Wednesday, May 03, 2017

flowering fantasy

When I was in Colombia, we saw flowers I have never seen before.

One of the most common was a group known as heliconia. We have our share of them here in Mexico. Not surprisingly. They are native to the American tropics. You can see them almost anywhere in the Americas where the climate is hot and steamy.

Heliconia range all the way from the classy-understated variety in my courtyard (at the top of the essay) to this rather garish chain letter eerily (and accurately) called crab claw.

The crab claw was on display at an animal preserve in Pereia, Colombia. And it was not out of place with the tropical birds that called it home. (We will learn a little bit more about the preserve when I get my thoughts and photographs organized.)

I did learn two things about heliconia. One I already knew. The other that was completely new to me.

I already knew heliconia are not birds of paradise -- the bird-like flowers familiar to residents of Florida and California. Even though the leaves and the flowers of both families are similar.

Birds of paradise belong to an entirely different family -- strelitzia. But, in general usage, I suspect it makes little difference. They look similar.

The leaves and the flowers on both heliconia led me astray in another way. I cannot remember who told me heliconia were related to bananas. It made sense to me, though. The leaves look like banana leaves, and the flowers have a striking resemblance to the flowers of the banana plant.

But, that is not true. Heliconia are not related to bananas. At least, that is what a botanist outside of Armenia told us. When I told her Wikipedia says they are related, she just laughed. Using the same laugh I use when people cite Wikipedia as their source.

Taking into account Wikipedia's rather sorry track record as a perpetrator of urban myths (such as, San Patricio being named after Irish deserters from the American Army during the Mexican-American War), I am going to believe the botanist.

Of course, "related" is a rather broad term. I am related to Dick Cheney and Barak Obama -- but not in any meaningful way. And most people would say the truncated nature simply makes them non-relatives.

So, there is one of the things I learned in Colombia. I have about five large essays I need to complete and share with you. The best I can say is: they are on the way -- simmering on the back burner like any good stew.

I may even share a flower or two. When I get around to serving them up.

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