3/23/08

Cantua buxifolia

I was at Annie's Annuals shopping for my client this morning (I'm a regular there now--I've been back three times since my first visit). Today I noticed Cantua buxifolia, "Sacred Flower of the Incas" with its long arching stems weighed down with tubular red flowers. I'd never seen it before and I bought two--one for the client, and one for me. Anyhow, I'm running Google searches on the plant name and found this absurd Inca legend, translated from a French source, on Wikipedia:
The Inca legend associated with the Cantuta is the tale of two kings named Illimani and Illampu, and their sons. Both kings were powerful and wealthy rulers of a vast country in the Kollasuyo region (today's Bolivian Altiplano), and both had a son they and their people held in great esteem. But as time passed, the kings became irritated at each other's prosperity, and eventually one of them attacked the other.

During the battle, both kings were mortally wounded by their counterpart, and were carried away. On their dying bed, both called their son and had them make the vow to avenge them, even if both sons were opposed to the war in the first place. Bound by their pledge, they prepared and led a second war even though they held no grudge against each other. History repeated, and both sons inflicted a fatal wound to the other.

But instead of harsh words, they generously forgave each other, and asked that their servants place them side by side on the green grass of the battlefield. Then appeared Pachamama, Goddess of Fertility, who told the young kings before they died that they shouldn't have suffered from their father's unjustified enmity. To punish their dead fathers, their stars fell from the sky, and became the snow covered mountains still named Illimani and Illampu, which are the highest peaks in the region.

The rivers of their snow slowly melting are their tears of regret, and fertilized the valleys. The Cantuta bloomed as a symbol of the people's unity, and bear the two colours of the king's sons (red and yellow), as well as green (standing for hope).
Plant legends crack me up. I just wanted to share.

This is the picture from Wikipedia:

Kantutas_Taquile

6 comments:

Gardener of La Mancha said...

And I thought you avoided red flowers...

chuck b. said...

It's true! Except for Epilobium, Keckiella, Aquilegia formosa (which combines red with yellow--absolutely my most hated color pairing), and scarlet flax (excellent with Calif. poppy). And now Cantua.

mmw said...

You can have a cutting of my yellow one.

chuck b. said...

Mmm, I'd love one.

Do you have to stake it?

lisa said...

I was just going to ask where the yellow is on the flower...duh.

Terra Hangen said...

I am going to post about my gorgeous cantua plants on my blog, and found your post today.
My two bushes are each 6 feet tall, and loaded with brilliant red flowers on the tips of gracefully arching branches.
In answer to do they need to be staked, asked by one of your commenters, No. Mine are not staked.
Terra at terragarden.blogspot.com