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For the love of pod (s)

One of my absolute obsessions over the years has been  my pod collection. It is one of the many agglomerations that is archived away in (all over) our house.  The act of gathering and the infallible planning that goes into each collection veers toward the fanatical, I do recognise this. When I was a child, I used to be filled with joy once I had more than one of something and I could declare it “a collection”! This led to another obsession with boxes, tins and jars, (which I also now collect!) which I filled with the usual (included but not limited to) – badges, erasers, mouse ornaments (yes, the sort of trinkets that a Granny would display on a knitted doily) DuranDuran ephemera, mushrooms/toadstools and bumble bees.

Yes, I started a bumble bee hospital when I was six or so, because I found 2 dead ones in the space of a few days. I am very sad to say, (and I have carried this dirty secret around for years) my mortality rates (as a Junior Bumble Physician) were close to – okay they were 100%. I lost every one, maybe the biscuit tin was not the right environment for a convalescing Bombus.

I always collected conkers, acorns, beechnuts etc when I was a kid and loved these treasures but my pod collection officially started some time 20 years ago or so. I think that I was in America somewhere, at a corporate gathering and I decided that because I had very little money, I would pick some seed pods as my souvenir. Anyway – this immediately became a collection as there were pods and not a pod and from there it has grown.

The colours on the Magnolia pod have faded – when I collected these, the slits opened to brightly coloured red-smartie type discs – you can see one still in place, in all it’s faded glory. Please look at my post on the Chelsea Physic Garden – and if you can, get down there to see this amazing tree in bud – it is like a tree full of nesting flamingos.

The variety of seeds contained in these beautiful cases are usually just as pretty and usually very bright when fresh, from now on I will photograph each pod as I collect it – although there are many beautiful blogs, well worth trawling through, where these have been very well documented.

The Bottle Tree seed cases are filled with the most beautiful mustard flower yellow seeds, absolutely crammed in to bursting.

I collected these beauties when I was in Kwazulu Natal 7 years ago, I was so chuffed to find out that they are also an important plant in Ayurveda. Caraka has a whole Chapter (III) in Vol One dedicated to the wonderful properties of Āragvadhā.

I have been known to have pod envy; we moved to Shoreditch in 1994. We lived in a beautiful old warehouse in Fanshaw Street and one of our neighbours was a wonderfully eccentric carpenter and picture framer. He must have identified me as a fellow collector, because one evening he bought his Brazil nut pod round to show me. His Great Grandfather had been a botanist and had bought it back from well, Brazil I guess. Anyway – it had been passed to him and I was so in awe of that nutcase (the Brazil I mean). I begged the universe to send me one, I knew I would get one – and don’t you know, I found it in the Covent Garden antique market five years ago, or rather it presented itself to me.

To give an idea of scale, this is slightly larger than an Ostrich egg and you can hear  the Brazil nuts inside rattling around – I have been told that you are not allowed to bring these into UK like this any more, as spiders nest inside and lay thousands of eggs! Not sure is this is true, but I have only ever seen two – Henry’s and this one!

So – I am not even a quarter of the way through, however, I will leave some for another day and will close with an image of one that we all see regularly, but should not think of as normal, by any means. These are beautiful when they are on the trees in Autumn, as a humble pot of something beautiful to collect dust on the shelf –  and a great way fora kid to start a (free) collection!

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