C. P. Belliappa's Column

Sweet & sour: A flower by any name?

A Flower by Any Name

(By: C.P. Belliappa)

A little more than a decade ago I had been to Madurai and visited a friend’s factory. He is an avid collector of exotic plants and had a veritable collection of rare flora from all over the tropical world. One of the creepers that attracted my attention had a blossom which resembled a duck. He explained that it was a rare pitcher plant which was discovered just a few years ago in the island of Borneo. I requested my friend for a seedling. He readily agreed, and had a few packed and put in my car.

After about six months the creeper grew robustly on the chain-link fence in front of our house here in Coorg, and soon we had duck-flowers galore. The unique flower soon became an attraction for the guests who dropped by. Adults found it unique, and children squealed how cute the flower was. It was a good conversation starter, and no one missed it while visiting us. The seeds too were quite extraordinary. After the flower dried, the pod opened, and it resembled a small basket with the seeds inside. Many eagerly took the seeds to raise them in their gardens.

Around the beginning of 2010 we had guests – a couple from Ahmedabad. The lady fell head-over-heels for the duck-flower. She kept saying she had not seen anything like that before. They took several photographs and before leaving wanted to know if the creeper would come up in Ahmedabad. ‘No harm trying,’ I said, and gave a whole lot of the seeds in their little baskets crafted by nature.

About a month ago I received an excited e-mail from the lady to say that the first batch of duck-flowers had bloomed in her garden. She was very much thrilled that her garden had become talk of Ahmedabad after news of this rare flower spread in the city. However, she had a query. A botanist had visited her garden and wanted to know the botanical name of the duck-flower.

I had absolutely no clue as to what the botanical name of this flower was. On the spur of the moment a rather wicked thought crossed my mind – ‘Why not name the flower after myself?’ After much juggling of my grey cells a name emerged – bellidukindiflora!

I shot off an e-mail to the lady, and very authoritatively gave her the ‘scientific name’ of the duck-flower as: bellidukindiflora.

In her reply, she profusely thanked me and said she would pass it on to the botanist.

I completely forgot about this until I received an e-mail a couple of days ago. The botanist had challenged her about the name. The lady now wanted to know if I could give references so that the botanist could be convinced!

I was in a fix! I finally came to the conclusion that I better spill the beans. I confessed my guilt and admitted that I have been a bad person! She has written back to say that I am not only bad but also horrid; in addition to being an egomaniac!

Anyway, I am quite impressed with myself for coining an authentic sounding name for a rare flower! It could well be adopted if the duck-flower has not been given a botanical name as of now.