Dorstenia (2010)

PhotoBy Chris Deem (June 2010)

An illusion, like a dream, is just a way to perceive reality, with the insight of a poet.

To exist for a moment, enveloped in warmth, the flat, green faces of the flowers turn toward the yellow sun. The tiny star-burst petals give a shape to the flat-faced flowers, a shape of twinkling, faraway stars.

Below the stars, the plant’s leaves are long and dull green. From above, they drink in the sunlight, and below, they shade the crackled appearance of their gray-green branches.

For a moment, under a clear, blue sky, a small plant exists in both reality and illusion. For the sun is white, and sky only appears to be blue. Even the star-shaped flowers are just illusions.

As a cacti enthusiast, I had always looked on most other succulent plants with polite indifference, until I saw a dorstenia. Like something out of Alice in Wonderland, even its name is poetic.

Dorstenia is a genus in the family Moraceae; there are both shrubs and herbs. Herbs have fleshy stems, as opposed to the woody stems of shrubs – at least, that is my understanding.

The plants are found in many warm places throughout central and southern Africa. They also grow in southern Arabia, according to my succulent dictionary. In this dictionary, I saw several different species; all were wonderfully weird.

To end this article, I must return to the illusion of the flat-faced flowers. The illusion can be explained by scientific terms, like bracts, receptacles and inflorescences. I would rather just look at them in more poetic terms, such as flowers within a flower.