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Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007


Neko no hige (Cat's whiskers)

The naming of cats is a difficult matter, It isn't just one of your holiday games; You may think at first I'm mad as a hatter When I tell you a cat must have three different names. First of all, there's the name that the family use daily, Such as Victor, or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey — All of them sensible everyday names.

There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter, Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames; Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter — But all of them sensible everyday names.

But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular, A name that's peculiar, and more dignified, Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular, Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?

From "The naming of cats" by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Here is a striking member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family of plants. It is easy to see how the plant got its common name: the stamens and pistil stick right out of the flowers like whiskers. The leaves have long been used as an infusion to treat kidney complaints, and the plant is also known as "Java Tea" — a not nonsensical appellation, as Orthosiphon aristatus is native to tropical Southeast Asia, and among other places it grows in Malaysia, Indonesia and northern Australia. It makes a handsome plant, rising to about a meter tall, and the nectar-rich flowers attract butterflies, bees and even hummingbirds to the garden. The flowers are white or pale lavender, and the main stem is tinted with purple. These perennial plants flower from midsummer into autumn, and will survive a mild winter. Cat's whiskers are easy to grow from cuttings, as long as they are kept warm and damp. Incidentally, the cat in the picture is my pet Daisy. I hope you can see her impressive whiskers! Daisy is a Birman cat, a fluffy breed which also comes from Southeast Asia.

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