Sunday, 15 November 2015

Pachystachys / Justicia coccinea

"Pachystachys / Justicia coccinea -- Cardinal's Guard"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Pachystachys or Justicia -- that is the question.  This plant, with its thick spikes of brightly-coloured, red flowers, is found under one genus name or the other or both!

The confusion started back in 1775 when Jean Baptiste Christian Rocket-Aublet described this plant in the "Histoire de plantes de la Guinée française" (Volume 1, page 10), assigning it the Latin name of Justicia coccinea. However, Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck then reclassified this plant under its present name of Pachystachys coccinea in 1847, as published in the "Naturalis Prodromus systematis Regni Vegetabilis" of Alphonse de Candolle (Volume 11, page 319).

Pachystachys, is derived from the Greek for "thick spike" in reference to the flowering spikes of this plant.  Justicia, on the other hand, is named for James Justice, 18th century Scottish botanist and horticulturist.  Which makes Pachystachys, in my opinion, the more sensible option -- but, then, genus names often seem to have little to do with common sense! The species name of coccinea has remained unchanged and is derived from the Latin for scarlet, referring, of course, to the colour of the flowers.

Pachystachys coccinea, commonly known as Cardinal's Guard, has rich green leaves and it develops naturally into a many stemmed shrub. The thick spike consists of a cone of green leaves from which emerge numerous brilliantly-coloured flowers. This perennial, evergreen shrub, which can grow to a height of six feet, is native to French Guinea, Brazil and Peru. Pachystachys belongs to the family Acanthaceae (from the Greek, Aγκανθα, meaning thorn, spine, or spike). 

Cardinal's Guard is actually a rather messy-looking plant, but the flowers, in various shades of red and scarlet, caught my attention and, eventually, led me to the desire to do a drawing of this plant.

You may have noticed that I haven't been including any drawings of people these past weeks.  My normal arrangement was to alternate between a flower drawing one week and a person drawing the following.  However, lately my hands have been too painful to attempt to draw the details required in the human face and in the fingers of the hands.  If my hands improve, I will certainly return to drawing people pictures again.  Meanwhile, you will have to make do with flowers week after week!

Much of the above was taken from various sources including Wikipedia and Dave's Garden.


French flag at half-mast after events of Friday the 13th of November, 2015



"Suki Asleep in MY Chair", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015
As most of you know, Suki has claimed almost all of the chairs in our home as her "favourites". This means that whatever chair she has chosen in which to nap is hers for as long as she wants it.  If she is not napping in a particular chair then it is fine for me or anyone else to sit in it.  

On occasion, I have had to dump Suki out of a particular chair or push her off the sofa so that guests may have something reasonably comfortable on which to sit. In retaliation, she will often sit at the feet of whoever has been seated on "her" chair, staring at them as only Suki can. This type of intimidation can sometimes prove to be too much for either those who are timid of spirit or those who are really uncomfortable around cats.  There have even been occasions when the guest has moved to an uncomfortable, straight-backed chair and allowed Suki to return to "her" chair -- much to my dismay and embarrassment, I might add.  

[Just in case you are wondering, Joycelyn carefully cleans the seating areas of my sofa and all the chairs at least twice weekly so my guests are sitting on cushions that are relatively clear of cat hair!]

Anyway, back to my story...  Until recently, Suki seemed satisfied to claim all the chairs in the apartment as her "favourites" while leaving my big recliner alone.  Even when I wasn't using the recliner, she stayed away from it. However, a couple of weeks ago, I started to notice a bit of cat hair on my seat cushion after I had been absent from the living room for a while and so I decided to do a bit of detective work. 

I begin leaving small pieces of paper on the seat of my chair whenever I went into the computer room or went out for an appointment. Then, upon returning to the living room, I carefully checked the small sheet of paper to see if it contained cat hair and to determine if it was creased and wrinkled in such a way as to indicate that a cat might have been resting on top of it. Once I had the evidence in hand, I chose my moment and, sneaking back into the living room as quietly as possible, caught Suki sound asleep in MY chair!

Even though I fussed at her and uttered all sorts of imprecations, it was too late... Suki had already decided that my chair was now one of her "favourites".  Her decision has led, I'm afraid, to some rather unpleasant scenes.  I shamefully admit that I have been guilty of not only pushing Suki out of my chair while she appeared to be sleeping soundly, but I have also uttered numerous swear words that an nice lady such as myself should really not be using!

In spite of all this, however, Suki continues to leave wherever she is napping in order to quickly fling herself into my chair just as soon as I vacate it for any reason.  Then, when I return, I am forced to drag her off my chair while she tries to hang onto it with those powerful toenails of hers.  She does know how to wear a person down.

Some days I feel like giving in -- letting her stay in my chair while I try to get comfortably seated on the sofa or in one of the chairs she is, presently, not using.  If it weren't for my painful neck, I might let her win, but pushing back in that recliner provides me with the only seating position in which my neck feels just a bit of relief.  Maybe I should just buy a second recliner since Suki could only sleep in one at a time!  I am such a wuss.    

Otherwise, my life continues as usual.  Joycelyn came at her regular times and I had a nice visit with my friend, Sharon, on Friday morning.  A couple of friends telephoned as well -- including one who called, unfortunately, while I was in the middle of trying to deal with my bank's credit card department so I was unable to talk with her.  Hopefully, she will call again soon.

As for my bank's credit card people, I received a letter in the mail this past week addressed to an unknown name using my address. The letter was asking for additional confirmation the bank needed before issuing this person a credit card!  Worrying about the possibility of getting caught in the middle of a credit card scam, I telephoned the bank's fraud people and reported the situation.  They took down the particulars and then urged me to contact the credit monitoring companies they use.  I did so, finding one of the two most helpful while the other wanted to charge me a fee in order to put a warning in my record! 

I have an appointment this coming week with my family doctor for routine matters including prescription renewals and a flu shot. Speaking of flu shots, did you hear on the news about how the flu shot may help with the prevention of dementia and Type 2 diabetes in people over 50 years of age? Glad I have been getting it now for all these years.



"Icon -- The End of Days", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Jesus said, ‘In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven. ‘Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near, at the very gates. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ‘But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.’
Mk. 13:24-32

I have always been sadly amused at the predictions people have made in recent times about the "end of the world".  Here, in St. Mark's Gospel, we find Christ saying plainly and clearly "But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father."  

Sorrowfully, it seems so easy for us humans to believe that the whispered, secret knowledge we seem to "hear" during our "quiet time" comes from God and not from our own sinful desires. How do we come to believe so easily that we, alone, are to be given knowledge unknown to anyone except the Father from the beginning of time? No wonder con men are so very successful...

Sadly, not one of us is totally immune from the temptation to arrogance, pride, vanity and even hubris -- that sin which, we are told, is always punished so severely.

So I pray that I may always rejoice in my littleness and lack of importance except to Him who created me.  He, alone, gives me any value I may have. Without Him I am nothing. Oh, Lord, keep me always truly humble.


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