In Providence, embracing and escaping winter at the same time
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Only a few steps away from the boggy planting of carnivores is a sandbox full of desert plants, including the giant Mexican Cereus — a single-stalk cactus that can grow up to 40 feet tall. Whoever planted this display did it with a sense of humor, as the other desert succulents are three commonly used to mitigate pain: the aloe vera, whose sap soothes burns, the blue agave that serves as the source of tequila, and the century plant or maguey, whose roasted hearts are fermented to make mezcal.
The second glass house is perhaps the gaudiest, with its exuberant blooming plants like hibiscus, honey-sweet orange jasmine, various members of the Camellia family, and some young examples of bougainvillea that have yet to take over the sky. A Ponderosa lemon tree hangs heavy with yellow fruit, while a clump of Mexican brush sage extrudes a tangle of long branches covered in small purple flowers.
Perhaps to prepare visitors for the inevitable, the greenhouses get drier and cooler as you follow the winding pathways. By the time you admire the last jade plants and beavertail cactus, it will be time to shrug that forgotten coat back on and button up tight.
Baby, it’s cold outside.
Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.