The Versatility of a Determined Plant

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

“It’s so pretty!” I said to my dad last weekend as we lazed on a couch in the living room on a quiet Saturday evening. The TV was turned on; the sound of whatever program Dad was watching providing shapeless sound for all the attention I was paying to it.

“What is?” he asked me.

I pointed outside and told him I was talking about the Turk’s cap bush he had planted in the corner of the front yard, near a lily plant that occasionally sprouts vibrant fire engine red blooms. Both plants had been given as gifts to my mom.

The Turk’s cap came from me — I gave it to her on Mother’s Day some years back. I’d bought it from a local nursery. Back then, it was a wisp of a plant. A half-gallon pot with a single gangly stem with thin leaves sprouting here and there along its length. I don’t even think it had any blooms, but I can’t quite remember.

Initially, Dad planted it inside a brick planter box that lies at the base of the wide picture window just outside the living room. The box has often been home to vinca, miniature roses, and other colorful flowering plants. But, with the exception of the vinca, not many do well. Perhaps its eastern exposure means the tiny little creatures simply don’t get enough light to flourish in that spot.

The same held true for the Turk’s cap. Planted at the far corner of the box, it grew taller and gained leaves, but something about it looked off — a look of unrealized potential. Ultimately, Dad dug it up and transplanted it to the corner of the yard, where it would get all the morning’s sunshine and some of those long afternoon rays, too.

You wouldn’t recognize the happy little plant now. Several long stems stretch up triumphantly from a thick base. A cacophony of vibrant, verdant leaves sway in the breeze. And everywhere are the bright crimson flowers with their tightly furled petals from which the plant gets its namesake — they have an uncanny similarity with the turbans worn in certain parts of the world.

At the very tops of the delicate flowers, equally red stamens peek through narrow openings in the petals.

The plant is simply magnificent. From the one, thin streamer of a stem it began with, now the plant is spread out above a patch of grass at least 3-4 feet across.

I eagerly asked my dad if the flowers have been attracting butterflies as I had hoped it would. Apparently it’s been attracting all sorts of creatures eager for a drink of nectar from one of the dozens of blooms. All manner of pollinating insect.

Mom — who has long hung multiple hummingbird feeders from the eaves around the house, and from the sturdier boughs of the trees in the yard — said hummingbirds have also taken a shine to the Turk’s cap’s blooms. They flit about and perform their precision aerobatics while dining from the flowers.

Every time I see the “little” Turk’s cap I can’t help but smile, happy to see such a determined plant flourishing with abandon.

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