She is holding a handful of empty Polymita picta shells, a brightly colored land snail that is endemic to the mountain forests of the region. I never did see one alive but was absolutely thrilled to see so many shells in person.
Aren’t they gorgeous? They are considered to be one of the most, if not THE most beautiful snail genus in the world. I like snails in general and have a hard enough time killing them in my garden. I usually just move them to another area. Bad strategy, I know. But if they were as beautiful as these, I might have to give up altogether.
“Okay, you can have the kale.”
While in the Cuban countryside, we came upon a number of very old cemeteries that always sat right next to the ocean. I was told that one cemetery dated back to 1919. How they managed to survive the hurricanes when so many homes with much more distance from the ocean haven’t is beyond me.
This particular type of euphorbia seemed to skirt the edges of all but one of them. That one was fenced by a much tougher euphorbia. This plant looks very similar to Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) and I’ve been struggling to decide if it is or isn’t since our trip. Here’s a closer shot.
My argument FOR identifying it as Poinsettia are:
- It gets very scraggly and vine-like when growing in tropical countries. Nothing like the potted plants North Americans display and then subsequently toss every holiday season.
- Let’s compare. Here’s a picture I took in Mexico years ago. This particular plant was growing in the tended garden of someone’s backyard. Plants were being watered with hoses through the duration of our stay. So the difference here is a tended plant versus a plant that is left to fend for itself.
- It was the dry season, which would account for extra straggliness.
- It was growing in sand literally just off the beach. The beach was right on the other side of the cemetery. There were some trees providing a bit of shade but many plants were fully exposed. Let me tell you, it was HOT and the sun was punishing. That’s a lot for a poinsettia to take. They prefer a bit of shade coverage.
- Look at the leaves and the little red bracts. They look right, albeit on the small side. But numbers 2, 3, and 4 could account for that.
My argument AGAINST identifying it as Poinsettia are:
- I find it shocking to believe that poinsettia could survive that degree of extreme heat, sun and drought. See #4 (above).
- There are gazillions of euphorbias in the world. I’ll admit my experience of them barely begins to cover the myriad of species out there. There is a very good chance that there is a plant very similar to poinsettia.
- I am not an authority on poinsettias. I can barely stand the plant. Although I will say that I much prefer it growing wild and straggly. The cultivated potted varieties do little for me.
What do you think? Yay or nay?
As an aside, here’s another shot of the same cemetery. It was pretty incredible. Sigh. Let’s all get on a plane right now and go to Cuba together. I hear it’s warm there.
Over the years I’ve made an experiment of trying out new plants to overwinter on my windowsills. These experiments keep me amused over the winter months and provide the first-hand experience with specific varieties required to make solid suggestions. I generally experiment with herbs since they’re the plants we all want on hand most during the winter to take a clipping from now and again. They’re also the plants that most gardening literature tends to lump together. I mean, how many kits have you seen promoting a windowsill herb garden with herbs that have no hope in hell of surviving the best conditions and most diligent gardeners? There are times when I see someone pick up that kind of impossible gardening kit in a store and it takes all my willpower not to run over like a crazy person and stage an intervention. Those kinds of disappointments have a way of turning would-be gardeners off forever. No, it’s not you. It’s the stupid kit.
My windowsills have got to be the best examples of where not to grow going. My feeling is that if I can make a reasonable go of it with a specific plant than just about anyone can. On the one hand they are south-facing so they have light in their favor; however, it’s often either too cold and draughty or extremely dry and hot from the electric baseboard heaters that sit directly below. My poor overwintered plants are forced to contend with a constant shift in extremes. When it’s chilly the soil takes a while to dry out. When the heat is pumping they can get dry and dessicated overnight.
Naturally, only the most forgiving plants and varieties come away unscathed. Any plant that looks half-alive in time to transition outdoors for the summer is a winner.
One of my current experiments is with a thyme variety called ‘Oregano’. Confusing, I know. Is it a thyme? Yes? Is it oregano? No, but it does have a hint of oregano smell and flavor.
In general I find that thyme, oregano, and marjoram are very forgiving windowsill herbs — possibly the easiest of the popular culinary herbs. Thyme tends to do the best. Some new growth can get a little leggy if there are too many dark days in a row, but it’s as simple as snipping those bits back slightly. Thyme is a tough and hardy plant that doesn’t mind a chill now-and-again. It overwinters well in my climate (zone 5b-6b? I never know. It only gets more confusing depending on where you are in the city.) and I’ve even had success growing it in large bins left outside through months of deep freezing and fluke thaws. The low creepers tend to do better than the taller plants but I am often surprised by just how many manage to survive, period. Thyme also doesn’t mind periods of dry heat, which is why it is one of my go-to herbs on my extremely hot and sunny rooftop.
‘Oregano’ thyme is a low creeper, which is why I think it is doing exceptionally well this winter. We went away for a week recently and while some of the leaves dried out in my absence it really doesn’t look like it suffered much at all.
My French lavender topiary on the other hand… I am only just beginning to accept that the thing is dead and gone. I’m permanently stuck in the denial stage of grief. Perhaps saying it out loud is the first step.
On the other hand, these guys/gals really are turkeys. Look at them go! With the way they ran around, I’m surprised I managed to get a clear shot.
I took this picture in an open field that sat between the main road to the right and village houses to the back and left. Every animal in the village seemed to congregate here to keep the grass mowed (and fertilized). You can see a horse and pig in the background of this photo.
In the evenings young dudes shared the field, playing soccer amidst a full spectrum of farm animals. We hung out here on a couple of evenings so I know I have pictures of that scene somewhere in my stack of film. unfortunately, it will be a while yet before I get a chance to develop and scan all the film in my cache.