric stacks of rutabagas I had a habit of sequestering near her doorstep, part of the rich bounty from a mad garden determined to overburden my graceful hands, the hands that one bluish morning planted seeds there, on its giddy soil. We sat in a pearl-white garden gazebo and had tea (with digestive biscuits). She insisted that I call her Virginia, and her hair, having the the color and luminosity of corn silk, gleamed in the afternoon sun. This is when I learned more of Polynices Albss and his strange trips to India. She related to me that at first the trips were of short duration, never more than a couple of months, but soon they lasted for small eternities (his term). Polynices would often return with a trunk full of old maps—she pulled various exhibits from a stash under the table–nearly obscene curios (actually the dried roots of some potato relative, having the hue of a marten’s underbelly and featuring wild but anatomically correct bifurcations, probably a sort of mandrake, and yet my instinctual probity–quite rare in a magician–demanded that I seek not to extend the conversation in a lubricious direction), various tabla drums, unplayable stringed instruments, and, on one occasion, but a fortnight ago, an ivory jewel box containing small packets of seeds and malodorous incense-like peelings in pretty muslin bags, tied with ghostly drawstrings. And now I had my Ocimum tenuiflorum seeds, formerly known as Ocimum sanctum (formerly known as: and now you may experience for yourself the syphilitic madness that grips so many botanist). Yet in common parlance, these were Holy Basil seeds.

Virginia Slabs told me that if I planted the seeds near my house I would be able to feel the heavy vibrations of an elephant herd going off to die. She had no doubt heard this chestnut from Polynices. It was getting late and I asked Virginia to give my regards to Mr. Slabs. He was a director at the Institute of Mental Wellness, and was away on business, as was frequently the case.

The next day I planted the seeds. My high expectations were generously rewarded months later when the plants spread, overtaking the rutabagas. There was something oddly Darwinian about this, but I preferred to leave the speculation to employment-seeking botanists desirous of fame and fortune in the publishing business.

Yet on a particularly balmy night, I swore I could feel deep, earth-moving vibrations, but these were after sober reflection the epileptic convulsions of an ancient air-conditioner dying a solitary death.

she loves me–she loves me not


Prospero, can’t you grow daisies like everybody else?

The short answer, predictably, is no. It’s not that the beauty of a wildflower doesn’t terrify me; it’s just that the mind of a collector, to whose fraternity I belong, is generally predisposed to seek the unusual and, dare I say, the grotesque–like a huckster at a carnival seeks to surround himself with nothing but the tallest and shortest of the splendid (though sometimes maligned) homo sapiens genus: in short, he dines in a wind ruffled tent with wise giants and wily dwarfs.

Amorphophallus paeoniifolius

Strelitzia reginae