Plants 365, week 18

Currently in Belize! Week 18. Missed some of Plants 365 and want to catch up? I recommend starting from the beginning with week 1.


Hi! I’m Jenn – botanist, CEO, potty mouth.

This is my “plant diary”, where every day for the entire year I will log my experience with plants. I’m not sure what that’s actually going to look like, but it doesn’t really matter – I just want to talk plants.

But first, here’s a little context about me: I fucking love Champagne. I don’t really like reading fiction but can digest it in the podcast form. I listen, read and observe a lot. I happily overeat carbs. I call myself a botanist because I have been a professional (as in, I pay my bills by) horticulturist for the past 15 years. The past 4+ years I have been researching plants with indigenous Mayan and Garifuna cultures in Belize – mostly focusing on organically farmed Cacao theobroma and jungle-grown Yam root. This means lots of time spent working on family farms, lots of jungle hikes, lots of eating weird things and even a bot fly in the arm (I dare you to google bot fly). Vanilla planifolia and Crocus sativus are my jam right now. My hands-on background is florals, farming, herbalism, horticulture and jungle growth. I’ve dabbled in greenhouse growing (3 years in community college, greenhouse management degree), grafting and stone work. I’d like to practice bonsai more. I’m terrible at grammar. I love holistic approaches, but loathe buzzwords and “internet experts”. I could spend less money on crystals. I should do more yoga. I am meditating more. I get angry at Terry Gross, but then fall back in love each week. Reality TV shows are a must. Woodford on the rocks with a twist and a cherry. Hip hop keeps me human. Kale is king.

Why write this? Because I want to remember and reflect on the time I spend with plants.

Ok. Here we go.


Thursday, April 30th 2015 – HMB, SF

A horrible day.


Friday, May 1st 2015 – HMB, SF, Sonoma

A better day. At a friend’s lovely wedding in the wine country. The landscape here is pretty and very Sonoma.


Saturday, May 2nd 2015 – HMB, Texas, Belize

Packing and watering in the garden and the indoor plants.

I’m leaving the moment everything is in full bloom! Arrg.


Sunday, May 3rd 2015 – Belize

Our first full day in Belize has been awesome. Matt and I are traveling with our friends Dustin and Erica, and it’s going great so far. I drove the Hummingbird highway from Ladyville to Placencia – and along the way we stopped at Hermin’s Cave and the Blue Hole. Swimming in a cave with bats in the pitch black is super fun!

The second I parked and got out of the car, I was reminded of my experiences during our first trip here, about 4 years ago. The air is hot and humid and in this part of Belize, you smell the soil and plant growth so intensely with each breath. Breathing the humidity feels hydrating and claustrophobic at the same time. My nerves have been on edge lately so today I have spent time actively telling myself to slowly just b r e a t h.


Monday, May 4th 2015 – Belize

Today we are in Placencia, a small peninsula in central Belize, in the coast. Placencia is treated as an island, with little locally manufactured resources but a gorgeous coast line and a booming tourist location. I stay here because I do work in Maya Centre, a little Mayan village about 20 minutes inland, housing the famous (and exquisitely beautiful) Cockscomb Basin and jaguar preserve.

I’m sticking in town today to rest and adjust to the heat. We are only here about a week, but I really need a day to decompress. I’m fighting the urge to hermit alone somewhere on the beach… I’m playing the good friend who shows you around – and the good wife who is sexy, adventurous and game for anything. I don’t complain about sweating through my underwear. I don’t mind bug bites on my vagina.

Authentically, I am the introvert who pretends pretty well and who takes solace in the lone moments where I can have a conversation with a Plumeria flower.

They talk back if you listen.


Tuesday, May 5th 2015 – Belize

Today is my solo day to go talk with Aurora, in Maya Centre. I LOVE driving down the small roads and desolate highway from Placencia to Maya Centre – I downloaded a ton of podcasts, my comfort food. Today was twenty minutes of listening to This American Life – hearing Ira Glass’s nasally voice is like wrapping myself in a warm blanket while the fog rolls in. Hearing him read the “acts” makes me so comfortable. Ira Glass has definitely seen me through some travel moments of w”hat the fuck is happening” and “why am I doing this”. I should send him a muffin basket or something.

I drove into Aurora’s completely unannounced. It’s kind of fun to surprise them (there’s no phone and internet is mostly not working) and walk in the herbal center like a dumb American with a big, shit-eating grin. Aurora laughed and hugged me and said she was so happy to see me. We spent some time in the jungle and I walked through her new medicinal trail. Mostly though, we hunkered down in her little office, sipped Chaya juice (plucked from the garden moments before) and girl-talked. I have been visiting Aurora and her husband Ernesto for about 3 years now, but this was the first time it has been us alone, basically gossiping. I wasn’t a student trying to decipher her Mayan dialect and Latin plant names. I wasn’t asking question after question and recording every word. I wasn’t obsessively writing down her recipes and stories. My camera was off, my notebook was put away and we were just having a chat.

We talked about marriage, about family and about little troubles that sometimes tumble into bigger troubles. It was nice to be able to hold space and listen to Aurora’s problems as a friend, not a student.

Healers need to be healed, too.

I sat across from her and leaned on the table and listened intently. A shaman’s gossip, is far better then any Kardashian or Real Housewives episode I’ve ever seen, and I was completely enthralled.



“Nooooooooo! Damn, girl!”

Aurora didn’t quite understand my excited slang, but the message was clear:

I hear you. That sucks. Fuck them. I’m sorry. I understand. Me, too.

Without going into details, I can safely say this; It doesn’t matter where you live, where you are from, how much money you make, what you do or how old you are. Problems are universal – and it’s something to take comfort in.

I drove back down the highway and cranked my NPR.


Wednesday, May 6th 2015 – Belize

Writing this diary in Belize is fucking hard! Why? I don’t quite know, but sweat and a melted brain might have something to do with it.

Today I went to my local haunt, The Pickled Parrot. It’s a funky bar that is owned by ex-pats but is full of locals. The bar tenders are awesome (shout-out to Kareem and Sheldon – thanks for supplying me with rum shots and making fun of Matt while I slaughtered him at drunken Jenga!! Love you dudes!). Today I squirreled some time to myself and sat at the bar for a few hours writing. Nothing complete or amazing, just notes on what to write in the future. As I was looking up the medicinal properties and contraindications of Poinsettia, I over heard the owner, Lynne, talking about wanting to start a school veggie garden for the local public school. I leaned my chair back and rested my Rum Punch.

“I do that stuff, ya know.”

“Jenn, you do?!”

Tomorrow we meet to visit the site. I’ll take measurements and work on a simple curriculum for cultivating local plants and veggies that grow in the coastal tropics. So far, I scratched out a scheme on some bar napkins that she is excited about. I’m happy – this will be fun.



Belize botanist botany ethnobotany garden apothecary Jenn Segale maya centre Mayan placencia plant research plant trip Plants 365 plants365

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