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Lucky plants for auspicious occasions
Published on: Sunday, January 08, 2023
By: Eskay Ong
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Desert rose flowers.
HEAR ye, hear ye, good news for thee. Another Malaysian festival is on the way! Remember, with Christmas 2022 just concluded about two weeks ago, and now another opportunity is on the horizon for Sabahans and other Malaysians to go all out to enjoy, what with the announced splashing of bonuses, salary increases and other forms of dedak for millions.

And with the annual Spring Festival, or known locally as Chinese New Year, just around the corner, the pent-up pressure that is aching for release of the tension must be palpable indeed. With chest throbbing and limbs pulsating, the climax of the joyous festivity should not be further than two weeks away.  

Businesses appear to be beginning to boom, while the perpetual traffic queues and jams is recovering its never-ending grind that tests the nerves of even the most patient and snail-like drivers.

Nevermind about all the splashings, throbbings and nerves. Most city folks have no time to even be bothered about those matters. The important dream is for better luck and more significant fortune to flood in this New Year amid the cacophony of greetings such as Gong Xi Gong Xi and Selamat Tahun Baru.  

This is easier done than said because it is possible to create a picture of green in a green tsunami that is made up of lucky plants and other ornamentals that are associated with good fortune.

Many communities all over the world believe that there are such things as luck, fortune, feng shui, etc. Although these may be considered to be within the realm of the philosophical, mystical or spiritual, nevertheless, many people regard them as important aspects of life where certain angles may be tweaked to improve whatever that is desired. In this respect, there is some similarity with other schools of belief in the wish for better luck or fortune and so on.

Lucky plants and feng shui have been with, in particular, most oriental peoples since thousands of years ago. There are countless numbers of plants that have been with human beings through thick and thin, and many of them were in those days considered to bring forth good luck.  

The main reason was that such plants fulfilled a most basic need, that is, as a source of food. In those harsh and famished days of old, anything that had food value was considered to be lucky plants. This is quite similar to the food security problems that many societies today are facing, meaning to say, no food = no luck.

Fortunately, Sabahans and Malaysians in general are a well-blessed lot, with common scenes where consumers go for binge eating to stuff themselves blind and building up thick flabby and fatty bulges to be followed by obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart problems etc. Hopefully, the plentiful literature on such issues that are easily available nowadays should act as a deterrent, although doctors everywhere should be able to provide friendly but stern counselling on health matters.

The gist of the story is that one should act wisely when it comes to filling stomachs with food. On this note, much has been reported about the advantages of taking more plant-based foods in particular, with those varieties that are grown in the backyard.

While edible plants are much appreciated, there are some varieties that are associated with good luck even though they may be inedible.

Desert Rose

One of the best known of lucky plants is the desert rose or Adenium obesum. Locally, it is also known as bunga nasib or fu gui hwa. This variety of flowering ornamental has been cultivated since several millennia ago in China. Because of its striking colours, consistent blooming, large flowers and ease of cultivation, the popularity of the ornamental has never diminished even in the toughest of times, such as during wars, epidemics, and so on.  

Because of its hardiness and ease of revival when most other ornamentals would not even get over hard times, it is therefore considered to be lucky just to be able to survive and continue the blooming habit. The positive cycle ensured that well-tended plants always reward the gardening enthusiasts with beautiful results.



The bulging caudex of the plant.

The plump, bulging caudex or base of the plant is much cherished as it symbolises abundance, good luck and fertility. As such, many home and condo gardens have one or more of the plant in pots in the hope of bringing in more luck.

Jatropha Podagrica

Often known as gout plant, Australian bottle plant, Buddha belly plant, purging plant, etc. The latter name is associated with the plant being able to cause purging at both ends of the alimentary tract if fed the wrong dosage. Traditional medicine also recommends the usage of the plant to treat gout. There are plenty of other folklore uses of all parts of the plant to enhance bodily health, but the best and safest route is through accredited sing sangs or other traditional medicine practitioners.



Jatropha podagrica.

How the plant comes to be associated with good fortune is visible mainly at the thickened bulging stem or caudex. The shape appears to be a fat swollen bottle, and this is good enough reason for many followers of fortune, luck or feng shui to accept that fat things, including fat torsos and bulging tummies are harbingers of good luck.  Unfortunately, the possible surfacing of negative aspects also ring true. So, the best route is still to stick to the slimmer lucky plants instead of bouncy tummies.

Beaucarnea Recurvata

This is another plant with a thick swollen base or caudex that becomes more visible as the plant advances in age. Being an evergreen perennial foliage ornamental, it is also known as elephant’s foot or polytail palm although it is not related to the palm family. When grown on the ground, the caudex of an old polytail is capable of extending its size to a diameter of 1-2 metres or more and a stem thickness of 20-30 cm at the lower levels.



Beaucarnea recurvata.

Again, the fat caudex brings to most minds of a fat torso which seems to be a symbol of success and prosperity in life.  Unfortunately, this has to be taken with a pinch of salt because medical opinions are not in favour of fat bodies and gross obesity. Nowadays, everyone knows the negative effects of being overly obese with the thick quivering layers of useless fat burdening the physical body structure as well as the internal systems. So it is always wise to have lovely fat plants but not lovely fat bodies.

Money Tree

Every Lunar New Year brings to a climax the achievements of the year, be they physical, financial, educational, business, social, and so on. It is unlikely for anyone to scrimp but, depending on the exigencies of the situation, such as having to face a failed harvest or having properties or businesses ravaged by landslides or floods, then it is possible for families to try to scrape through on shoe string budgets. 

Obviously, no one wants to undergo agonising conditions especially during festive occasions.  

On the other hand, the normal state of affairs is for one to be seen in good light, which, for the well-to-do, means strutting around in branded, designer attire and gadgets, some classy home renovation, plush new furnishings and accessories etc. This may also include some very expensive lucky plants such as Money Trees in trained form, particularly those with thick, stubby caudex at the base, or the bulging, braided stems.



The fat bottom of a money tree is the valuable and mouth-watering part.



Braided stems of a money tree may appear to be symbolic but the lucky upward turns are believed to avail the owner to upward turns to a life of wealth and success.  In some countries, such money trees can only be found in the premises of the rich and powerful. Does this prove something?



Pachira aquatica. Notice the similarity in the fat bulges which symbolise the growth and accumulation of wealth.

Money trees of such physical form make it a singularly outstanding luck-enticing indoor decorative plant that has been treasured for centuries especially in China where only the very rich could afford to own these money trees.  

The form of display is mostly the double or triple-stemmed specimens with stout stems and crowns that add up to a total height of about 1.5-2.0 metres. As they cost up to tens of thousands of renminbi per mature potted plant, only the super successful people could afford to enjoy the plants in the privacy of their posh mansions and bungalows.

An even more expensive money tree is the one with triple or five-braided stems. The ornamental is cultivated in such a way that multiple stems are made to interlock in a symmetrical way with the result that is hardly seen before.  

The twists and turns along the stems symbolise the upward turn to greater fortune and success, which is similar to the cliché that says each turn is for the better. This is why the very prosperous, successful and wealthy people are willing to splash thick bundles to own a few of such lucky money trees.

These new styles are similar to the desert rose with exposed caudex that I introduced in 1986, and the multi-winged wild water plum or shui mei that was introduced in 1993. These are ‘firsts’ for Sabah and Malaysia but there were plentiful takers in those days even though the price was sky-high.  

This shows that anything that rings of good luck and good fortune is a good buy, with many having seen the rich getting richer when they surround themselves with lucky plants. Don’t believe?  Try it.

Be lucky during this festive season. Go lucky, folks.

 



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