Cissus, Cyphostema (2012)

PhotoBy Chris Deem (June 2012)

As the story goes …

When the Greek city-states were young, the gods did often play, as Dionysus often did on bright and sunny days. Yet, when thunderous storms loomed over his vine-covered hall, he often sat brooding alone. At such times, when he was alone, drinking wine from his goblet of gold, the lonely gloom was often pierced by his soft, mournful moan.

One day, as he sat brooding and drinking, as he had often done before, he suddenly smiled a godlike smile as he thought of mortal man. “Never alone,” he thought, content and amused. Then he started to doze.

Later that day, as the lightning flashed, he sat on his ornate chair and passed some happy drunken time caressing a twine of a Cissus quadrangularis vine. After a while, he fell asleep and dreamed a dream no mortal would share. A dream of one divine, of the cissus vine and its undrinkable wine. As he slept, he smiled.

Cissus and Cyphostemma are members of the grape family called Vitaceae. The Cissus species are smaller, the cyphostemmas more robust. Every species of succulent Cyphostemma of which I am aware is from either Africa or Madagascar. Cissus habitats appear to be more widespread. Vinelike or treelike, these plants often have inedible grapes, and only the god Dionysus would make an undrinkable wine.

Postscript: In Botswanna, it is believed, C. quadrangularis protects from lightning.