The Cactus Patch
Volume 6       March 2003      Number 3

Things Fall Apart - Again
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

In Feb. 2002 I wrote a depressing report. Now it is déjà vu all over again. We took our Hyundai in for brake repair and it stayed for further repair. Then the Citi Golf stopped dead and had to be pushed two blocks home one evening. (A loose distributor wire, but it left us car-less.) Next, a lightning storm knocked out the TV and blew down the phone line. Meanwhile at the museum, the server was down on the e-mail and for brief periods we had no air-conditioning (& the heat continued). The Hyundai broke down after its repair and the citi golf needed further repair.

We have finally had some decent rain and things are cooler. (Jeremy Burgess, a friend, was visiting his parents in Malawi & reported cyclones there. I said send some of the rain here and Bingo! We got it.) Repairs have been made and things are getting back to normal. The best news is that on 10th Feb. Phase I of the Botanic Garden was actually commissioned! Construction started on the 17th. We should have the old building restored as the visitors’ center, a café, public toilets, parking, fencing, paths etc. by the end of the year.

Also I've had a bit of luck in collecting. I found Piaranthus decipiens in flower near Molepolole and a huge Raphionacme burkei tuber (23 cm [7 in] across) just at the edge of Gaborone. (Unfortunately this was just after I gave a talk on Asclepiads at Mokolodi Nature Reserve.) A 25 cm (8 in) mushroom (Amenita foetida) came up in the Botanic Garden lawn.

We went to Mokolodi on Valentine’s day to hear our friend Kay Weir sing. The singing was good, but everything was late -- especially the food. On Sat. the 22nd our choir is singing at a benefit for the Lady Khama fund for the arts. (This is a memorial to Ruth Khama, widow of Botswana's 1st President; she died last year.)

I still managed to find plant references in odd places. In the novel Trevayne (Robert Ludlum, 1994, Harper/Collins, London) I came across the following: "You get older, things don't seem so complicated… Sheep don't survive in the desert; a cactus doesn't grow in a wet jungle. This Trevayne, he's in the wrong environment." I presume Ludlum knew of bighorns & epiphyllums and was being ironic as one of the themes of the book centers on the government mis- & dis- information of the 70’s. Another interesting item was the mention in Extraordinary Powers (Joseph Finders, 1993, Ballentine, N.Y.) of "…that wonderful invention, the Bulgarian umbrella, whose tip injects deadly ricin." Ricin has also been mentioned a few times on BBC TV (pronounced as "rice in") since it is one of the alleged weapons in Iraq. It is found in the seed of Ricinis communis, the castor oil plant. Fortunately, it is left behind when the oil is pressed out. (Though, like all medicines, castor oil can be bad in heavy doses.)

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