Flowers for Christmas
ANNE HILTON Tuesday, November 21 2006
How many people actually read coffee table books from cover to cover rather than just leaf through the full colour photographs? That was the thought that occurred to me as I turned the pages of Emeritus Professor Julian Kenny’s superb coffee table book Flowers of Trinidad and Tobago.
Anyone picking up this book in bookstores must appreciate the full colour photographs of flowers most of us take for granted, or so small we scarcely notice them. However, there is much more to this coffee table book than pretty pictures. There is a wealth of information for those who would know more about the flowers that bloom in sun or in shade (or both), flowers that grow beside rivers and streams, flowers that grow on cliffs, on our savannahs and on the wetlands – and those that grow by the wayside.
One rarely thinks of sexual reproduction in connection with flowers – apart from the obvious: the birds and the bees, weddings and seductions. In the first chapter, Kenny gives us a brief description of the sex life of flowers, explains how they vary and why some blooms we look on as flowers – aren’t – as is the case with bougainvillea and maraval lilies in which the actual, real flowers are minute, microscopic. Reading this book also gave me, who has some pretensions to be a very amateur botanist, some surprising facts of life about the humble railway daisy.
The “Prof” highlights individual flowers in masses we admire, for example, in petrea arborea – petrea and in the yellow poui. It’s a humbling fact that we overlook those lovely, mostly native blooms flowering by the wayside as we inch our way to work in rush hour traffic jams. Kenny has given us food for thought, and a feast for the eyes in these unassuming roadside “weeds.” My personal favourites are the tiny, delicate, exquisite commelina erecta reproduced on page six, the railway daisy – a miniature version of the eurasian marguerite – and the magical star grass that can turn a neglected lawn or roadside verge into a field of stars . . .
Whether you want to know about the sex life of flowers (in fact they are all about sex and reproduction) or where to find our flowering wild plants or want a short, enjoyable course in botany, with particular reference, as the late Dr Eric Williams was so fond of saying, to flowers, you’ll find everything you want to know – and more – in this beautifully produced and bound book, Flowers of Trinidad and Tobago by Julian Kenny now available in all good bookstores throughout the nation.