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May 13, 2008 | Rachel Murray, Manager of Interpretation & Evaluation

To protect the innocent, I must omit the name of the involved party, in this case, a plant. A beautiful temptress of a plant. I was compelled to pull it close to my face to take a deep sniff of a gorgeous bloom. Alas, like so many beauties, there was no scent. But getting that close allowed me to see a glistening drop of nectar at the flower’s center, I just knew it was nectar - not as well as a butterfly, a bee, or a bird knows instinctively, but the temptation of the droplet was suddenly meant for me and my inner pollinator.

I turned to my companion and said “I really want to lick that flower, and it would be so inappropriate” (I was at work, after all!). Plus, the droplet truly was not made for my giant human tongue, but for the proboscis of something much tinier than me. So, I stuck my finger in and fearlessly tasted it. It was absolutely delicious- not just sweet, but floral and rich. I felt myself in a whole new level of communion with the plant, although if it had human emotions, it would probably be quite disappointed that I robbed nectar without pollinating in exchange.

Make no mistake, my behavior was very stupid, like so many things we do when we succumb to sudden whims. I’d like to say that I felt confident in my knowledge of plant biology and thus, was completely positive that I wouldn’t be poisoned; but that wouldn’t be entirely true. My inner nectar bat took over, just for a moment, and I guess even plant biologists can at times be incredibly rash. There is a whole discipline of nectar study called, rather appropriately, “Ambrosiology,” and scientists (ambrosiologists?) have found that nectar is “a lot more … than just sugar and water, including significant amounts of proteins, lipids, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins—and even toxins.”

I must say here that you may be surprised at how many plants are truly toxic, and as such, you should not taste anything in the Gardens. If you do so, you risk a numb or injured mouth, gastric distress, liver damage, rashes, and who knows what else. If you are a “taster” like me, visit the Sensory Garden - our free, public garden located just north of our main parking lot. Horticulturist Angie Andrade-Foster plants things that are meant to be enjoyed with all the senses, and there are often small signs up that say “Taste me!”


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