"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Friday, 4 July 2008

Leaf of the Day: White Cordia, a Pirate, Audubon and some White Crowned Pigeons

Today I did get down to Leu and spent a couple of hours wandering around and seeing some really amazing new things springing up. Something I have been thinking about for a couple of weeks now is doing some studies of bark. I found the most beautiful elm and hoop pine bark as well as some spiny tree trunks and various other spotted and striped trunks and branches. The cycad cones too are just getting bigger and bigger. Their geometry is quite beautiful and I know if I really want to paint them I will have to give in and work from photos.

In the Arid Garden there is a tree which for weeks now had been covered in very pretty white blossom. The tree itself is a lovely shape too and now it is covering the ground with these beautiful greeny white fruit which stay fixed onto the remains of the ridged green calyx. They look very tempting. This is the White Cordia Tree Cordia boisseri or Ancahuita. It's an intimate and pretty tree with twisting branches and soft hairy leaves.
It is also known as the Texas Olive or Wild Olive or Mexican Olive because of the shape of its fruit, but I have to say it looks nothing like an olive to me. It is theoretically edible and was used to make cough mixture in Mexico.(Hmmm..so is probably not pleasant to eat). One source says the fruit are edible but intoxicating and dizzying and should not be eaten in any number. If this is so I am quite surprised there isn't a ready trade for them here in Orlando.





Yet another name is the White Geiger Tree, but the Geiger Tree is more readily associated with the Cordia sebestena the Orange Geiger tree. It seems this variety was named after an Audubon painting of a tree that was growing in the garden of Captain John Geiger who lived in Key West. Geiger was a harbor pilot and master wrecker ( pirate), who lived in the house with his wife and nine children. Audubon was visiting Key West in 1832 , admired the tree and asked for cuttings, instructing his assistant, George Lehman to include it in the painting of the "White Crowned Pigeons".


White Crowned Pigeon

In Key West , Geiger's house has now become the Audubon House and Gallery. There is a small tropical garden and a fine collection of Audubon prints and to my great delight a collection of Margaret Mee prints. I greatly admire her and her work and I think she will be the subject of my written piece later this year, but she is for another post ..or several! Here is her beautiful painting of Gustavia pulchra from her flora of the Amazon.



I just have to go to this museum! Follow this link for more information. The Audubon House, Gallery and Gardens
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White Cordia Fruit




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