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Cornucopia - A Born Survivor

A Born Survivor
Andrew Lawes

The opposite of this title, which is so often expressed is ‘you couldn’t kill it if you tried’ – not that I’ve gone out of my way to kill any of my plants but, despite my neglect, the one that I am going to mention has not only survived but has thrived. This plant has had a way of inveigling its way into becoming, more or less, one of the family – it obviously likes us and our environment and we, because of its tenacity, have become attached to it.

This so-called inveigler is Tropaeolum tricolor; an amazing plant, it emanates growth from a circular but tough coated, tuberous type thing a bit like a cyclamen corm. Trying to keep it dormant is a bit of a trial as wherever I put it in this pre-potted state it starts into fervent growth. So I gave in and potted it and had it outside in my ‘arctic’ greenhouse all during the sub-zero temperatures we had over this last winter – undaunted, it lunged at the world and eventually I had to put a stick in the pot for it to scramble up. By this time I had it in the relatively darker, but slightly warmer, confines of my brick shed. No etiolation here as it continued to loop itself around its single cane, its delicate six-lobed leaves looking like green clip-on earrings adorning this plant, miniscule at the stem tips, gradually getting to earring size as they age and the twining stems lengthen. And all of this top growth comes from a stem that emerges from the compost, which is no thicker than a single strand of cotton.

This green jewelled plant hasn’t finished here as interspersing its airy foliage are the flowers which give it its descriptive name ‘tricolor’. For all intents and purposes these resemble tadpoles, tiny ones at the growing point of the stem and regular sized ones further back. But what tadpoles they are, not concealing their whereabouts in a coat of black but, more like Jacob, flaunting themselves in a coat, not of many colours, but three startlingly bold ones – continuing with the tadpole analogy, the tail is scarlet merging into a vivid orange body and ending in jet-black mouthparts - it really is a stunner. Credit must go to John and Brenda Foster who have voluminous but well-behaved potfuls of this species nasturtium, as they very generously gave me my first nutty tubers knowing what absolute delight they would bring.

First published in the Norfolk & Suffolk Group Newsletter, Summer 2011
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 29.
© Copyright for this article: Andrew Lawes

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2012. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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