The Cactus Patch
Volume 8       November 2005      Number 11

Giants & Pirates
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

After 2 1/2 years the orchid Eulophia latilabris which was collected in the Okavango has finally bloomed. It is a spectacular pinkish purple flower which occurs in large numbers on a yard high stalk. It has been put on display at the museum as the first "plant of the month". Its tiny relative E. hereroensis has also come into bloom and has been added to the display. It is a hardy orchid which grows in dry areas of Botswana.

Botswana went all out for Polly's birthday this year. (Actually Sept. 29th marks the last day of British rule. Independence resumed at midnight in 1966.)

The museum was all set to unveil giant statues of the three Dikgosi (chiefs) (Khama III, Sebele I and Batoen I) the next week, but the vice president insisted this be done on the 29th. (He is the great grandson of Khama III.) These three dikgosi went to England to plead against the threatened takeover of the Protectorate by Cecil Rhodes. Although they were popular in England, it is doubtful if the government would have listened to them. The abortive raid led by Leander Star Jameson (allegedly planned in the old building still being restored in our botanic garden) was probably the most important factor in preserving the protectorate. (But no one is planning a statue of him!)

The three dikgosi statues are so enormous a fire truck had to be brought in. I'm glad they didn't ask me to go up the ladder. I'm also glad our division was only involved in advising on indigenous plantings. (They got most of them right, although Aloe arborescens, Kalanchoe blossfeldiana and Sansevieria trifasciata are all exotics.) I didn't want to be involved directly because it has become a political issue since these three Dikgosi represent only the three largest groups of Tswana and not the smaller groups or non-Tswana minorities. They did, however, protect everyone by keeping Rhodes out.

On a lighter note, our choir produced "The Pirates of Penzance" by Gilbert & Sullivan on the 7th & 8th of October. (Polly & I were chorus members only.) To make the story more culturally relevant, our director David Slater wrote a narration ostensibly by "Mma Ramotswe" the heroine of "The 1st Lady Detective Agency". Alexander McCall Smith, the author of the lady detective series gave his support and the part was magnificently done by Prof. Sheila Tlou, the Minister of Health. (We all seem to be multi-talented here!) We also had two pianists and a number of local soloists to bring it off. It was a hit.

At long last my "Cucumber Family in Botswana" has been published. I submitted it four years ago for inclusion in the Botswana Notes & Records. They eventually decided it was too long and have printed it as a separate booklet. It is horrible. It abounds in typographical errors and the line drawings are not well computerized. None-the-less, I am glad it is done. I shall, however, seek another publisher in the future. I will bring a number of copies to California in December and will sell them for $10 each. Unfortunately not all of the Cucurbits are succulent, but there are a sufficient number with caudexes and tubers to be of interest to succulent collectors.

Eulophia latilabris

Unveiling the 3 dikgosi

Finale of "Pirates" - Bruce in left & Polly with "big bird"

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