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Plantgasm - I love plants too much. By Derek Powazek.

The Devil Made Me Do It

The Devil’s Hand (aka Chiranthodendron pentadactylon) is my new favorite tree. And luckily, there’s one blooming in the San Francisco Botanical Garden right now.

devil's hand tree

Those red fingers are actually flower stamens, and each has two lines of yellow pollen. When the flowers are done, they fall around the tree, looking like a pile of dismembered hands with claws. No wonder the Aztecs are said to have revered the tree.

devil's hand tree pod

If the flowers are fertilized, they form brown, fuzzy seed pods. These guys are tough – there’s no way you can open one with your bare hands. When they’re ready, they open to drop tiny (2mm) black seeds.

devil's hand tree seeds

The Devil’s Hand Tree is native to South American cloud forests, so they do pretty well here in San Francisco. Unfortunately for me, the trees get huge (60 feet tall, 30 feet wide) which is much too large for my tiny city yard. Of course, that didn’t stop me from planting some of the seeds that accidentally fell into my pocket. The Devil made me do it.

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1 Response

i gathered some of the red bits from the ground last year and wrapped them in a cloth bundle
they made rather a nice colour on the silk. thanks for sharing background information on the plant

Posted by indiana on 20 September 2011 @ 2pm


Plantgasm is where Derek Powazek chronicles his botanical antics and misadventures. More.