On the face of it, it seems implausible, I know. But if mimosa plants have long term memories, corn calls out for help, beans search for a supportive pole and tomatoes are flesh eaters, it is possible that my free will has been stolen by the extended ginger family.
When we moved into our place, it was a ginger-rich environment. The front yard had a two metre perimeter wall of shell ginger, the perfect height to conceal the neighbours and our decaying garden fence without blocking the light (or should I say, any more of the light). Its flowers are a homage to Georgia O’Keefe: I feel faintly prurient just looking at these close-ups.
Meanwhile, lingering in the backyard was a much more nefarious member of the family – kahili ginger (aka ginger lily) – producing tall red and yellow blooms and strapping leaves even deep shade and impoverished Hawkesbury soil.
According to the Queensland government, this one lives for 70 years and is “known to invade rainforests, montane forests, agricultural areas, coastland, disturbed areas, natural forests, planted forests, range/grasslands, riparian corridors, scrub/shrublands, urban areas and wetlands.” I’m struggling to think of a habitat not listed there. It may possibly fail to flourish if planted directly on a glacier, but given its origins in Nepal that might be risky too.
You know a weed’s a baddie when official websites entreat you, in red block capitals, to call them immediately if you even suspect you’ve seen it (local rates Australia wide). This one’s in the global “hottest 100” thanks to bird dispersal of seeds and a capacity to survive in deep shade. There’s none left to photograph in my backyard, needless to say – it wasn’t too hard to excavate, given time and a sharp spade, although the NSW Primary Industries reckons it can develop a layer of rhizomes a metre deep.
But I still feel like a criminal: so far I haven’t dobbed in my local primary school to the NSW Invasive Plants and Animals hotline, or the suburban house on my walk to work which displays this Category 3 weed proudly out by its front drive.
Strangely, after all the time I spent removing weedy gingers from the yard, I now find more and more members of the Zingiberacae family appearing, as if by delivered by some unknown hand, around the back door.
First it was tumeric and galangal, “for their edible roots“. Yet curiously, three years down the track, I’ve yet to dig up a single rhizome. They’re just too pretty. Is that me, or my Ginger Overlords talking?
Suddenly, leaving no conscious memory of the deployment of a credit card, Atherton ginger, the good-looking redback kind, started appearing all over the place. It’s okay, I tell myself, it’s edible and a native too – with tart but tasty fruits and ginger-flavoured leaves to wrap your tucker in for an extra zing. Not that I’ve laid a hand on a single, lovely leaf, for snack-wrapping or any other purpose. Funny that.
And now, not a week goes by when I don’t find another relative of the ginger family loitering in the undergrowth. Alpinia caerula, the local variety. Cardamom ginger… smelling more suppurating than spicy. Zingiber officianale, good old-fashioned definitive ginger ginger, lurking under the bananas and the monstera deliciosa, a dessert just waiting to happen.
To the best of my knowledge (at least in my waking hours) I haven’t yet planted anything you can get arrested for supplying to a garden centre. But it’s possible one of these days I’ll be found stumbling around under the tamarillo tree in my nightie, raving about the marvellous yellow flowers of Hedychium flavescens and cursing the shallow minds of Australia’s biosecurity fascists with their inability to appreciate the full glory of the gingers.
And when that happens, you know the number to call: NSW Invasive Plants & Animals Enquiry Line 1800 680 244. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org