Monday, June 16, 2014

Waiting for the moonflower

I grew up on a ridge in rural West Virginia.  Before the scurry of summer camps, internships, and eventually grad school and Adult Life, I spent many summer days just hanging around the house, helping out around the garden, flipping over rocks, catching crawdads.  For our family, one of our favorite evening activities was to sit out on the front lawn, our chairs faced in towards the house.  We were waiting for the moonflowers to open. 

Our moonflowers, more specifically Datura inoxia in this case, opened in the evening, around 8PMish ET if I recall.  Usually there would only be 1 or 2 blossoms opening each night.  We'd sit and watch the white umbrella-like bloom puff, slowly unfurl, eventually pop open.  And the fragrance was pure magic: like the cleanest soap you've ever smelled. 

I still marvel at the regularity of this event: it would always be around the same time each night, within 20 minutes or so.   While some folks were waiting for their regularly scheduled TV program, we were happy waiting for the moonflower's show. 

Some day, I'd like to have my own moonflowers to watch in the evening.  Unfortunately, they are not good for households with small children: they are part of the Solanaceae family, related to nightshade.  The entire plant contains dangerous alkaloids, such as atropine, and even touching their leaves is not a good idea.  Beautiful but dangerous, as many plants are. 

These days, my schedule revolves more around daycare dropoffs/pickups, heading to and from the office, and naptimes and bedtimes.  Hard to imagine a time when all we did in the evening was sit, chat, and wait for a flower to open!

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