Tropical Plants

Plants in the South: Nothing to Envy!

First of all, to my loyal readers: wow! Last week’s article, Gardening, It’s a Sport! really got to you… I swear I was reading your comments and blushing! And do you know what? I’m really pleased that this particular article made such an impression on you, because your physical health is super important.

(Plus, I loved making my Coach Audrey videos!)

Today, I’m going to treat your mental health. I want to add another layer to Larry’s 15-pace rule, while telling you about my honeymoon in Jamaica. Yes, even on my honeymoon, I thought of you!

(So much so that I’ve shot a few videos for you, but I’m saving those for this summer. And stop dreaming right now: I won’t be in a bikini).

Jamaica’s Magnificent Natural Beauty

April 2024, my partner (we’re not married, but we’ve decided to go on our honeymoon anyway… It left many skeptical!) and I arrive in Jamaica like two biologists on vacation: we’ve chosen a resort full of vegetation, we’ve got our microscope, our snorkeling mask, and our Imodiums.

You can never be too careful when traveling. Luckily, we didn’t need the last item on my list!

I was absolutely amazed to finally see plants in the wild that I’d previously only seen in pots. Yes, there are giant plants in pots, even gigantic ones, in botanical gardens, but this isn’t the same.

First of all, there’s the size, but also everything that’s natural around a plant: the wind in its branches, the birds that perch or feed on it, its natural habit and not maintained by a zealous gardener who cuts back as soon as the branching isn’t perfect… There’s so much charm in a “wild” plant.

Once I’d gotten past the wonder of the majestic landscape, I obviously started analyzing everything I saw. Naming, comparing, trying to catch lizards with my bare hands (a failure), I realized that many of the plants used in the landscaping are also present in our living rooms. So far, I don’t suppose you’ve fallen out of your chairs in surprise at my findings. No hurry, it’s coming!

My “Wows”!

I must mention two plants that particularly impressed me during my stay. Firstly, crotons.

I didn’t like crotons.

In general, the yellow leaves of crotons (and some Dracaena) disgust me. They don’t look healthy. Honestly, a plant with leaves that look like a disease? If jaundice and chicken pox had a child, it would be a croton.

(This is a personal opinion, you have every right to like crotons! But I’m not finished…)

Even the name is ugly! Croton. I mean, really.

In Quebec, we eat creton. It’s basically a ground pork spread with spices. A bit like a terrine or pâté. It’s good, but not glamorous. It’s not a fancy garnish. Your charcuterie-cheese platter won’t contain creton.

But now that I’ve seen what a croton looks like au naturel, or even DES crotons… I can’t hate them anymore. A forest of yellow, orange, purple, worthy of the most magnificent autumns in Canada, trees full to the brim, different leaf shapes… I’m… Dare I say it? I’ve fallen in love… with crotons.

I even went to see its Latin name, just to call it something else and find it sexier. Except that in Latin, too, it’s croton. Too bad, I tried!

(I don’t want it in my house)

Here’s the beautiful croton we had right next to our private balcony.

My second wow was the monsteras… er… pothos! You know that rather banal, plant-like plant we all have at home? Easy to care for, easy to cut, easy to live with? Well, when it’s out in the wild, it has a whole new potential…

I knew that leaves become fenestrated a bit like monsteras when they’re in their natural environment, but this? Look at this stem, which I think I can call a trunk. Look at how it clings to the palm, how high the leaves are made! It’s completely strange, fascinating, incredible. Life does wonderful things.

I won’t show you mine because… Hey! No! Let go of the mouse! DON’T DO IT!

I won’t even try to explain…!

Perfection… Doesn’t Exist!

I told you I’d take care of your mental health, now it starts. Once I got over the shock of this beauty (after a few days!), I started to see something else. The ugly leaves, the bald ends, the malformed flowers… The unfortunate little begonia with only two leaves, the bare patch of earth where a defunct plant surely lies.

Of course, that doesn’t detract from the charm at all – quite the contrary, in fact! This is nature! And it’s nice to know that, even in its ideal environment, the Dieffenbachia is tough! The Dracaena sheds its old leaves, which hang several meters from the ground until a gust of wind is strong enough to remove them. Birds of paradise are full of bugs. The Aglaonemas are soft…

So, the next time your houseplants aren’t perfect, remember that even in nature, they can be tough! You can’t stop old Tradescantia leaves from falling off. The difference is that, in nature, the stems that touch the ground develop roots and the whole thing ends up looking like a pretty bush… but when we lift the leaves, we realize… that it’s just as ugly underneath as it is in our pot at home!c

Be indulgent with your plants, but above all with yourself: nature isn’t there to be beautiful, but to be functional.

Best example: the pothos. After my “how is this possible” amazement, I have to give it a more critical look. Honestly, look at that gigantic stem clinging like a centipede to its palm tree!

Avec juste une petite touffe de feuilles au bout!

Honestly, if you only look at it and not at the overall look, it’s ugly: our “home-made” version is much more aesthetically pleasing in the end.

Verdict: even if you want the prettiest plant, taking fifteen steps back and still finding it ugly can just be… normal! It doesn’t have to be a problem.

It was a beautiful honeymoon by the way, hihi!

Audrey Martel is a biologist who graduated from the University of Montreal. After more than ten years in the field of scientific animation, notably for Parks Canada and the Granby Zoo, she joined Nature Conservancy of Canada to take up new challenges in scientific writing. She then moved into marketing and joined Leo Studio. Full of life and always up for a giggle, or the discovery of a new edible plant, she never abandoned her love for nature and writes articles for both Nature sauvage and the Laidback Gardener.

3 comments on “Plants in the South: Nothing to Envy!

  1. Yes!! I love this.

  2. Betty B

    I remember many years ago, seeing crotons in the wild in Hawaii, and being blown away by how beautiful they are. Plants in the wild are something completely different than we experience when we bring them into our homes.

  3. Debra Knapke

    So agree: love the imperfect (for me, perfection is not a noble goal).

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