Thursday, November 25, 2010

Plant Reminiscences, Part 2: The Bratty Years

I might have left the impression in my last "Reminiscence" post that all my childhood experiences with houseplants were sweet and heartwarming. Not necessarily.

I was a shy and quiet little kid, but that doesn't mean that I didn't have a bratty streak. Sometimes, when I was bored, I used to experiment with plants. In this case "experiment" is a euphemism for "mutilate." I used to scrape the surface of the brown lower stems of Ficus elastica with my fingernails to see the green flesh underneath. I also enjoyed scraping those "funny brown bumps" (nascent aerial roots) off my grandmother's Epipremnum aureum plants.

Epipremnum aureum leaf. Since Pothos is mentioned in most of the anecdotes, it seems only right to illustrate this post with pictures of them.

E. aureum plants were a frequent subject of my experiments, probably because there were so many of them at my house. I actually related one incident in the comments of Mr. Subjunctive's excellent Plant Toxicity series at Plants Are the Strangest People. In this case, the experiment, though damaging to the plant, actually had the potential to damage me. When I was maybe seven or so, I decided, for whatever reason kids decide such things, to remove and chew on a couple of Epipremnum leaves. I think I was playing some sort of survival game with myself, where I was stranded in the jungle and had to survive on leaves. I experienced a mildly painful tingling/numbing sensation in my mouth, from the calcium oxalate crystals all plants in the Araceae family contain to a greater or lesser degree. It was enough to make me stop chewing the leaves then, but somehow, not bad enough for me not to do the same thing a few weeks later. I think I didn't actually associate the unpleasant sensations with chewing on the leaves. ( It's hard to believe that I was generally considered to be a smart kid.) After experiencing the tingling/numbing a second time, I did recognize that there was a cause/effect going on, and never did it again. Fortunately, I didn't experience anything worse from this little adventure.

Then when I was about eight, I decided I wanted a houseplant of my own. And no, potting up a cutting from one of my grandmother's many Pothos would not do. I wanted something different. So Nana took me to Woolworth's and we picked out a plant for me. It was an Aroid of some type. It resembled a Philodendron hederaceum, and maybe it was, but in my memory, it had a slightly more upright growth habit. Maybe it was a very juvenile Monstera deliciosa.

Epipremnum aureum 'Marble Queen'

At any rate, I took good care of of my plant for a while. But my bedroom was not very bright, and my plant didn't seem to be growing much. So I got bored with it. One day, I decide to see what would happen if I trimmed the edges of the leaves of the plant. I trimmed very carefully, following the shape of the leaves. (Well as carefully as I could; I was clumsy with scissors back them. I still am today; I can't cut a straight line to save my life.) As one would expect, this left all the leaves with brown edges. And I lost interest in the plant totally, because it was no longer perfect. This is a far cry from today, when I have a tendency to hold onto ugly or ailing plants long after any sensible person would throw them out.

Epipremnum aureum growing on a pole made of floral foam covered with sphagnum moss and stuffed into a wire framework. The plant is not so much growing on the pole as it is pinned to the pole. It is impossible to keep the pole moist without over-saturating the soil. Still the whole thing is more than five feet tall, and looks pretty good.

My next reminscence post will likely cover my teen years, when my real interest in houseplants began.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating it. Happy Thursday to everyone.


CelticRose said...

This post reminds me of when I was absolutely fascinated by the unusual flowers on my mother's passionflower plant, so I dismantled them to see how they were constructed.

Julie said...

You had some fun with your houseplants...experimenting was the sign of how smart you were!!!...pretty cool that you started liking them so young! I was a late plant bloomer! LOL.

Atul K said...

How did you make the moss pole stand so straight in the pot? Mine keeps falling off the pot once I make the plant climb on it :(