The Kindred Spirits of Dalí’s Strange Flora

May 5, 2021 Kevin Williams , Manager of Horticulture

Salvador Dalí: Gardens of the Mind is now open, and in honor of this exhibition of fanciful botanical prints, we’re highlighting some plants from our living collections that could be kindred spirits with Dalí’s strange flora. Below, meet some plants that are as odd and humorous as any that sprang from the fertile soil of surrealism.

Lithops aucampiae (living stones)
Lithops, through their various stages of growth and life, hold a strange resemblance to dissociated human anatomy. Their surface texture can be brain-like, while the corresponding markings on their twin leaves evoke lung bronchioles. 

Codonopsis clematidea (bonnet bellflower) and Putoria calabrica (stinking madder)
The fragrances of Codonopsis and Putoria are chemical practical jokes—emanations more expected to come from the animal kingdom. Taking a sniff of Codonopsis will leave you with an unpleasant gassy smell, while the spoiled-milk scent of Putoria might make you want to puke.

Harpochloa falx ‘Compact Black’ (compact black caterpillar grass)
A seed head close to Dalí’s heart, or rather, face. The black wispy seed heads of this species are often compared to eyelashes or eyebrows, or maybe a mustache? In a speculative twist, perhaps Dalí’s famous facial hair was derived from this plant as an act of botanomorphism.

Dioscorea elephantipes (elephant’s foot)
From the cracked and craggy elephant-like base of this geophyte grows a delicate vine, a juxtaposition of strange contrasts worthy of any surrealist painting.


Salvador Dalí: Gardens of the Mind is organized in partnership with Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (Sarasota, FL) and The Dalí Museum (St. Petersburg, FL). RBC Wealth Management is the presenting sponsor of the Gardens' 2021 exhibitions.



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