Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gee-rahf and a Boatload of Flowers

The odd thing about meeting Saffie on a cut-flower farm in Virginia (aside from how odd that was), is that the flowers in South Africa are so amazing I can't imagine how he ended up in Virginia.  I am glad he did but truly, the entire country of South Africa is brimming with flowers of the most delicious varieties.  From my western perspective it seems one of the primary goals of most visitors to South Africa is to see a lion, a leopard, a buffalo, a rhino and an elephant (apparently this is called The Big Five), I, on the other hand was thrilled by the animals but just as curious about the flowers.  I had a list of what I hoped to see and it went something like this:

1. giraffe (pronounced by my family as gee-rahf)
2. zebra (zeh-brah)
3. lion (Nghala as spoken by the Shangaan people)
4. protea
5. leucondendron
6. all the little bits found in the African Cape Mix bouquets we get from the wholesaler.  In particular the miniature bee-hive flower, the silvery-green itty-bitties, and the lime green something-or-others that no one can tell me the name of......
7. Also, I would like to hear South African music.

My dreams of seeing a giraffe and a lion were satisfied almost immediately.  I cried on both accounts.  It is extraordinary....really extraordinary to see these beautiful creatures in their natural environs.  The giraffe literally took my breath away.  From the moment its head distinguished itself from the trees I could hardly move.  My SA family was disappointed about there only being one giraffe and talked quite a bit about how it was "an old one" and seemed "a bit battered."  To me, it was one of the great moments in my life.  I mean honestly, the markings alone are awe-inspiring.  The sultry gait as it walked across the open plain.  I can recall every second of that sighting and it still thrills me.  A giraffe for goodness sake.

Still, for all that the giraffe thrilled me, so too did the flowers.  I found them.  Each one of those odd little bits and something-or-others were right there for me to inspect and they were not just beautiful but ancient looking and inspiring in the way they are tough and tender all at once.

The protea.
King Protea in full bloom.
These flowers first came to my intention when I worked at Company Flowers in Arlington, Virginia.  I held one up and examined it.  The soft center just calls you to touch it, but the spiky petals stand like prison bars keeping you at bay.  Named for the ever-changing Greek God Proteus, this flower has 114 family members, 82 of which are found in South Africa.  Yikes.  Anyone want to send me there to write a book?  I could spend a year exploring the protea alone.

Here are a few of the smaller finds:
I like to call this one the little bee hive flower, but its proper name is: leucadendron coniferum
I referenced this one to a wholesaler by describing it as, "a dome of itty-bitty silvery-green balls all clustered together like pins on a pin-cushion" but it's proper named turned out to be: brunia albiflora
This one I called "the round, furry pine cone flower," but it too had a real name: leucadendron bruniodes
It looks to me like someone took a nail-file to this pine-cone and came out with a super-smooth finish properly referred to as the lovely, leucadendron rubrum
As I said earlier, I loved the animals.  From the lion to the warthog, but the flowers....the diversity of 9000 species, 6200 of which are endemic (meaning they do not grow anywhere else in the world) astounding.  May I say it again?  9,000 species....holy guacamole that is a big family!  Maybe primarily for the flower fanatics among us but I ask you, can such diversity ever be boring?  The dream is to return with my new fancy camera on hand and walk through Cape Town, through the Drakensburg, through the Transvaal, Bloemfontein (the City of roses!) and please please please may I someday go to Namaqualand?  The flowers of Namaqualand, the very thought of them makes me shiver with excitement.   Just think of the posts I could write about a place that looks like this........

Flower fields of Namaqualand.......

That's it but since I could go on adding these forever I may as well start a Pinterest board on them.....NAMAQUALAND OF MY DREAMS.
How about it?  How about a year with the family in South Africa studying the flowers, writing a book or two....well,  we'd have to do a few children's stories while we're at it.....ok, four books, one year, more flowers than I have cells in my ABOUT THAT.  

Thanks for stopping by,

1 comment:

  1. Namaqualand is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and surely South Africa is the most beautiful country on Earth! It's important you see the area as arid semi-desert outside of Spring time to REALLY understand exactly how 'WOW!' it really is. Hope you do get to see it some day!


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