Several plants in the peperomia genus are grown as common houseplants here in North America, but have you ever seen one like this?
I was first introduced to this particular plant in Dominica, where it goes by the local names JiwonflÃƒÂ¨*, JonflÃƒÂ¨, or Giron Fleur**. It is most often found in very damp and dark places, and as a result most of my photos were lousy. Last month I found it again (as seen here), on display in the Tropical Rainforest Conservatory at the Montreal Botanical Gardens and was able to get a better photo.
JiwonflÃƒÂ¨ is a tiny trailing succulent that grows as an epiphyte, hanging from the branches of trees, most commonly cocao and grapefruit. In Dominica, the plant is brewed into an herbal cold remedy but what’s most fascinating is the smell. When you crush the leaves, it emits a soft green peppercorn aroma. I suppose this shouldn’t be too surprising since peperomia is in the same family as black peppercorns (Piperaceae).
This morning, I set out to post a different photo until I was reminded that it is St. Patrick’s Day, a day I most often associate with clovers. Technically oxalis and clovers aren’t the same thing, but they are often mashed together around this particular holiday. In truth, I’m going through a rather rabid oxalophile phase (am I the first to coin this term?) and don’t really need an excuse to post a photo of anything oxalis, or clover for that matter.
I found this particular oxalis growing in an area of Dominica called Giraudel, right beneath the nipple fruit, in fact. The plant is used locally as an herbal tea for sore throats and has the local name ‘Malgoj.’* I saw it several times throughout the island, and later in St. Lucia as well.
This is what the leaves look like.
* Source: “Caribbean Wild Plants and Their Uses” by Penelope N. Honychurch.
I took this panoramic photo in Dominica as we were just beginning our descent down into the Valley of Desolation, the most incredible place I have ever been in my entire life. Worth all of the pain it brought my body.
Three hours into the hike and I was kicking myself for forgetting to bring death metal to play as our soundtrack.
It’s hard to tell by looking at this photo, but a great many of the plants here are bromeliads. I realize after the fact (with no chance to recheck) that what looks like grass covering the sides of the path might be some kind of grass-like bromeliad. I saw something similar in St. Lucia a few weeks later and it was identified as a bromeliad. All I know is that it was very useful as something to grab onto for leverage.
This is a tricky one as I haven’t yet properly identified it. Perhaps you can help? I took this picture at Papillote Gardens in Dominica. The tag read, “amomum cardamomum”, but both are actually words for cardamom and together do not make a botanical name. It was definitely a type of cardamom or at the very least, something in the ginger family. It turns out that there are a lot more ginger family plants than I ever imagined so my claim to knowledge in this area is forever humbled.
My best guess is that this is some kind of black cardamom (Amomum subulatum) or Amomum subulatum fresh off the plant. I have searched high and low but have been unable to find a photo of the plant with fresh pods to confirm its identification. My other thought is that it could be some kind of related, inferior (or false) cardamom that I’ve never heard of.
And so I put it out to you. What do you think it is?
As Davin was holding the open pod, the purple colour staining his skin (which I might add he picked and opened without encouragement from me) he kept saying, “I hope this isn’t poisonous.” I suggested that if there was any doubt, he should wash his hand immediately and refrain from sticking it in his mouth anytime soon. And then, you know, hope that skin contact doesn’t act as a good delivery system for this particular poison. Two months later he is still alive so apparently it wasn’t.
The life of a botanical hand model is wrought with peril.
UPDATE: Polly Pattullo of Papillote Press (who also happens to live nearby to the garden where this photo was taken) has updated me to say that the plant was identified as Renealmia alpinia, a common member of the Ginger Family (Zingiberaceae). Apparently, the leaves are used for cooking fish, and she has been pounding the seeds and roasting for use in cooking.
This is a long one. I suggest you make a cup of tea and a snack before starting.
“And now listen carefully. You in others-this is your soul. This is what you are. This is what your consciousness has breathed and lived on and enjoyed throughout your life-your soul, your immortality, your life in others. And what now? You have always been in others and you will remain in others. And what does it matter to you if later on that is called your memory? This will be you-the you that enters the future and becomes a part of it.”
- Boris Pasternak (Doctor Zhivago)
Back in December 2009 my partner Davin and I took a month long trip to the Caribbean. We spent 4 days in Barbados, 3 weeks in Dominica, and one week in St. Lucia. Since that time I have posted on and off here with photos and short stories depicting my botanical experiences through that month. There are still so many gardening and plant related stories left to tell. Every single day was loaded with new plants, flowers, food, sights, and sounds. We went on hikes into the rain forest, up mountains, and to a Boiling Lake. We got to see a place that felt like witnessing the birth of the world. We stayed on an organic food farm and picked ginger flowers that would be made into centerpieces for rich people. We visited an organic farm that specializes in traditional herbal medicine. We went inside an ocean-side cave. We touched walls covered in more ferns than I have ever seen in my life. We walked among grasses and cacti. We saw plants I will probably never be able to identify. We spoke with humble gardeners, visited massive backyard farms, and met an incredible 99 year old woman. We found new friends to whom I feel a great deal of gratitude. It was pretty much awesome.
As you can see I have barely scratched the surface here and hope to get a chance to tell you some of these stories over time.