The Euphorbia, Trust Me!
Now and then in my now-long life, I am keenly reminded that I’m … from the Bronx. I mean, who in the Bronx ever heard of “The Euphorbia?” It sounds like a Greek play. These days, they might ship these evil little growths from the southwest, just to pique curiosity, and maybe you’re ‘way ahead of me already. But, I doubt it.
Walking young Fen around the ‘hood, musing and mulling over how to fashion this column around, heaven help us, Donald Trump, I stooped to pick one of my favorite cacti: simple, strong, three-pronged, deep orange, fabulous décor, long-lasting, ahh, yes. Normal walking-the-dog-while-mulling behavior.
I haven’t been able to fashion any sensible reason for what I did next: idly touching – for no more than a second – the tiny end of the broken stem to my tongue. Test the taste? See if it dripped? Who knows!
A block later, I felt an odd tingling in my tongue. Ignored that. Nothing resonated. Got home. The odd tingling traveled to the back of my throat. Several minutes more. “Odd tingling” was no tingling any longer. Supreme, fiery mouth, throat on fire. Odd? What’s happenin’ here, man? Dizzy. Fire careening to my lungs.
So, how many words does publisher Patty give me for this column?
Obviously, I lived to tell it, but it took a night and a day. And it took that, too, to connect the experience to “The Euphorbia” – – or, familiarly, the “Pencil Plant,” by then, serenely, innocently occupying a choice vase atop the shelf, never once letting us in on its evil character, and surely, no apology.
Here’s a bit of the Google search, and its warning: Beware of the Pencil Cactus – forums.gardenweb.com › Garden Forums › Cacti & Succulents. Anyone who has or may want to buy a so called pencil cactus ( really a Euphorbia). … This plant is toxic and you can go blind if, for instance, you get the sap in your eyes…etc.
Doesn’t say anything about one’s tongue, but still: see if I ever taste a stem, again.
I guess the Pencil Plant’s “toxicity” and bright orange hue do remind me of The Donald, but that’s a subject for another column.