Yesterday I went to the gardens for a quick visit to look at the exhibition space again and for some more big leaf inspiration. I seemed to bump into everyone, all the gardeners and my friend John, a fellow habitual Leu Gardens wanderer. I think there are only two of us who have become partial fixtures. The gardens are looking rather shorn, clipped and tidied with much cutting back and pruning after the big freeze. The frost damage is everywhere, burnt tips of cacti , browned crisped leaves and leafless trees. It does look bare but I feel the garden is just holding its breath, regrouping and poised to burst into rampant growth again. The weather is warming up and there was definitely a feeling of spring.. even here in the land of perpetual green.
Being the relative newcomer, I am still fascinated by the wildlife and especially the snakes and alligators. I know for the native Floridians they are commonplace but I was delighted to see a young alligator down by the lake, perhaps only 4 ft long. They tell me the young ones of this size are still in danger of attack from hungry larger alligators, so I hope I see this one again.
Pedro, always true to form, had found some new and strange things for me to draw. From the depths of a plastic bag and with a magician's flourish, he delightedly produced these odd furry things that look like some sort of strange rabbit's feet or a furry beak with 2 eyes. And when I say furry I really mean furry. The covering is not like plant material at all, it's thick, soft and woolly and even slightly wavy, like a lambs coat. They are the most peculiar things, but are definitely plants or rather parts of plants.
So what are they? I didn't have time to go and see which plant exactly, but I think they are some of the scales from one of the Dioon Cycads, next time I go I will find the plant to see if I can get a drawing or a photo. Here is a Dioon cone from cycadinternational.com. here
and the "scales" I drew, but now with their backs to you.
The "Dioon" name of these particular cycads is from the Greek, meaning "two egg", because the seeds come in pairs as you can see below. I have written about the wonderful ancient cycads and their bizarre pollination before here. They are amongst my very favourite plants at the Gardens and I really haven't given them as much attention as I should, mainly because of their size. I hope I can get a sketch of this one later this week.... kohlrabi permitting.
Furry Cycad Scales with Seeds
Both images, Pencil on cartridge paper, 8 x 8"