The Subterranean Chestnut Worm

A patch of yellow pavement brought me to a halt. I froze. It was unmistakably pollen.

What luck! It takes some horticultural detective to spot grains of pollen on the dirty streets of Bogotá – helps that I keep a magnifying glass between my teeth and crawl everywhere.

Also helpful that it was a very large patch of pollen. Longer than a biro, and far wider (though considerably flatter.)


It was like finding lion scat in one’s hiking boot – the big-game-hunter in me awoke, I would find the flower responsible!

I looked up. Beyond the razor wire and before the clouds was an umbrella of Yarumo leaves.

Between the razor wire and the clouds

Unfortunately, the blossom which deposited the pollen was gone – no doubt squirrelled away by one of the garden bloggers who plague these streets. I would have to move further afield. Fortunately, I know the location of every Yarumo within half a mile of my apartment, one of my favourite games being to lead acquaintances past the massive things and casually enquire ‘do you know what family these trees are from?’

I crossed the Avenida Séptima and, fortified by petrol fumes, reached another Yarumo. This one a relatively small specimen, but still too big for a biro, so I placed a lamppost next to it for scale.

Lamppost for scale

I sniffed around the wall and buried myself in the ivy but found no evidence of sexual reproduction. It was time to move on.

The next Yarumo was too young to be thinking about flowers and fruit, but its shortness did allow me to get a picture of an emerging leaf. To me it looks like some vast subterranean worm has risen up to swallow a horse chestnut tree, though you may prefer other similes.

Subterranean worm swallows horse chestnut

Darting up to the Séptima and back down again I came to the specimen for which I had highest hopes. This tree likes to dangle the leaves it no longer requires from nearby power lines.

Old leaves

And what leaves they are. Here I use my shoe for scale.

Shoe for scale

And mighty leaves from mighty trees fall. Note how it dominates the pencil pine I placed beside it for scale.


The picture below is actually of the fruit and seeds of the Yarumo, and not of maggots eating a dead squid, as I had initially thought. Sufferers of trypophobia might want to look away, it’s pretty disgusting. Hundreds of thousands of seeds are here waiting to be disbursed by anything with a strong enough stomach.


The Yarumo is either male or female, and the presence of decaying fruit told me that there would be no pollen bearing flowers around here, this was a lady. I bit down hard on the stem of my magnifying glass and crawled off towards Parque el Virrey – playground of professional dog walkers and topless muscle men.

Here I at last found my flower – dead in a pool of its own pollen.

Dead in a pool of pollen

I fear that this is not one for the pressed flower collection, it would be like crushing a raw steak between the pages of Dear Diary. However, that is the beauty of being primarily wind pollinated. One does not have to worry about being attractive. Perhaps when test tubes and foetus banks have liberated human kind from the tyranny of sexual selection we too will be free to turn unhealthy shades of brown and exude strange yellow substances.

If anyone is still suffering from the fruit here is a colourful wall I spotted while crawling home.

Colour wall

In case you were wondering, Yarumo is part of the nettle family. Thanks for reading!