When I was a young boy, I was always tripping. Didn’t matter what I was walking on or what kind of shoes I had on, or no shoes. If I walked more than ten steps, I was going to trip. I had bruised knees, torn jeans (my wise old grandmother despised torn jeans), bloody elbows and hands….
My youngest uncle (still living at home and going to college) used to blame my tripping on my feet…. feet and tripping…. Hmmm. Logical…. He was reading “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” at the time, and one of the illustrations in the book was of Ichabod Crane, a tall, gangly man with huge feet. He took to calling me Ichabod Crane because of my tall (6’3″), skinny body (150 pounds), and my huge feet (size 11). What my uncle did to me might be considered verbal abuse in today’s world, but I survived.
My wise old grandmother blamed my tripping on me not looking at where I was going. She would always say, “Pick up your feet! Get your nose out of the air! Look down to see what you’re about to step on! It might be a rattlesnake!”
Alas, I have solved the tripping problem by picking up my feet and looking down to see what I was about to step on.
However, when I’m out and about, like at the Zoo or SeaWorld, I do like to look up often to see what’s above me, what’s sitting in the tree and about to poop on me. The fun part about doing that is that if you stand there long enough looking up, people will gather round you and look up, too. They don’t want to miss anything! If only I could train a bird to sit up there and wait until everyone is looking up and then, when I look down, let go….!
The other day I was at SeaWorld. I looked up and saw a huge (probably size 11) cotton ball hanging in the tree:
That’s a seed pod of the silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa). I was quite familiar with the silk floss tree’s flowers but had never seen its seed pods, especially bursting open with cotton like that.
I stood there gazing upward and took a few more pictures of the seed pods in different stages of growth:
By the time I finished snapping my pictures, I had a crowd of about 15 or 20 people standing around me looking up to see what kind of animal (at SeaWorld!) was up in the tree that I was taking pictures of. One lady asked me and I told her, “Just the tree and the huge seed pods.” At that point, everyone left in disappointment. Folks, it’s okay to appreciate flora at a fauna park, or fauna at a botanical garden!
Here is the flower of the silk floss tree:
The flowers look similar to some orchids, and I have heard it called an orchid tree although I could find no sources that use that name. Maybe it’s just a San Diego thing.
The silk floss tree is native to South America. It is drought resistant (which explains why we have lots of them here in San Diego) but grows very rapidly, even in spurts, when water is plentiful. The trunk of the tree has huge (probably size 11) thorns on it which store water for those droughts:
At the entrance to the San Diego Zoo, just to the left of Flamingo Lagoon, is a huge (way bigger than size 11) silk floss tree that looks really strange during the winter when there are no leaves or flowers, just a tree full of seed pods, looking like this:
If you really want to have some fun with people and this tree, skip Flamingo Lagoon and go stand under this tree and look up. In the afternoon when the Zoo is really busy, you can get a hundred or more people standing around you looking up. It’s a lot of fun!
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