Naturalising under a tree in my garden in subtropical New Zealand, is a miniature cyclamen that flowers each spring. It is a commonly grown plant. There is a long history behind the journey of this plant to my antipodean world, a plant growing in a country far removed from its ancestral origins in Middle Eastern climatic and geographical environment.
Deeply interested in history, we were blown away by the magnificence of the archaeological sites during our travel in this part of the world. In December 2010, we took a day trip to Umm Qais or Gadara as the Romans called it, in northern Jordan.
We stood in awe amid the silent ruins. The excavated structures story how people lived, how ancient world events played out in Greek and Roman times, and in ways that shaped our modern world lives. We looked out towards the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee, acutely aware of modern tensions in this region. We ambled along streets with Roman chariot wheel ruts grooved into the stone pavers. We explored buildings. We climbed steps. It was then I saw a familiar sight.
Miniature cyclamens growing in the cracks on the ancient stonework. Colourful and neglected, a botanical and peaceful echo of long ago times, tenacious survivors in a harsh growing environment. A floral link between the past and the present, the tiny flowers had the power to evoke in me a moment of longing to return to my garden.
How did the people who lived in this ancient city regard and use this plant? Did they enjoy cyclamens for pleasure as I now do? If only the flowers and stones could speak.