Secret pea business
One day, I’ll catch out my pea plants. Just when they think I’m not looking, they’ll stretch their tendrils, coil them around the nearest support and use that tension to hoist the plant upwards.
My seedlings will grow towards the sky, right before my eyes. It’ll be a reward for all the hard work preparing the soil, watering, weeding and waiting.
My pea plants, though, have different ideas.
Their tendrils – the thin, wiry filaments that are really modified leaves – might wave in the breeze. But I’ve never caught them latching onto a support, let alone coiling around it. They must wait for me to fall asleep at night or leave the house. Only then do they go about their secret pea business.
I’m not the only one with a fascination for tendrils.
Charles Darwin had a thing about them too. His observations led him to publish his 1865 essay ‘On the movements and habits of climbing plants’ in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.
There he wrote how a plant:
“first places its tendrils ready for action, as a polypus places its tentacula”.
I look up polypus and tentacula, because perhaps like you, I have no idea what they mean.
It seems that Darwin was likening the way plant tendrils wave around ‘looking’ for a support to the tentacles of a sea creature ‘looking’ for prey.
I’m transported to a world of sea creatures, to the mythical world of Kraken, to monstrous giant squid in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Then, I note the alliteration and the poetic quality of Darwin’s polypus and tentacula. I want to say the words again and again. Polypus, tentacula. You try it.
Back in my garden, almost 150 years after Darwin wrote his essay, I sit there with a cuppa, willing my pea tendrils to latch onto something. Yet, I’m no closer to catching them out.
Is it just me? Or do you also think that one day, you’ll see your plants grow right before your eyes?