Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tropical Surprises

I don't want to forget to relate that while I was communing with the art of tropical gardening during my time at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, I also learned a bit, ever the student thirsty for knowledge.  For one thing, I was fascinated by these large seed pods hanging from a trellis in the orchid room.  What were they, mangoes?  Some form of papaya?  There was no botanical marker that I could find at the base of the small tree they came from, so I finally had to search out a Marie Selby docent for the identification.

These, my friends are cocoa pods, just starting to ripen with the delicious seeds that will eventually become my favorite candies. I had seen them before, growing almost wild in Granada, but I had never seen them ripen.  Here, at last, is a reason to have a winter home in Florida; chocolate ready to pick off the tree!  Well, perhaps some processing would be involved, but still!   What will they think of next, vanilla from orchids?

Another surprise botanical treat on my visit was the finding, first, of bananas growing on an actual banana tree.  This bunch of bananas was badly beaten and broken down, but all the same they looked like they would someday be nourishing.  I was tempted to pick a fruit to compare tastes with the store-bought variety, but one never knows, these days, when a surveillance camera can be lurking and I don't need Homeland Security to open yet another file about me.

My largest botanical wonderment greeted me, however, from an adjacent tree; this incredible display of a banana flower ready to open and be fertilized so that the crown of ovaries above could bear fruit.  What a prehistoric feeling one gets while staring at this 8 inch long and plump blatant display of pure sexual reproduction brazenly free and open to the tropical air.  One glances behind oneself at a first glimpse and would not be surprised to see a Velocirapter creeping up to make a Mesozoic meal of modern man. What I'd give to be there now, a week later to see the flower open in all its musky splendor.

I had no idea, all these years of eating bananas, of the mechanics of the process.  Flower heavy and fecund, ovaries patiently presented for fertilization.  Once the world hits on a good pattern, it never lets go, eh?    

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