Thursday, May 18, 2006

The exotic sex life of lords and ladies

Hidden in the dark bottom of the hedge on the cut, strange sexual shenanigans are going on amidst the lords and ladies. Not the aristocracy. We have no real lords and ladies in the village any more though we used to have two sets before the war. (We also had the millionaire who invented Allan and Hanbury's Blackcurrant Pastilles in the third big house.)

No these are plants called Lords and Ladies or Cuckoo Pint. Both names refer to the penis like spike (Called "spadex" I think) that comes up as a shield for the flower. Cuckoo Pint because "pint" is short for "pintle" which was another name for penis. Lords and Ladies for the same sort of reasons. But all this was just the look of them, their method of reproduction is really pretty improbable. Flowers go to great length to avoid self fertilization and this is how Lords and Ladies do it.

At the base of the flower, one of the cells generates heat and the base of the flower is about 10 degrees hotter than the air outside. This generates the smell of rotten meat and along with the spots on the leaves attracts flies to come into the flower. Alas regardless of their doom the little victims play. They fly down into the flower brushing past the female part of the flower and down into the male pollen. No rotten meat at all just lots of pollen around the flies feet to prance about in while that delicious and deceptive mouldy meat smell drives them crazy with hunger. The plant can't release them until the female flowers have been polinated so they have to wait trapped by downward facing spikes.

Eventually a previously trapped fly brings male pollen to the female flowers and the downward spikes wither away to allow the trapped flies to escape and lured by more putrid meat smells go and fertilize another Lords and Ladies flower. When do the poor flies ever eat I wonder?.

You couldn't make it up, and I would take a big bet on it never working. But the lords and ladies come up regularly every spring and are bright with red berries in the autumn. Maybe they are secretly polinated by crazed botanists who want to keep this improbable myth alive. Seems a much more probable explanation to me.

Wether human Lords and Ladies really have a more exotic sex life than us commoners I don't know. Half of me hopes they do (what's the use of being so grand if you just have an ordinary sex life?). Half of me hopes they don't. Part of me hopes they hardly have a sex life at all. Here's a limerrick, often recited by Philip at the Friday sing song at the pub, which suggests this.

At dinner the Duchess of Bec Said "Everyone listen a sec, They've found a man's tool In the small swimming pool. So would all of you gentelmen check?"

On a similar subject there's a nice poem by John Suckling, the cavalier poet, about an aristocratic wedding which ends with the verse:

At length the candle's out, and now
All that they had not done they do;
What that is, who can tell?
But I believe it was no more
Than thou and I have done before
With Bridget and with Nell.
Here's the link.
It contains the nice lines
Her cheeks so rare a white was on,
No daisy makes comparison,
(Who sees them is undone),
For streaks of red were mingled there,
Such as are on a Catherine pear,
(The side that's next the sun).
There's two more nice poems there as well. Take a look.

While I'm droning on about poetry "Alas regardless of their doom the little victims play" comes from Gray's poem "On a distant prospect of Eton College". Seeing the doom of the Eton pupils was probably to become prime minister or something of the sort maybe they should have been more cheerful or maybe not. The poem also contains the line "Where ignorance is bliss tis folly to be wise". Here's the link.


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