Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Psycho cycad

It started at Home Depot. No, it started in Hawaii, actually, when I saw a cycad the size of a barrel and became enchanted. It was the most primitive plant I had ever seen, with a prehistoric look to it. It had emitted a clusters of seeds, pink beanlike things that were just sitting there in the middle of it, so I took a handful of them, hoping to take them home and grow my own monster cycad. I left the seeds in the hotel refrigerator. Good thing, I might have been arrested for smuggling.

THEN came the Home Depot part. Amazingly, a couple of weeks ago I saw a cycad in a pot, about the size of a small pineapple. It had short thick spiky leaves and a whole lot of spiky things in the middle, about 3 inches tall. I thought it would probably die within a few weeks due to the wretched light in our house.

Almost immediately, the sucker began to grow. And grow, And GROW. These insane-looking, militant-looking frondlike things shot up out of the middle of it, at a rate of about two inches a day. They splayed all over the place and I had to keep moving the plant because it outgrew the space it was in. My cat is afraid of it and refuses to even sniff it.

I don't know what all this is leading to. I have a grapefruit tree growing in the front room (visible in the top left-hand corner of these photos) which I started growing in Hinton, Alberta, so far north that it gets dark at 3 p.m. in winter, with temperatures of minus 40 C. It began as a seed in my morning grapefruit THIRTY years ago, and today presides over the entire room. Some years it blooms modestly, with perhaps one small cluster of white flowers that drench the room with honeysuckle scent, and one year it presented me with one perfect, pea-sized grapefruit. It has gone through cycles of dying over and over again, losing most of its leaves, but then it will resurrect and put out a new branch that grows at least four or five inches a week. If you were patient enough, I think you could sit there and actually watch it grow.

I am afraid of this plant. I feel like Morticia Addams feeding that carnivorous thing she kept in the greenhouse alongside the dead-headed roses. I don't know what it eats, actually. Has anybody seen the cat?

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