Provenance: Created in drawing lessons organized in the years 1943-1944 in the Theresienstadt concentration camp
by painter and teacher Friedl Dicker-Brandeis (1898-1944).
signed Sue Winter, top right on the back
Protea montana is a threatened species from the very highest peaks of the Western Cape of South Africa.
A fluffy seed coat allows it to be blown – after a fire has released it from the prison of a dead flower head – to a site where the same fluff allows it to corkscrew into the shallow soil and wait for winter rain.
For a thing so small, a seed bears a heavy burden: the future existence of its species.
If things go wrong for the seed, it could mean potential extinction.
Each plant species produces its own unique and beautiful seeds.
Beyond that beauty and uniqueness are the processes that place them into dormancy until the conditions are just right, distribute them, bring them out of their stasis and cause them to germinate.
Then each has its pollination process allowing it to produce more seeds.
Mimetes stokoei, the mace pagoda, has been declared extinct twice because there were no actual plants of this species growing anywhere on Earth.
What wasn’t considered at the time was that the mace pagoda had placed its entire future security as a species
on seed buried just under the surface of the soil, and was waiting for the right kind of fire to trigger germination.
Hope, so inextricably tied up in seeds, has led to them being one of our most important backup plans for the planet, and so humanity.
There are people out there all over the world busily collecting and storing seed; guardians of our future.
The wild relatives of our crops, endangered species, and culturally important varieties, are all important to seed-bankers.
In some countries, it’s the only way to preserve the sheer levels of genetic diversity there now.
We don’t really know what the future holds, so we must cover all bases.
On the day when we need to put endangered species back into restored habitats, or bring back genetic diversity to our crops, we will have all that potential locked away in the form of a seed.
Ecosystem restoration projects across the globe depend entirely on seed, along with the people collecting them and those who know how to grow them.
With some forethought, often on the part of enlightened governments, people are coming together to make sure the possibilities of seeds are realised.
In Thailand, rainforest is being restored using seed bombs dropped from army planes.
In the USA the Native Seed Network and the Plant Conservation Alliance are bringing together a united force of native seed collectors, growers, and landscape restoration experts in an attempt, fostered by the Obama government through its National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration, to make sure all degraded habitats are restored using seed of local provenance as a matter of utmost urgency.
Robbie Blackhall-Miles is a plantsman and conservationist. He tweets as @fossilplants.
Bloom — is Result — to meet a Flower
And casually glance
Would scarcely cause one to suspect
The minor Circumstance
Assisting in the Bright Affair
So intricately done
Then offered as a Butterfly
To the Meridian —
To pack the Bud — oppose the Worm —
Obtain its right of Dew —
Adjust the Heat — elude the Wind —
Escape the prowling Bee
Great Nature not to disappoint
Awaiting Her that Day —
To be a Flower, is profound
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830 – 1886)
To put all living things that aren’t human into one category is, first of all, a stupid gesture – theoretically ridiculous – and partakes in the very real violence that humans exercise towards animals.
Confined within this catch-all concept, within this vast encampment of the animal,
in this general singular, within the strict enclosure of this definite article (‘the Animal’ and not ‘animals’), as in a virgin forest, a zoo, a hunting or fishing ground, a paddock or an abattoir, a space of domestication,
are all the living things that man does not recognize as his fellows, his neighbors, or his brothers.
And that is so in spite of the infinite space that separates the lizard from the dog, the protozoon from the dolphin, the shark from the lamb, the parrot from the chimpanzee, the camel from the eagle, the squirrel from the tiger, the elephant from the cat, the ant from the silkworm, or the hedgehog from the echidna.
The confusion of all nonhuman living things within the general and common category of the animal is not simply a sin against rigorous thinking, vigilance, lucidity, or empirical authority, it is also a crime.
Jackie Élie Derrida (1930 – 2004)
My musical friend, at whose house I am now visiting, has tried all the owls that are his near neighbors with a pitch-pipe set at concert pitch, and finds they all hoot in B flat.
He will examine the nightingales next spring.
Gilbert White (1720 – 1793), from The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne
Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Herbst (1743-1807) was a German naturalist and entomologist, and a theologian and chaplain for the Prussian army.
Versuch einer Naturgeschichte der Krabben und Krebse’ (An attempt at The Natural History of Crabs and Lobsters)
was possibly the first comprehensive work on the crustaceans and definitely included descriptions and illustrations of previously unknown species.
It was released in instalments between about 1782 and the mid-1790s. There were three volumes of text and an atlas consisting of more than sixty hand-coloured engravings. Various editions were issued, some coloured, some not, and some coloured later.
It is still regarded as a primary source in the field.
Copper plate engravings in black printing ink, hand colored with watercolor, with iron gall ink and graphite inscriptions, from
“Mineral conchology of Great Britain, or, Coloured figures and descriptions of those remains of testaceous animals, or shells which have been preserved at various times, and depths in the earth” by James Sowerby (1757 – 1822)
Adolf Menzel (1815 – 1905)
It tried to get from out the cage;
Here and there it ran, and tried
At the edges and the side,
In a busy, timid rage.
Trying yet to find the key
Into freedom, trying yet,
In a timid rage to get
To its old tranquillity.
It did not know, it did not see,
It did not turn an eye, or care
That a man was watching there
While it raged so timidly.
It ran without a sound, it tried,
In a busy, timid rage,
To escape from out the cage
By the edges and the side.
James Stephens (1882 – 1950)