Friday, April 22, 2011

Feliz Viernes Santo!

I'm not a religious person.  I won't be eating fish or slurping soup from a watermelon as some people do here on Good Friday.  I am, however, a botany person, and today, I woke up to a balcony full of passion flowers.  It's a serendipitous find for Semana Santa.  Keep reading.

If you're unfamiliar with the reason a passion flower is called a passion flower, or if you're like me and once suspected that it was so named because of it's unique beauty, then here's the low down.
In the case of the passion flower, it is not named "passion" because it is beautiful, or because it can be used as an aphrodisiac, or because it bears passion fruit (which some do).  The real story is that centuries and centuries ago, when white men first stumbled upon the flower, they were inspired by its potential for religious symbology.  The fringe in the center became the crown of thorns, the colors came to represent purity, and the three stigmas represented the father, son, and the holy spirit.  There were some other symbols involved that I don't remember, but basically, the flower is named for the passion of Christ.  I can't say that's the first thing that would have popped into my mind, but I admire the passion of the men who came up with the name.

As for what spent most of the day wandering around in my mind, I'd spent hours without internet resources, trying to use my limited botany knowledge to imagine how the flowers' form fit their pollinators (a good way to figure out what kind of animals you can spot in the area). As I did this, a bee the size of an airplane completely clouded my vision.  I stumbled backwards.  Then, I readjusted the zoom on my binoculars and realized it was only the size of my fist and still about fifteen feet away.  I recollected myself and watched its big hairy back collect pollen off the bottoms of the stigmas.  My brain muscles flexed with their new knowledge.  I felt pretty awe-struck that a bee the size of my fist was not some freak radioactive mutation that would play some Hithcockian/"Birds"-role in my vacation.  Thank goodness.  Then I saw the thumb-sized hummingbirds that were going to compete with the bees for nectar, and I felt a little sorry for them.  They didn't stand a chance.

All week I'll be posting news and photos from Vilcabamba, a place I highly recommend visiting even if there are gargantuan bees.

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