Sunday, 15 January 2017

Gloriosa superba -- Flame Lily

"Gloriosa superba -- Flame Lily", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2016

Gloriosa superba is a species of flowering plant in the family Colchicaceae. English language common names include flame lily, tiger claw and fire lily. It is native to much of Africa and Asia, but it is known worldwide, variously, as an ornamental plant, a medicine, a poison and a noxious weed. 

Gloriosa superba is a perennial sprouting from a continuously growing horizontal underground stem that puts out lateral shoots and roots at intervals (or rhizome). It is a climber and it does so by using its tendrils. The leaves are somewhat lance-shaped and light green in colour. The showy flower has six tepals each approximately 6 centimeters long. They are generally bright red to orange at maturity with yellowish bases. The six stamens also are long, up to 4 centimeters, and each bears a large anther at the tip that drops large amounts of yellow pollen. 

Since Gloriosa superba is a popular garden plant, a number of cultivars have been developed. It grows easily in many types of habitat, including everything from tropical jungles to sand dunes. Not only can it can grow in nutrient-poor soils, it has also been found growing up to 2500 metres above sea level. 

This plant is poisonous, toxic enough to cause human and animal fatalities if ingested. It has been used to commit murder, to accomplish suicide and to kill animals. Every part of the plant is poisonous, especially the underground stems. As with other members of the Colchicaceae Family, this plant contains high levels of colchicine, a toxic alkaloid. It also contains the alkaloid gloriocine. Accidental poisonings in humans have occurred when the tubers are mistaken for sweet potatoes or yams. 

On the other hand, this alkaloid-rich plant has long been used as a traditional medicine in many cultures in the treatment of such things as gout, infertility, arthritis, colic, kidney problems, hemorrhoids, impotence, STDs and many types of internal parasites. Since one of the possible side effects of non-lethal poisoning is excessive vaginal bleeding, it is used in some cultures by pregnant woman who seek an abortion. In parts of India, extracts of the rhizome are applied topically during childbirth to reduce labor pain. Among the other uses for this plant is arrow poison used in Nigeria for hunting. Some cultures consider the flame lily to be magical.

Although this plant has been common in the wild, it is in great demand for medicinal use. While it is cultivated on farms in India, most plant material sold into the pharmaceutical trade (it is used in the treatment of some cancers) still comes from wild populations. This is one reason for its decline in parts of its native range. On the other hand, it has been introduced outside its native range and has become a weed which may be invasive. For example, it now is cited as an invasive species in Australia, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Singapore. 

The genus name of Gloriosa is Latin meaning “glorious”. The species name of superba is Latin for “swelling with pride”. Gloriosa superba, with its spectacular red and yellow flowers is definitely gloriously superb.

"Mandala Gloriosa superba", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, revised 2016

Actually, some of you may recall my posting a drawing of Gloriosa superba (2009) as well as a mandala-type design using stylized features of Gloriosa superba (2010) similar to the one above.  

After finishing the featured drawing at the beginning of this posting, I decided to go back and took a look at my previous drawings of Gloriosa superba.  The mandala-type drawing I had done as part of an "inversion-technique" art project was especially intriguing. So I decided to take certain elements from that original drawing and include them in this latest effort you see directly above.  I am not really that pleased with it yet, but I thought I would show you what I have done thus far.

Portions of the above text were taken from various Internet sources.


Thanks to their mom, I recently received some new photos of "my boys" playing together and looking adorable.  Like any proud honourary "baka", I want to show the photos to everyone I meet -- this includes all of you, of course!  


Playing peacefully

Older brother quietly showing younger brother how this game works


The wrestling match begins

Foul.  Foul.

And the winner is....

Time for a bit of quiet once again.



"Suki Asleep", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Recently I had a discussion with a dear friend about possible reasons why some people dislike cats so very much.  We mentioned the usual reasons: getting scratched by a cat when you were too little to understand what can happen when you pull on a cat's tail; being traumatized when you are very young by having a cat suddenly jump in front of you or on you; or seeing a cat catch and kill a bird at a very young age and not understanding that cats are natural hunters.  

