A refreshing spring break

by Lorien E. Menhennett

Last week was my much-welcomed spring break. I spent a few days of it in Chicago visiting my much-missed family. As usual, we talked, laughed, played games, watched movies, ate wonderful food, and drank beer and sparkling wine (not simultaneously, of course).

I also made a trek back to the Garfield Park Conservatory. I’ve been visiting this gigantic, tropical greenhouse since before I can remember, and posted about my time there at Christmas. One reason I love Garfield Park is that every time I go, I discover something new. Sometimes, it’s at a seasonal flower show. Other times, I come across something that’s always been there and I simply see it in a new way. Both happened during this most recent visit.

When I went last Friday, the spring flower show was underway. I’ve never seen such vibrant azaleas or Persian buttercups.

Brilliant azaleas at the Garfield Park Conservatory’s spring flower show.

In the fern room, a childhood favorite for games of hide-and-seek, I noticed unusual patterns of fern spores. Usually, fern spores aggregate in little round, brown balls that line the underside of the leaves. But I discovered that they arrange themselves in other beautiful ways — in straight lines and in zig-zags, for example.

Schismatoglottis — parasite or plant?

Part of how you see things depends on your perspective. And I was looking at the plants as a medical student. So when I saw a plant called Schismatoglottis (pictured at left), I immediately thought the placard read “Schistosomiasis” — a nasty parasitic worm you contract by exposure to infected water.

And looking at the miniature silver nerve plant, I had flashbacks to our brain and behavior unit last fall. The veins in the leaves do bear resemblance to axons and dendrites.

Miniature silver nerve plant

I found unexpected humor at the conservatory too. In the same room where my sisters and I had run amok as kids, I saw this gardener’s bin. I’m glad to see childhood playfulness is still welcomed — even encouraged.

And now, after such a refreshing spring break, it’s time to get ready for my next clerkship: primary care.

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