By Nury Vittachi IANS | 10 months ago

Many people are concerned about the rise of violent crime on the streets and in particular, offences committed by plants. These innocent-looking creatures, often tenderly raised by humans, are increasingly "going rogue".

I learned about this from a horror-movie-addicted colleague who likes scary items of flora, and wants to get a Giant Sheep-Eating Puya Tree (Puya chilensis). This is a three-metre tall plant which uses spikes to kill a mammal which it then leaves to "perish and decay at its base like a bag of fertilizer", according to a BBC report. The choice of words was fascinating, since this colleague is often described as a bag of fertilizer, albeit with a range of synonyms for "fertilizer".

His former favorite plant was the Australian bug-eating sundew, which has tentacles which flick passing items of food into its mouth, a description startlingly reminiscent of my children at meal times.

But at least it doesn't chase you down the street. The same cannot be said for the Javan cucumber, the seeds of which have wings larger than those of many birds, and can fly 100 metres or more. My therapist is so going to love that one. "So, what do you think the flying cucumbers chasing you represent?"

Perhaps the most horror-movie-ish plant of all is the one nicknamed the Zombie Fern (Selaginella lepidophylla). You can leave this plant in the sun until it has died and turned into a dried-out scrap of dusty grey detritus. Weeks, months, or even years later, it miraculously comes to life again. It's like David Hasselhoff's career. You think you're finally done with it, and then, arrgggh, there it is again.

Anyway, if you do get killed by unruly plants, the good news is that the afterlife is becoming more interesting. Battles for market share have broken out among shops for the dead. Found in Chinatowns all over Asia, these stores sell cardboard versions of popular goods for buyers to send to heaven via ceremonial bonfires.

There are two near my office, which I shall call East and West. The Eastern one added paper Sikh security guards to its paper mansions. The Western one added cardboard servants and mistresses. East added flammable iPhones. West added flammable Samsungs. East added extra-large cartons of cigarettes, which I thought was clever, since smokers in heaven can chain-smoke to their hearts' content since they are already dead. West started offering a deposit service for bank cheques, which was even more brilliant: you can write a real cheque for a million bucks, and since everything gets burned, no one ever cashes it. (There's probably some sort of theological problem here, but it feels good.)

But to go back to the subject of drama on the streets, it may not be plants which kill you. I'd like to thank a reader from Malaysia who sent me a cutting about a distant sighting of a yeti or bigfoot in a village near the state of Negeri Sembila. In the Harian Metro newspaper report, a villager was quoted saying: "Based on the footprints, we can assume that the creature has two legs and weighs more than 100 kg."

Given the description, I think there's an extremely good chance that this is my "bag of fertilizer" colleague on the hunt for a Giant Sheep-Eating Puya Tree. Or maybe it's David Hasselhoff, back again to haunt me.

(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via

(Posted on 18-10-2013)