My friend then mentioned a reason some people may dislike cats that I had not previously considered: cats will sit in front of you and stare at you for long periods of time.  Evidently this is something which can possibly be disturbing for some people no matter what their age!  My friend actually knows of someone who had said that they disliked cats for this very reason.

I am not sure I really understand why a cat's staring ability would be so disconcerting to someone, but then I have never been bothered by this feline peculiarity.  Perhaps the person is very self-conscious or insecure for some reason in that particular moment and they feel that the cat is seeing whatever it is that they wish to hide.  Fortunately, I am not bothered such feelings when I am in the presence of a cat since Suki is a staring cat par excellence.  Let me just give you one example.

As I have mentioned on more than one occasion, Suki, who has already claimed all the comfortable chairs in our home as her property, envies me my recliner.  I know this because every single morning Suki tries to use her incredible staring abilities to get me out of my recliner and into some other chair as quickly as possible so that she can curl up on the seat of my recliner and sleep the morning away.

Thankfully, as I have already mentioned, I have never been bothered by a cat's stare.  Even when Suki stares at me almost non-stop from the time I sit down in my recliner each morning with my coffee, my iPad and my Kindle, I barely even notice that her eyes are on me.  I know this is frustrating for Suki as every so often she will utter a plaintive meow which causes me to look up and see that she is still staring at me.  In response to her meow, I tell her to be patient -- I will get up when I am good and ready!

Often I will sit in my recliner for a couple of hours before I finally get up and head for my computer desk chair.  Then poor, exhausted Suki, who has spent most of the past two hours staring at me, quickly moves from the wing-back chair to my recliner, plops herself down contentedly and proceeds to give herself a good bath before finally settling down to sleep until lunch time.  For all the good her staring did her, she might as well have been sleeping for the previous two hours!  

As for me, things continue pretty much as usual.

Mostly, the past week was very quiet although I will admit that I almost overdid things this past Friday without ever leaving the building...

As you may recall, Friday morning is when I go for a nice long visit each week with my dear friend, Sharon, on the 6th floor.  Well, while I was visiting this past Friday, Sharon brought out a large bottle of Sorrel -- a Christmas gift from a Jamaican friend -- and made the mistake of asking me if I would like some.  I love Sorrel and even though it was only 9:45 a.m., we decided we should each have a small glass of this delicious home brew.

"Hibiscus sabdariffa" also known as
the Sorrel plant.
[Just in case you are not familiar with Sorrel, it refers to a delicious drink made by families in various Caribbean nations as part of their Christmas celebration.  It is, of course, primarily made to share with family members, but it is also given as a gift.  It is made from the liquid produced when the "flowers" of Hibiscus sabdariffa are heated in water. This "pot liquor" is then combined with cinnamon, orange peel, cloves, ginger and sugar -- and in the grown-up version, rum is added. It was the grown-up version that Sharon offered to share with me. Yum. Yum. Yum.]

By 11 a.m. I was back home and on the computer (Sharon and I each had only a small glass of Sorrel so, not to worry, I was not Computing While Intoxicated!).  Then my telephone began to ring. First there was a call from a good buddy in Alabama. This was followed by a call from my dear friend, Grazyna. Finally, there was a call from Joycelyn during which we had to go over the grocery list for her next visit.  In between all these phone calls, I had to feed Suki her lunch and give her the daily dose of pain medication plus going down for the mail.

So, by 3 p.m., when things finally settled down again, I was exhausted and in pain. I knew it was time for me to take my own medication and try to get a bit of rest.  It is difficult for me to believe that there was a time in my life when I would put in an 8 hour work day, go home, freshen up, meet friends for dinner somewhere, go from dinner to someone's party, leave, go home, get about five hours sleep and be back in my office at 8:30 the next morning feeling fine!  Is that young me I see in my memories really me and or is it just some movie I once saw?

Anyway, I have since recovered from Friday's activities and expect the coming week to be a quiet one...hopefully.  

I hope it will be a good week for each one of you as well.


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