Obsessive close encounters

August 11, 2008

An autopsy photo? A closeup of an alien’s skin? Or nature in all its bizarre beauty and symmetry?

Hint: I captured the image today at Hughes Water Garden south of Portland in Tualatin. Going there is my crack cocaine: the sound of running water and plants everywhere.

Remember the Richard Dreyfuss character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind who kept building replicas of Devils Tower in Wyoming? I’d like to be that way about building waterfalls and water features and decorating them with aquatic plants.

But what plant is in the photo?

A Victoria lily, native to the Amazon River and named for Queen Victoria. Some grow up to five feet in diameter and feature a three-inch-high lip. This specimen, upside down to show its elaborate skeletal structure, is outside the entrance of a greenhouse full of them. Entering is like venturing into another world, steamy and exotic.

And now step into the greenhouse. For a moment, I imagined bounding from one pad to another, with no fear of sinking.