Cool Green Gardens

When the Fig Leaf Falls, Sensuous Forms Appears

Photo/Illustration: Billy Goodnick
Billy Goodnick
Photo/Illustration: Billy Goodnick
Photo/Illustration: Billy Goodnick
Photo/Illustration: Billy Goodnick
Billy Goodnick
Photo/Illustration: Billy Goodnick
Photo/Illustration: Billy Goodnick

I enjoy being a garden writer. But sometimes I long to create something that gets readers all hot and bothered the old fashion way, with some sexy, steamy heat.

Today I got my inspiration. While walking Biff the Wonder Spaniel, I espied a flagrant act of botanical erotica. As I scrambled to capture this public display on my camera, images of tattered, torrid romance novels cartwheeled past my mind’s eye.

You know, like the paperbacks with the square jawed hero, blond hair blowing Favio-like, poofy pirate shirt ripped to the navel. And always the ravaged, redhead damsel nearly collapsed in his sinewy, suntanned arms.

Hot Enough To Fry An Eggplant

But in my version, it gets a bit kinkier – how about we try a little inter-genus action? Like what happens when a member of the Moraceae (mulberry) family and another from Palmaceae (Palm) get their mojos workin’.

How to grab the reader?  I know…

Chapter One

Her smooth milky white limbs encased his torso, tightly wrapping him in a cocoon of passion…

Good start. Somebody turn on a fan.

What About The Children?

Shucks and darn! This is a PG-13 blog, so let’s cool the jets and get back to some good old everyday garden writing.

Here’s a thought: Wouldn’t it be interesting if the classic sculptures in museums had deciduous fig leaves?

Seems we’re in luck in Santa Barbara at the intersection of Anacapa and Arrellaga Streets. (Oh, like you don’t have any weird street names where YOU live?). What you see here is an oddity of horticulture that only fully reveals itself during what passes for winter where I live.



The more amorous half of this lovely couple is Ficus carica — common fig, minus the Newton. The tree appears to have sprouted by accident at the base of Butia capitata (pindo palm or jelly palm). The part I don’t get is how things progressed from that humble beginning into this odd octopus of an arrangement.

The roots are firmly anchored in the lawn on the warm, south side of the palm. Then it begins to spiral around the trunk counterclockwise.



Over on the west-facing side, it still looks sort of normal, if you ignore that one plant has a death grip on the other. Two sizeable branches spread up and away from a central trunk to form the canopy. Looks kinda like a deranged reindeer to me.




But back around on the east and north sides all hell is breaking loose. The outspread “appendages” don’t appear to be branches and they don’t look like roots either. No sign of buds or leaves or root hairs.




This is also where the muscular and graceful human-like forms reveal themselves. Like an Escher drawing, it’s hard to tell which way is up. I see a person leaning against a column, head tucked away, multiple arms wrapping down around the larger form, exhausted, nearly collapsing.

My wife, Lin, interpreted it as if it were a hanging trapeze artist, legs holding onto the trunk, body arcing to the side, arms reaching into the earth.

What do you see? Do you have anything to top this where you live? I’m guessing that if you look hard enough, there are some pretty interesting scenes being acted out in the bushes.

That’s it for me. There are some puffy clouds drifting overhead this afternoon. A want to see if my right brain is still “in the zone.”

View Comments


  1. ShirleyBovshow 01/05/2010

    Gonna need a cigarette after reading this blog post.

    Where's my fan, it's getting hot in here.

    What do I see?

    I see a garden writer with a crossover career as a "horti-erotic" writer!

    Shirley Bovshow

  2. DebraLee 01/06/2010

    I see a palm that wishes the fig were a rubber tree.

  3. Germi 01/06/2010

    I see the grasp not as a passionate lover's embrace, but the death grip of H.R Gieger's Alien monster as it punches it's secondary mouth through the trunk of it's victim!
    Not that it isn't erotic - things can get VERY kinky in the world of Hort-Smut!

  4. katesmudges 01/06/2010

    Oh gosh, where to begin? The first thing that comes to mind are flying pigs of the sleek white variety. Will need to look closer here ~ under all the snow, I'm sure there are many clandestine trysts forming. Wonderful post, BG!

  5. SteveA 01/06/2010

    I would expect this kind of thing to happen in California.

  6. PureManureTea 01/06/2010

    Wow, now that I've recovered, brewed some tea and watered down my plants, what a story!

    I would say, as is in most older homes, the garden had been over grown for years and what we are seeing now was once searching for sun. Glad they saved it and that you took the time to share it with us! Cheers

  7. JamesA_S 01/07/2010

    I know I'm British and you lot over there believe that we are all frightfully repressed but.... that is not even faintly erotic and instead really rather spooky and disturbing.
    It looks as if the intestines of an eviscerated palm tree are spilling onto the floor.
    Most unsavoury!

  8. plantnutsSB 01/11/2010

    This passionate pairing actually began with a bird carried seed from a fig, most likely from Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden one block East of the Arellaga St. Anacapa St. corner. I have watched it over the past 16 years as the Fig has grown from a seedling in a pocket 4ft up on the North side of the Pindo Palm. The fig was able to grow to 3ft tall before it sent rootlets searching the palm trunk for more water and nutrients. A root reached the ground after several years and the fig spread its branches South and West seeking the sun. It began to produce tasty figs as it reached out over the Arellaga St. sidewalk. The fig has been pruned back to a more vertical shape recently.
    I took cuttings from the fig in 2006. I gave them the name "Anacapa Fig". I shared 1 gal. plants and some cuttings with a friend who belongs to the Calif. Rare Fruit Growers who shared them with "Figs For Fun" website and they have tentativly added "Anacapa Fig" to their extensive colection.

  9. arleen_at_satori 01/12/2010

    This must be catching because I have one of these fig-palm "couplings" existing in my neck o' the woods. I'll send steamy pics your way.

  10. omasuzy 01/19/2010

    Susie One, I think its quite a wonder and would love to have a cutting as I am a fig lover and Two t he Brit needs to look closer This is a fig that has a love affair plain and simple.
    The Palm doesn't seem to mind and I love your story makes for good reading and funny since I need some funny at the moment. Billy can we get cutting? Peanuts SB make sense

  11. PatStribling 01/19/2010

    This is sex in the outdoors! Gosh, and here all these years I thought
    the Nursery and Plant Propagators I knew were quiet and, well, not
    outwardly sexy!! Perhaps inwardly seething with, well, whatever they
    seeth about, I'll have to go out and buy one of those bodice ripper novels.

    And for further tales of sex without any, male and
    female uhs, how about the one, single, lonely Sago in the park? If this is the
    place my husband and I toured before it was opened to the public, there
    was only a male Sago known. no females. Just think how lonely HE is with
    no mate!!
    I believe this was the garden willed to the town by a retired opera singer,
    that so? The Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden?

  12. sleepycreek 01/19/2010

    Maybe this fig is related to the Strangler Fig in the Amazon rainforest that is the only thing that can bring down the gigantic Brazilnut tree!

  13. plantnutsSB 02/01/2010

    Omasuzy, I have a few cuttings of the erotic fig. Please contact me at [email protected] and I'll send one (or two) your way.

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