Thursday, July 07, 2005


I have a cactus shaped exactly like a penis, it even has a perfect sulcus, the fold between head and shaft so characteristic of the real thing, caused in the case of my cactus by changes in sun exposure and most probably a bit of watering overkill. The shaft’s still a little short but I’m feeding and watering it religiously and when it’s ready I’m going put it up for auction on E-Bay. I figure if Virgin Mary cheese sandwich and Michael Jackson toast are worth $50,000, I’m looking to finance my obsession with weird plants by sacrificing one of them.

Problem with cacti and succulents is that, like cats, one leads to another and another and before you know it you’ve got 9, then 47, they’ve replicated all over the house turning it into some strange moonscape of scary-looking alien plant forms spouting bizarre flowers, twisting themselves into cones and turning purple for no good reason.

I have a thing called a zebra-striped huernia and every now and then it springs a weird little flower, a purple button about an inch across, fringed with four pointy zebra-striped leaves that last for 2-3 days before closing and crumbling up. Some varieties have leopard skin spots, some are feathery, others shaped like starfish, most look like the kind of extra terrestrial life forms you’d find on Mars.

Collecting succulents is a great hobby and the best thing for people with ten brown thumbs because they’re almost impossible to kill and even if you do manage, who would know? If you live in a hail belt and have experienced the fourth hailstorm of the year shredding your garden to ribbons, you’ll be pleased to find your succulents battered but unbowed, they’re tough, they like it when you forget to water them, and you can just break off a piece, let it bleed and poke it into the ground to make another one.

What can you say about a plant that has only two leaves, gets its moisture from the air and can live for 2000 years? OK, a welwitschia is more a primitive pine tree than a succulent, but it’s weird alright, if I’m lucky enough to find one I’m going to do my best to persuade it to come home with me. How about a plant that looks like a stone until it sprouts a daisy or the one shaped like a square cow turd?

Could it be a conspiracy? We bring these plants into our homes, feed them, and watch with pride as they take over the garden. Could it be a cunning plot on behalf of aliens to infiltrate our homes before taking over the world, could the plants themselves be the aliens? It’s not a new idea, it’s been done many times in film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Attack of the Killer tomatoes, Little Shop of Horrors. In The Quartermass Xperiment, an astronaut returns to earth with a cactus, which wreaks havoc eventually turning him into a mutant version of itself.

I’m not taking any chances, I’m not letting them in the house. They’re out on the stoep where I can keep an eye on them, just to make sure. I slipped out to Gardenworld today and a couple of euthorbias and an orange aloe followed me home. I might need help soon.

And speaking of penises, I read about a succulent called Boesman’s Piel which droops when it’s dry and becomes erect when watered. It should be that easy.

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