Saturday, October 3, 2009

Weird Plants Interest Me

When I was in high school I bought a giant vase and filled it with purple thistle I collected from the side of the highway and gave it to my mom on Mothers' Day. Another time I gave her a single spider mum, or what I had always thought was a spider mum. That picture is not as spindley as the thing I gave her.

Unique plants intrigue me.

Earlier this week I made a trip to the farmers' market. There was a nursery stand, where I purchased three small strawberry plants. When I was very small and my family moved into its first house, my parents bought me a few to plant in the front flower bed. Seven years later, when we moved again, the entire bed had been taken over by strawberries- my favorite fruit.

I've been fascinated with cacti for a while now. The scenic drive out to our aunt's house is lined with a beautiful blooming prickly pear variety which I have always enjoyed. As of late, I've been collecting dismembered cactus lobes and planting them along the side of my house.

Sitting on the table at the nursery stand there was a strange looking succulent, similar to a small cactus. It had one giant pod-like thing coming off of it- which I was told was a flower bud. I asked the lady what the plant was and she simply said it was a "carrion."

"Like meat?" I asked.

Here is a picture of what it looked like on Tuesday:

On Wednesday, I took it out of the planter and put it in a (temporary) pot on my front porch. On Thursday it looked the same.

Friday, I was startled by what the plant looked like:
The flower is HUGE. It was also covered with flies. weird, weird, weird.I was so taken aback that I immediately came inside to google my new plant. This giant, hairy, striped, oddly fragranced fly attractor is a carrion flower. More specifically, the one I have is in the Stapelia family.

Carrion are unique in that they are not pollinated by bees or butterflies, they depend on flies. And they attract these flies by producing a foul odor- that of decaying meat... carrion. The flowers also have a sort of marbled, fleshy look to them.


The odor of this particular one is not overwhelming- I hardly noticed it at first. However, I do not want flies gathering at my front door or to greet guests and have them say "What's that smell?" So I need to move my funky plant to a less prestigious location.

Now go look at the link above for the carrion flower and check out the photo of the Amorphophallus titanum in Wilhelma Botanical and Zoological Gardens in Stuttgart, Germany. Holy Magoo!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Gravel Pit

A week after we closed on the house we rented a moving van and brought all of our furniture over. On a stop sign in our neighborhood there was a giant poster: "SAY NO TO THE GRAVEL PIT!"
It also had details on a community meeting to be had later that week. I dragged my husband to a ridiculous and crowded meeting room, full of city officials, crying women and ranting men. Nothing productive came of the meeting, other than our gaining the knowledge that a gravel company wants to put a huge pit (and accompanying mounds of rocks and dirt) right across the street from the Winkler.

The projection plan covers many, many acres of land and surrounds our neighborhood on two sides. People from all over the community and the numerous subdivisions affected by this project are convinced that, in addition to being a giant eye-sore, the gravel pit will drive down the value of our homes, destroy our local water supply, infest the air with dust particles, destroy our neighborhood streets (with the work trucks), and cause major safety concerns for the children in the area: increased traffic, tempting mounds of dirt to play in, no fence around the work zone, etc.

From what I've heard, the gravel company has legal rights to build in said location. The people were being pretty ridiculous and yelling and scoffing at the city representatives- who were being very honest about the whole scenario. I understand my neighbors' complaints- I sure as Hell don't want a gravel pit less than 500 feet from my home- but I'm sure the people who live in the mansion across the street didn't want to stare at my subdivision either.

We don't yet know what the outcome of this will be, as there is a lot of red tape the gravel company has to crawl through to get all the permits needed to" build" their pit. Our community will continue it's protests and maybe we'll be able to discourage the project. Who knows?

Anyway, I figured I should go take some pictures of the area before it becomes heaps of rocks and dirt. Enjoy:

Just down the road from us, tucked back near fields of hay, there's a pecan grove. Rows and rows of pecan trees run down one side of a gravel lane. The other side of the lane has a small country house that has a large personal vegetable garden.

This hay field is adjacent to the pecan grove and stretches up the road, behind a couple of ancient, hidden, forgotten houses, and up behind the property line of the mansion visible from my house.

A nice shot of one of the dilapidated houses. There are about four of them on either side of the road that runs behind our neighborhood, back to the pecan grove. It's a street rarely used by anyone, as it's access to the main road is in the middle of a deadly curve. One of the houses has trees growing through it, or have fallen on it- you can't really tell. The two that are in front of the hay field pictured above still have toys in the yard and other scattered personal belongings, making me wonder what happened to the families that lived there and why they left so much behind. The windows are busted and the houses are caving in on themselves, so they vacated some time ago...

This is the mansion at the edge of my subdivision. It looks like a plantation home. I think there's a historical marker in the yard, but people still live there and it might be odd if I walk up their driveway to snoop on them. There's a huge shed and what resembles an airplane hangar on their property. To the right (the area off camera, but that is visible when staring out one of my bedroom windows) is a field with some sort of old fashioned gas pump and several old cars. They are parked all in one short row, along with some giant tanks that sort of look like propane tanks. Aged from the years of exposure, all these things have rust and flaking paint, but with the tall prairie grasses growing up around them and the hay field, tree lined road, gorgeous sunsets and the one building we can see in downtown, it's actually a beautiful view.

The mansion also has a family graveyard out front, which makes me even more curious as to whether they will be selling their property to the gravel company. I often see strange work trucks going to and from the mansion, but they could be trucks used for harvesting hay. I'm unfamiliar with what gravel and hay equipment looks like... I hope they don't sell. I rather like having a historical piece of land to look at, even if I have no idea what it's significance is.

This is actually a view on the other side of the toll way- about a mile and half from the Winkler. I guess I didn't notice the sky as much before we moved, due to all the buildings and such of actual suburban life, but out here the sky stretches all the way across your line of sight and the clouds always look so beautiful. Every time I have to "head into town," my annoyance with the drive is relieved by the gorgeous country* scenery.

*We live just twelve miles from downtown...