Nature's toys


POSTED: Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Back in my hanabata days (the '90s for some of you), there was always some new super-duper-mega-amazing-transforming-ultra toy that I had to have.

My interest with these toys would last for about 30 seconds before either: a) I broke it, or b) a TV commercial showing a new, upgraded super- duper-mega-amazing-transforming-ultra toy stole my attention. Either way, my “;old”; new toy would be stuffed into a box of other old toys and left in some forgotten area of my closet, never again to see the light of day.

Bet this scenario sounds familiar to a lot of you, doesn't it?

Now, I don't know if my dad did this because he just couldn't stand to shell out more money for another super-duper-will-be-forgotten-and-thrown-away-in-a-week toy or if he was really trying to imprint an important life lesson on my adolescent brain, but one day he introduced me to the African tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata, for you scientific types).

We were on a hike when Dad found a tree with bright orange flowers and picked up a greenish-brown flower bud and a brown seedpod. He split the pod open and pulled out an innocuous little seed.

“;Check this out,”; he said, and with a flick of his fingers, sent the seed whirling into the air. When it fell to the ground, he took the two pieces of the pod and sent the boat-shaped halves traveling down a stream. My eyes grew wide in amazement.

Before I even got the chance to ask for a turn, he squeezed the flower bud and squirted water on me.

I didn't even care that I was soaking wet — this amazing plant could fly, turn into a boat, and was a water pistol, too! None of my super-duper-mega-amazing-transforming-ultra toys could do that!

Moral of the story: Sometimes the best things in life really are free — and African tulip trees are awesome.