Home & Garden Columns
So I was licking nectar off the base of an orchid blossom the other night ... See?That’s why people keep pets, in which category I place houseplants. Most of us don’t live the wildlands any more, which of course is why they’re still “wildlands,” and there’s all this unpredictable, unrepeatable, unmediated experience we don’t get to have every minute of every day.
There are so many things people don’t write into literature (including scientific literature) or nature documentaries. Why the heck were our four box turtles alerting in unison, all facing the same way, all with their necks stretched at the same angle, for a good three minutes while we were eating dinner Sunday night? I haven’t seen them behave like that since Bruce played us a wonderful morning serenade on the uillean pipes some years back.
Memo: Box turtles are very very interested in bagpipe music. We haven’t had the intestinal fortitude to try the Great Pipes in the dining room yet, and maybe never will. Great Pipes, like bombards, belong outdoors.
By some standards, of course, so do box turtles and cymbidium orchids. I can make a case for ex situ conservation of both, especially after seeing so many box turtles crushed along roadsides back East. My everlasting curse on people who do that. May they tread on their own intestines someday soon.
There are ex situ conversations to be had, too. I’d bet I can find out somewhere what’s going on with the cymbidiums in the parlor just now, but I wouldn’t have known to look for it without having seen the clear drops of nectar in such odd places on each flower, reflected in the lamplight the other night. After a couple days’ concentration, they’re intensely sweet.
But I couldn’t detect any nectar where I thought it should be, inside the throat of the flower. My first assumption was that it was a My-cup-runneth-over situation, since there aren’t any nectar-eating birds or bugs from the home range flitting about our flat to drink the stuff before it got to me. Dammit.
Now I’m going to need to chase that down, that intricate puzzle of sex and deception and time that made those flowers what they are, so incredibly erotic, at close range, even to us animals. What a reach across eons of beings! I hope somebody has written about it in the scientific literature, so I can see the next observational step—the hard one, that takes hours and days of observation and charting.
While I’m standing on the shoulders of those giants, let me say that I’ve seen enough painted lady butterflies on Point Reyes, in inland Marin, and right here in Berkeley to think that there’s a migration going on right now.
If you notice those fluttering shapes while you’re out walking, if you sit in your yard or a park and watch awhile, note how they tend to fly over, not around, obstacles, if you’ve planted nectar-source flowers to sustain them overnight, you can watch the spectacle too.
That’s a reason we keep gardens.