Sunday, October 18, 2015

Small mysterious things.

I ended my last Churchaven post with these words:
At night we fell asleep to the hooting of the owls and the shirrr of something else, over and over again.
That shirrr mystified us so much that the tall man made a little field recording one night. It was a familiar sound to us both, a call and reply, but we couldn't place it - bird? frog?
I thought of a bird expert I had met at one of Marie's famous
 lunches-under-the-tree, and sent him the recording.
The answer pinged back:
Bladder grasshopper. Males display in this way to females at night
Aha! And there they were in the insect book.

For the past few weeks, every time we drive over the mountain pass nearby, we have seen a great number of fantastic pink flowers - they came up like fat asparagus and now look almost snapdragon-ish, but big and fleshy. Yesterday I took myself to the African Orchid Show at Kirstenbosch - the large botanical gardens. As I drove over the pass I looked at the spikes of pink flowers again and thought... I wonder if...
And lo and behold, there they were. Satyrium.
"The African species of the genus grow in fynbos, grassland and miombo woodland, and can sometimes be found in extensive and dense colonies of thousands of individuals, particularly in the year after a veld fire." Another aha moment.

There were orchids huge and tiny - one so small that it was hanging in a birdcage - the flowers smaller than peppercorns. 
In the very seductive sales area, I thought I'd buy yet another cattleya, but fell hard for a brassia.

I often wonder how different my life would have been if I'd studied botany - as I had been planning to for years, but then ended up - rather rashly, studying art. It's a love affair anyway.

I liked this quote pasted up at the till, as I paid for my
spider orchid:
You can get off alcohol, drugs, women, food and cars, but once you're hooked on orchids, you're finished. You never get off orchids... never.
- Joe Kunish
Commercial orchid grower
Rochester, New York


dinahmow said...

I'm beginning to understand that quote! A few weeks ago, I went to a big orchid show and bought an endangered native swamp orchid.Right now, in the first of the summer rains,I bet it's happy! (But I might have to rescue 2 Phalaenopsis...)

the sourcerer said...

oooh. swamp orchid! sounds intriguing...

Rosie said...

LOVE. Those Satyriums bring me joy every morning in OKW traffic. Plus, I love how unashamedly phallic they are. I'm a pollination biologist by training and I recall sitting in a conference hearing someone say 'people who study flowers are like Masters & Johnson. They're just interested in plant sex, not human sex'.

Marie said...

How nice - was it Dave? No, Callum?

Gorgeous orchid, the Satyrium - I can't imagine seeing lots of them. I have a love of the indigenous ones, less for the lush tropicals, ek weet nie hoekom nie. It was so exciting to go hiking and to stumble upon them, in September.

Ek beny jou Churchaven. Sjoe.

the sourcerer said...

Ha ha, Rosie! You were next on my list to ask about the mysterious pink spikes... I remember seeing a plant documentary in the early 90's (The Secret Life of Plants?) and realising for the first time just how sexy they were!

Marie, yes it was Callum. I dislike the commercial orchids - anything that needs staking. But the rest excite me no end. There was also a stall selling carnivorous plants - the pitchers were flowering... fascinating.