Human Flower Project
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Woodrose—A Lust for Dryness
Where the land and sky are lush, people hanker for the brown beauty of merremia pods.
Woodrose pods, eucalyptus, shells, and dried palm—
wall decoration for a soggy climate
Photo: Maui Dried Flowers
The restless human heart weighs down one end of a seesaw: angry, lusty, afraid or just lonely. On the other side, if we’re wise, we put flowers, choosing them carefully to balance each emotional circumstance.
For the wedding, white roses and stephanotis soothe the blushing, feverish bride. In times of bereavement, great flowering cascades on easels and lily fragrance fill the void.
Woodrose (Merrimia tuberosa)
at an Assam tea house, India
Photo: Sandy Ao
Thanks to Sandy Ao, our friend in Calcutta, we have learned of another compensatory bloom—the woodrose—beloved as a dried flower in some of the wettest corners of the world. Like Northeast India. Sandy recently visited Assam. At a tea house there, she came upon woodrose pods. “People from the North Eastern part of India love these dried pods… like Pine, Lotus, woodrose and what ever. We have a lot of dried seed pods being used for decorations.”
The botanical name for woodrose is Merremia tuberosa. “It’s a creeper that grows in the climate of Assam,” Sandy writes, “a wild plant. I think it’s morning glory family.” And you think right, dear friend. “No one cares for the flower, but the merchants collect the pods and sell them in the market for money,” 2 rupees apiece. Sandy adds, “the most horrible thing they usually do is painting these pods with silver paint or golden paint to suit the customers of Calcutta!!”
Adorned or unadorned, these rather stubby phallic shapes, mahogany brown, are not so attractive to a Central Texan. By the law of floral compensation, we who are nearly always fighting drought hanker for lilacs and peonies. But we can understand that in Assam, with its ‘Tropical Monsoon Rainforest Climate,’ odorlessness and the clacking of dried flower pods in a vase might be exotic—and a small source of relief. June is the peak of monsoon season in Assam. “Thunderstorms known as Bordoicila are frequent during the afternoons.” We imagine that dried woodroses are in great demand now!
Wayne Armstrong supplies more information about Merrimia tuberosa. The plant grows in hot, wet regions of the U.S. also—in Florida and parts of South Texas, California and Georgia. Though not botanically related, woodrose appears to be a sorority sister of kudzu, the sort of plant that can swallow small children and garages.
engulfs a fenceline
Pukalani, Maui, Hawaii
Photo: Forest and Kim Starr
The yellow flowering morning glory also grows wild, some would say rampantly, in Hawaii—visible here. As in Assam, Hawaiian flower arrangers seem especially fond of woodrose pods, combing them with dried heliconia and lotus, brown palm fronds and even shells for decorative table arrangements and wall swags.
After a day of perspiring in the tropics, maybe you’ve had it up to here with pink plumeria and greenery. Time to put a dozen woodroses in a vase, think arid thoughts.