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Eyeball Sluckers and Other Growing Things

>> Sunday, July 11, 2010

I keep posting pictures of the flowers flourishing in my gardens because I'm rather proud of them.  At the moment, for example, I have some new varieties of lilies,

some blooming astilbe,

some happy coreopsis, which in turn makes the bugs happy,

and my personal favorite among what's out there right now, the hollyhocks.

I love hollyhocks, partly because it shares my name, Holly.  But I have wonderful associations with hollyhocks, too, as they remind me of long summer evenings nearly 20 years ago, sitting and talking and laughing with my best friend and her family in the dining room of their old house.  They had a whole row of hollyhocks outside the dining room window, that would bob gently against the screens in the breeze.  I think they will forever remind me of that room, and those wonderful people.

In addition to my outdoor gardens, I also have quite a collection of indoor plants, some of which I intentionally acquired and some of which I inherited from my mother when she moved overseas.  I couldn't just throw out happy flourishing plants, whether I wanted them or not, so I took them in.  I may not love cacti, but I'm perfectly willing to give a home to one that needs it.  Noticing a theme here?  I just plain collect stray everythings.

Anywho, among my houseplants is this odd thing that I don't have a name for.  I'd be grateful if anyone who recognizes it could identify it for me.  I actually first acquired one years ago when I took a cutting of a plant in an office I worked in.  Let's see, that was about 10 years ago now.  My mother also had one in her collection.  It's a strange plant, in more ways than one.  It has thick waxy leaves, and when it flowers, it produces strange, fuzzy, waxy bunches that almost look as though they are made of plastic.

These flowers are on my mother's plant - the ones on my plant are pink rather than cream.

The really odd thing about this plant, though, is that it seems to have a personality.  And a will of its own.  And hearing.  And it lusts after human flesh.

The plant shoots off these long almost woody tendrils that climb the walls and wrap around the curtain rods, as you can see below.

One evening my husband and I were sitting at the dining room table right next to the plant stand.  This was only perhaps a month or so after we'd acquired my mother's version of the plant.  He happened to observe casually that the tendrils were in a slightly different place than they had been that morning, so I started to explain the concept of phototropism, or what I remembered about it from my biology days.  "Cells on the side of a stem away.. from the light source become... elongated because of a chemical... called... auxin..."

Then, slowly, words completely failed me.  As I was speaking, that plant moved one of its tendrils slowly, ever so slowly away from the wall, gracefully curving through the air, arching downward, gliding toward me, until the end of that little shoot was dangling inches from my nose.  That sucker moved the tip of that shoot a good three feet through the air, while we were watching.  Right.  Toward.  Me.  Honest to God - I am not exaggerating.  I wish I were.

As I recall, I just quietly pushed my chair backward and tried not to run from the room screaming.  That was the end of dinner conversation for the night.  I think it took a good 45 minutes for my eyebrows to return to their usual position and my heart rate to return to normal.

I've had a healthy respect for that plant ever since, and can't deny that I'm still just a teensie bit afraid of it.  We've watched it move like that many times since then, and more than once it has seemed to make a move toward one of us, or the hapless house guest who got seated at that end of the table, or even toward one of the cats who was sleeping at the base of the plant stand.  We affectionately, and respectfully, refer to those mobile little shoots as "eyeball sluckers", 'cause it sure seems like they're lookin' for some nice fresh eye jelly.



Blue Shoe Farm July 12, 2010 at 12:09 AM  

We had one of these too! It was given to us by a neighbor that moved away. It did the same thing... (although it never moved toward us) but wrapped around the curtain rods (we had it in a corner between two windows like you) and the flowers were strange and beautiful. I had no idea what is was. Hope someone else knows, I am curious. My husband killed it when I left to take care of my mom for a couple weeks.

Anonymous July 13, 2010 at 12:30 PM  

My mom had tone too, inherited from someone she knew at school. We called it "wax plant", which I thought was because of the waxy leaves. Turns out that is what is actually called! :) -Ess

Anonymous July 13, 2010 at 8:33 PM  

Holly, It sounds like you would love to read "Wicked Plants" by Amy Stewart. Wonderfully scary and true.

barefootheart July 14, 2010 at 8:08 AM  

Your garden's looking great!
I've always called that waxy plant 'hoya'.

Ellen Rathbone July 16, 2010 at 2:19 PM  

Have you considered naming it Audrey?

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