They're a little heady, you might say, more than a little arrogant. They're capable of reaching great heights and then crowning themselves with an bouquet of sunflower-like beauty, a regular Fourth-of-July outburst thereof, a dozen flashy yellow blossoms that form a crown so ungainly it threatens itself and the whole show.
Look. Two plants on the right, less given to ego, stand perfectly erect, while the one in the foreground, on an ego trip, is well on his way to being lost.
For the record, they're named silphium perfoliatum, which is barely readable but sure to assure you some professional standing if you drop that phrase in any company of botanists. Philistines like me just call them "cup plants," which is far more homely, but quite fittingly to the point.
And the point of all this is that I am this morning announcing that I've got 'em. Five years ago, one of my learned friends who knows his greenery, pointed out the genius of the silphium perfoliatum, and the darlingly self-descriptive reason for some genius calling them "cup plants." Look closely at that tall guy on the right. His leaves are fused to the stem. There's no little branch-like thing attaching those leaves. The basin-like leaves are simply part of the stem. (BTW, the stem is square--I don't know how to explain that other than to rely on the old bromide, "God just decided to order up square stems.")
I was talking about names. The Cup Plant (now upper case for stature) is called what it's called because its fused leaves become a series of bathroom sinks. A good healthy shower fills the sinks that grow up and down and out from the stem, husky storage containers for the water the cup plant needs to gain its substantial stature and that showy profusion up top.
That's all genius, don't you think? And it would all work out just perfectly if the plant didn't get all high-and-mighty, so tall and resplendent that even that square stem, a powerhouse, can't help but cave beneath that burdensome crown of flowers. In other words, were they abide by ye olde biblical principal--"everything in moderation"--they'd stand a better chance of standing. There's a month's worth of sermons in every plant, I think.
On the other hand, the ones with most self-importance are the first to come back down to earth and replant themselves. While some keep their bouqueted noses in the air, the ones with the biggest you-know-whats get bedded first (I'm going to abandon the possibilites of this shameful metaphor. A Calvinist like me should be chasing down those sermons.)
The point of this is simple: I'm happy to announce that we've got them in the backyard prairie--three of them, two still upstanding, one fallen. But we've got 'em. They're just about in the middle of the prairie, and everything's tall this year so they're not easy to find; but they're there. I swear.
Friends of ours gave us seeds last year, told me to take them out back and stamp those seeds into the ground in late winter, hoof 'em in as if I were a buffalo. So I did.
Don't worry--no one saw me.
I must admit I stuck more than three into the earth, but only have, well, blossomed. If I know prairie, next year there will be more.
They really are ingenious plants, and showy too. I'm so glad to have them. Here's a healthy bunch along the Puddle Jumper Trail, trying to restrain themselves. I wish they were mine.
But then, Envy, I know, is one of the Seven Deadlies.
This morning, if I can rein in my pride, I'm thankful for silphium perfoliatum, the cup plant, and all the lessons they teach. . .and well, our plants especially, the three in our backyard prairie. Did I tell you I've got 'em? I'll try to snap a picture.