hanging panicles of long slim flower buds appeared overnight on the large dracaena fragrans in the back garden. 铁树开花,哑巴说话, the mother says. 'when a tree of iron puts forth flowers, [it is as though] a mute has spoken.'

(again the 'speaking mute/flowering tree comes back to haunt me.)

few know they flower at all, most are taken by surprise: hacked to neat stumps, they're always sold as squat, indoor houseplants, and placid, unresentful they are, one doesn't get the feeling they'd been dragged protesting and wrestled into tiny pots -- they sit where they're told, unbothered by neglect, their growth is slow, and rarely flower before their 15th year -- some never do.

in bud form the flowers are brownish, odd and discomforting, like something that came from an alien sea a long time ago. when i get used to them they seem almost like the pine needle balls (sugidama) hanging outside sake breweries in japan; in bloom, they are white balls tinged with pink.

at nightfall, their heavy perfume is unbearably heady.