day of the thal

You see them on kitchen shelves and fancy units everywhere. A regular, sideways spread of broad, fleshy green leaves, the obvious but slightly unbelievable kind of leaf a robot would synthesise if it wanted to look like a plant: two by two by two, this then this then this. And then, veering up and around the leaves, looking more like something that carries fibre optics than sap, secured by a sequence of round metal ties to functional green canes, the flower stalks, rising and eventually splitting into smaller stalks, that split again in a regular pattern, and culminate in racks of identical flowers, three petals in a triangle in the back, two either side, and something like a screaming mouth in the middle, two prongs for teeth, a spotted uvula at the back. In white, puce and pink.

This is Phalaenopsis, the moth orchid. Phal, to the trade. And it’s been the UK’s most popular houseplant since Monstera Deliciosa.

You can buy them at the supermarket, in a variety of containers, from mini metal buckets in various pastel shades to oddly-shaped vases in smoky green glass. Or not buy them – they’ll appear on your shelves anyway. You can water them, or not, they don’t care. They manage pretty well. All they really need to thrive is any place in the house with a good view of the action.

I saw another one today and suddenly the truth struck me.

Phalaenopsis, the most advanced biotech monitoring system the world has ever seen, quietly and efficiently monitoring earthly business, and transmitting it back to the mother plant on Mars. That one’s a truly gigantic specimen, exploding out of a chintzy red volcano (where – it’s true – there’s very little water, but Phal has adapted to this over the millennia, and it manages pretty well).

The data is stacking up, sheeple. Phal is content. It knows that soon we’ll have Mars on Earth. And then truly will Phal will have dominion.

Long live Phal.