I wish my friends Lou and Johanna were here to help me identify the myriad flowers I walk by every day. But probably even my gardening-enthusiast friends would have trouble identifying the many varieties of Ecuador.
There are names like Begonia Sodiroi (which sounds like a great aunt from New Orleans) and Saurauia Bullosa (boil the leaves for tea to effectively treat that occasional bout of scurvy). Anguloa Virginalis and Passionflower are two more examples of the exotic plants that line the roads and hillsides. Don’t they sound like conditions one would associate with teenage girls or boys?
I hail from the South, an area of the US known for magnolias and steamy nights. But Georgia, Alabama and other like-temperature states can’t even begin to compete with Mamy, a different type of magnolia (a flowering tropical fruit true) that can grow up to 70 feet tall. Definitely not suitable for centerpieces.
Ecuador covers less than 0.2 percent of the Earth’s surface but is home to nearly 10% of the plant species known in the world– more than 25000 species. So maybe this next fact shouldn’t surprise me but it did. Does.
As David and I were walking home on Sunday from a lovely Mexican restaurant (best burritos in town, they say), I looked down and spied with my little eye a dandelion pushing its way through a crack in the sidewalk.
In a land of exotic plants and rare botanical finds, the pesky weed that I wished upon as a child and cursed as a homeowner stakes a claim here as well. Seeing that pesky plant made me feel a little more at home. Something familiar. A common variety, nothing out-of-the-ordinary plant taking its place among the rare and exotic.
That’s kind of how I feel here right now. Everything is so new. So different. Shorter people. Darker hair. Indecipherable language (at the moment). Unique flavors and odors. No hurry. No stress. Not at all bad, just new and sometimes strange.
So that glimpse at struggling plant did me a lot of good.
That’s me. A dandelion in downtown Cuenca.