Sunday, October 3, 2010

Week of the Triffids: Celosia (Brain Flower)

You thought I was going to start with the Venus's flytrap, didn't you? I will get to those (after all, I've handled them), but let's talk flowers first.

Flowers are a plant's way of reproducing. They attract insects and small birds to pollinate them. Once the male pollen reaches a female ovum, the plant starts producing seeds. The cycle begins again when the seeds fall into the ground and take root. Hooray for basic biology.

Go figure, some flowers look really weird.

Celosias, although not carnivorous plants by any means, look pretty trippy without getting into specifics. They come in a lot of really bright colors and have forms to match, making them resemble something out of a drug trip. They are often called 'cockscomb' flowers for their frilly, sometimes feathery edges.

Umm...'cockscomb?' Really? That does not look much like a rooster's head to me. There are about a million things wrong with that sentence according to my perverted mind, but I think Celosia cristata resembles something far more unsettling:

Just admit it: Florists are trying to make one of the creepiest, trippiest-looking flowers sound tame. "Brain flower" is far more marketable, especially around this time of the year. Coming in gold, hot pink, blood red and other fiery colors, they would make great decorations for Halloween. (They are usually in season until late November and produce a TON of seeds.)

People actually eat some varieties of celosia. I am unsure if these brain flowers are on the list, but they are non-toxic; you can make jokes about eating brains until the cows come home (and eat your flowers). They are closely related to amaranths and are used similarly in cooking, especially in Nigeria, India and Indonesia. If you do not like the taste of spinach, you will probably not like celosia.

The brain flower is also fairly popular in Chinese horticulture. Small wonder that one wound up in a Japanese music video. Other celosias also look pretty cool - this one looks like it could have been in The Little Mermaid - but few of them are this weird.

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