Today’s photo is a mixed botanical of sorts, representing tropical colour explosion at its best. I took this photo on a street corner in the town of Soufriere, St. Lucia. I can spot roses and croton (big colourful hedges) in the background, but what stands out most are the two red clerodendron (aka Clerodendrum) flowers up front.
I first saw clerodendron in Barbados but had no idea what it was. The plant was taller than the house it flanked with massive blooms that managed to stand upright, even in the wind. Very impressive! My friend David says it is a “tough as nails” plant that can be difficult to transplant due to its tap root. But once established it will grow just about anywhere.
Last fall my friend Barry put me onto pots of green and purple ‘Holy’ basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) for sale at a neighbourhood Indian food store. ‘Holy’ basil, also known as Tulsi, is a beautiful herb that brightens a dull spot in the garden. It’s a tough, woody plant with textured leaves that can take a lot of heat and a little bit of drought, but I don’t recommend it if you’re looking to grow a culinary basil. It has a very potent smell and flavour and is more commonly used as a medicinal remedy than a meal enhancer.
I intended to post about the plant here months back, but as sometimes happens, I neglected to get a good photo before the frost hit and to top it off I left the plant outside to die rather than overwintering it indoors. And even though I wasn’t going to tell this part of the story, now that I’ve exposed my neglect, I feel a guilt-ridden need to explain that the reason I didn’t bring it inside was because we were going away for a month and I didn’t want to overburden my friends with millions of plants to keep alive on top of the thousands I already have.
Passively allowing tender plants to die outdoors at the end of the season is a gardeners’ dirty little secret. Just about everyone does it, but few admit it. Many of us feel guilty about it, although in my case I suspect it has more to do with throwing away money than intentionally killing a plant.
But I digress. What I really intended to say was that as luck might have it, a month or so after the “killing frost”, I came upon the plant in this photo, growing on a farm in St. Lucia. It may not have been my plant, but I got the photo I had hoped for. And like most basil plants grown in a tropical climate, the thing was huge, much larger than any basil I could grow here in Toronto.
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.
I took this photo in Dominica on an organic farm tour in an area called Bellvue Chopin. Our tour was with Roy Ormond. If you ever get a chance to do a tour I encourage you to seek him out specifically. The farm specializes in traditional herbal medicines and Mr. Ormond was very knowledgeable and generous in sharing that knowledge.
That morning, including these adorable little tortoises, was one of the highlights of my trip.