The killer palm trees

One of my flatmates is a collector; she cannot resist the urge to bring home all sorts of stuff that is discarded at her workplace. (She works as a receptionist at an office building… lot of loot to find in this setting).

Last year –when she was only my girlfriend’s flatmate still, as I have not moved in yet- she appeared with the most bizarre requisition to date: four 5 foot tall palm trees. (Not really palm trees; those decorative plants that kind of look like palms.) The story behind them was quite interesting: one of her colleagues became convinced during his night shift that the plants are conspiring to kill him, and he acted first with extreme prejudice. He was absolutely sure that four large palms would consume enough oxygen during the night that he would suffocate –and as a pre-emptive strike, he uprooted them, and threw them onto the trashpile outside.

Our flatmate rescued the large plants (which, by the way, cost a LOT of money), and brought them home. We potted them, and put them into the kitchen, with a stern warning that if they ever just think about depleting the oxygen in the apartment, we’ll make them into kindle for the next bbq. This whole story was also a constant source of amusement, and we promptly named them “the killer palms”.

The weeks passed. You’d think the story ended in a happy ending, as the plants have found a new home with less paranoid and more knowledgeable mammalian caretakers, however, this was not yet over. Our flatmate has a very draconian way of dealing with plants; she hardly ever waters them, in case their roots rot from all the water. Apparently the plants are only fine if the soil in the plant has less water in it than the dust on the surface of the Moon. All of her plants have to endure this desert-training, not to mention a couple that have been banished into the anteroom, where there is no light whatsoever. They get the double whammy of no-light-no-water treatment. One palm was put outside (they took up a lot of room), and promptly died. It apparently was not equipped to deal with the British Spring, even though I’ve seen its kin in Norwich before covered with snow. Two others simply turned brown and died; probably gave up on life, as they were too addicted to water, and died of the withdrawal symptoms. (There were some heated discussions before when I watered some of my flatmate’s plants; she was accusing me of trying to kill them by rotting their roots.)

There’s only one of the killers left now; it’s sitting in the kitchen, which probably explains why it survived: it managed to get enough moisture from the air… It’s right by the dinner table, and it’s difficult to watch how dry the soil in the pot is. You can imagine all that suffering this plant has gone through over the last year… a seasoned veteran of adversity and hardship. So whenever I’m eating, and I know my flatmate is not going to be home for a couple of hours, I clandestinely share my water with it.

I like to think we have reached an understanding now. He will not try to kill us, and I’ll keep giving him water.


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