The Serial Plant-killer

The Serial Plant-killer

I love plants. I really do. I love how they make a normal-old-day somehow feel friendlier. The fact that I have managed to kill countless plants in various ways might be slightly misleading then...

Most have come and gone from a combination of sheer neglect and overenthusiastic devotion. One day they are gorgeous and thriving, and the next (okay, okay -- more like 42 days later) they are wilting and pathetic. My sincere shock and earnest guilt then lead to a showering of affection (and water) which in turn leads to their sad demise...

Some, however, "cross over" without me having anything to do with it (I swear!)... On one such an occasion, I played witness to the cold-blooded murder of our beautiful and beloved "Topsy Turvy" succulent (Echeveria runyonii) at the hands (and fangs!) of a most frightening beast... The Four-striped Grass Mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio)!

This is how I remember it (and I feel obliged to inform you at this point that I am not the type of person who is prone to over-exaggerate or dramatise!!!):

I was working away at some-or-other admin (my least favourite thing in the whole world). I was having trouble concentrating. It was as if something was gnawing relentlessly at the back of my mind... Being so lost in thought, it took a while for me to realise that the gnawing was, in fact, coming from the back of the house!

We are quite accustomed to a variety of creepy crawlies in and around the house, as our little garden cottage is on a farm and borders a big vineyard. I've lost count of how many times I've had to wrestle some creature out from behind the washing machine and return it to it's natural habitat... (Disclaimer: No animals or bugs were harmed during any of these situations. I actually like most creepy crawlies, and my husband usually watches from the safety of the dining room table)

Back to the gnawing...

I leap up, deciding that if there's a critter behind the washing machine again, I better evacuate it before it munches through the wires. After a thorough investigation, it seems the gnawing isn't coming from behind the washer... I follow the sound more closely. Creeping like a bloodhound, hot on the heals of a criminal...

Suddenly, movement catches my eye through the window. Right there on the window sill. Right under my nose! Lounging on our Topsy Turvy like a king on his throne, the murderous mouse calmly, confidently stuffs his face with the sweet, succulent meat of our beloved plant. I gasp! How dare he?! He must be stopped! I BANG against the window!

He barely looks up.

"Whaaa-aaat?!?!" I shout, totally taken aback by his lack of reaction to my ferocious attack. I'm livid. I lunge at him like a tiger, clawing at the window and ROARING my upset!

Victory! He scutters away.

I switch on the kettle to make myself a celebratory cup of tea. Back at my desk, I'm about to take my first sip, when the gnawing starts up again. I don't believe it! I jump up and race across the room to the window, convinced that I was just hearing things. Lo and behold, the murderer has returned to finish what he started. The speed-of-munching has reached new levels. I must act swiftly.


He rolls his eyes at me, succulent juices running down his stubby chin.

I fly out of the back door like a maniac, ready for a fist fight. But the coward turns in his tracks and runs.

I pick up the Topsy Turvy to survey the damage. What's left is only a bit of Top and a little Tur... I let slip a few curse words and then take action. This will not happen again. I start moving our collection of succulents around on the shelf, creating a mouse-gauntlet that would make the toughest of gladiators squirm. Finally satisfied, I return to my tea (most of which I spilt all over the carpet).

Back at my desk and feeling very pleased with myself, I'm about to... There it is again! Murderous gnawing! But, HOW?! I levitate out of my seat with fury and bulldoze through multiple pieces of furniture towards the window. 

Suddenly, my anger melts away into a gush of uncontrollable laughter...

There he is, precariously balanced with a back paw on the big-and-dense-fluffy plant, a front paw on the spiky-greenish-thing and the other two kind of dangling mid-air, tummy tucked in an arch over the last line of my gauntlet defence, the scary-thorny-cactus. Poised like a professional yogi doing a seriously elongated downward facing dog, he feverishly munches away at the To Tu...

That kind of sheer determination deserves nothing less that the utmost respect.



PS. I did decide to move what was left of the Topsy Turvy inside. But alas, the damage was done, and it withered away pretty soon afterwards. We decided to replace the gorgeous succulent. Topsy Turvy 2.0 was also eaten to death within just a few weeks of its arrival. I suspect the same mouse. As there were no eye witnesses this time, no charges have been filed. But I am gathering evidence...

We will not be getting another Topsy Turvy any time soon.


Exhibit A: The first attack on Topsy Turvy 2.0 was documented.

Mouse photos by: 

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