Shearing grief off a Ficus

There is this beautiful Fiddle Leaf Ficus in my home that wasn’t naturally meant to be a stand alone tree like how it’s ornamental use dictates. It is from the plant genus Ficus, of about 900 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines and epiphytes, many of which produce aerial support roots that hang from their branches. The leaves on my Ficus lyrata are fashioned into glossy green lyres, that were meant , I aver, to make synaesthetic music but are somehow tongue tied in the unnatural environs of the human abode.

This ability lends itself effortlessly to untamed naturalistic gardens or the wild woods that enliven the soul to bring to the brim atavistic instincts and raw emotions. On the other hand, in the indoor horticulture of modern life, this life force instigates a moral conundrum. In a world where we try to tug the woods indoors with our poor substitutes of ready to use, perfectly groomed box store plants, the day I take my shears to prune unwieldy leafy excess is where I encounter major frustrations.

I feel like my houseplant is weighted down by it’s own large leaves and in the absence of natural support, I have to prune in order to stimulate further leaf growth and bring about an increase in girth of it’s thin stem. Is it the lesson this hostage plant was meant to learn; to become a standalone tree instead of a collective of multitudinous aerial support roots? Was it meant to anthropomorphize human individuality instead of it’s tendency to a cooperative sum of disparate parts? I know I need to ask this question even though I silently urge it to defy it’s natural proclivities to suit my human expectations.

Another similar Ficus I am quite familiar with is the Banyan. I wonder at times why it is called the ‘wish fulfilling tree’ or the Kalpavriksha. The Banyan, in Hindu mythology, represents eternal life and is known as the tree of life in India. It starts as an epiphyte that grows on a host tree or in the crack of some disintegrating edifice, but a tree that can grow up to 30 metres in height and 200 metres in diameter achieves this distinction after its aerial prop roots grow in girth as they dig into the soil and eventually encircle the host plant and why it is sometimes called a strangling fig.

A grand tree is the Banyan, formed of a circle of trunks, a tree that is virtuously protective with a large spreading crown of foliage that provides shade, a bark that shelters the lac insect among many others and produces edible young shoots and leaves that can be used as famine food [1].

Pruning a houseplant became an exercise in contemplative perturbations . I leave you with a poem about a tree that stands atop a lone hill in my hometown.

Shearing grief off a Ficus

My brother,
Do you remember
how smoky haze,
often veiled
the chapel on the mount ?
Like gauzy wispy lace
shielding
Nani's fleeting beauty
as she lay waiting
to claim earth..
At dusk one day,
I walked about,
in that sepulchral space.
The Chapel on the Mount
The iron oxide
in the soft mud
caused it to bleed
a distinctive ichor,
I would like to think,
of our mountain gods,
a raw tint
of a bleeding heart.
There was a grand banyan,
isn't there always,
near the door to the place
where they kept
reminders of the crucifixion.
The Banyan Tree
This Ficus benghalensis,
had witnessed,
countless
stations of the cross.
And it sighed so,
like the penitent Dismas
crucified alongside Jesus.
The aerial roots propped up,
its grief stricken branches…
I have a Ficus lyrata
in the house,
mulched not in the certitude
of fertile laterite…
but something stamped organic,
measured to perfection.
There is nothing that can prop
it's heavy fiddle shaped leaves
when it gets weighted down,
with sorrow perhaps.
I only prune off
the inconvenient excess,
with a pair of practical shears,
between the internodes,
having covered the floor in tarp,
lest someone notices
it's silent sticky tears.

                                               ~ davina e. solomon

References:

[1] Kewscience: Plants of the world online – Ficus bengahlensis. (NA). Retrieved from-http://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:852482-1

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