Crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii) is a tough-as-nails, mean SOB of a succulent from Madagascar that is commonly grown as a houseplant here in North America. Those thorns will get you and make you curse like a sailor.
I love it!
I spotted this one in Barbados growing along the front fence in front of a small home. The plant was the size of a small bush and bursting with tiny bright red blooms. Oh to have a crown of thorns flanking my front garden. That should keep the Friday night bar hoppers looking for an outdoor urinal out of the garden.
I’ve come to associate the plant with the Arcade Fire song, Crown of Love.
“In my heart, there’s flowers growing.”
And inversely, these are the flowers I always imagine growing in the singer’s heart.
I’ve seen torch ginger (Etlingera elatior) flowers in floral shops and thought they were interesting, but it’s quite another thing to see the waxy flowers in amongst the massive leaves and stalks of a 20 foot plant. As our friend David pointed out, It’s amazing how much plant it takes to support the flowers.
This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post that showed the entire banana (or plantain) flower. Here you can see the tiny bananas (or plantains) forming and the bract curled up above them.
At one time just about everyone in Dominica grew bananas. Stabilized market prices made it possible for farmers to etch out a humble prosperity growing and selling bananas for export to the UK. But Dominica’s small-scale banana farmers can no longer compete with the massive plantation output of Latin America’s big banana business. Between that and a destabilized market, growing bananas does not provide a living wage.
Still, wherever you go in Dominica, you’re bound to run into a banana tree or two. Or several. Possibly a hillside covered in them. And now that I’ve had so much exposure to this primitive plant, I think I have a pretty good idea of how it grows and an even larger sense of awe about just how weird it is.
The big purple dangling thing in the photo is the flower heart. The flowers develop underneath the bracts, which peel back as the flowers form fruit.
In truth, I believe the plant in the photo is actually a type of plantain, not a banana. We made this mistake at the market a few times, as I have never seen such small plantains for sale in Canada. I thought I knew about the breadth and scope of banana types, but being in Dominica showed me just how wide the variety really is.
If you’d like to learn more about the banana industry in the Caribbean, I’d also recommend the documentary, Life and Debt, which has a small but eye-opening segment on what has happened with the EU and how impossible it is for small-scale, fair wage farmers to compete with big agro-business.
One of these days I will sit down and put together a longer post about the giant granadilla (Passiflora quadrangularis), a passionfruit that is as large as a small melon! We were treated to one on our first night in St. Lucia and I have been thinking about it ever since and pondering when i will get a chance to taste one again.
This is a Polaroid I took of one of the flowers the morning it opened on the vine. We had the good fortunate of staying on an organic farm in St. Lucia (that’s another story) and were able to get up close and experience all sorts of wonderful edibles, but the giant granadilla was probably my favourite, and certainly the most exotic.