What Bloom

Portrait-of-a-botanist-1603 AnonymousAnonymous, 1603
 
Portrait of a botanist standing behind a table on which a book with pictures of plants lies.
In his left hand a lily of the valley, in the right hand a hatchet.
Top right the family crest.
Top left:  QVID FLOS / + ÆTATIS: 25~ / Ao 1603. ~
(What Bloom / age: 25 ~ / Ao 1603. ~)
Book illustrations are clearly from The New Herbal of Leonhart Fuchs (1501 – 1566)
On the left-hand page:  Arum maculatum L, also known as Cuckoo Pint, Jack in the Pulpit, Lords and Ladies, and Wake Robin
On the right-hand page: Convallaria majalis L, Lily of the Valley,
[a perennial plant that forms extensive colonies by spreading underground stems called rhizomes. New upright shoots are formed at the ends of stolens in summer, and these upright dormant stems are often called pips. Pips grow in the spring into new leafy shoots that still remain connected to the other shoots under ground]

How Plants Think
by Richard Mabey

When the much-missed neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote that “there is nothing alive which is not individual”, he meant nothing which is alive.

Discoveries about intricate cross-species communication in plants have opened a new frontier in botany, revealing that the plant kingdom has more than 20 different senses, and examples of what can only be described as vegetal intelligence.
Beans locate their poles by echolocation.
A Patagonian vine can change the colour and shape of its leaves to match those of the trees it is climbing over.
Mimosa, the “sensitive plant”, can learn which stimuli are worth curling its leaves against in defence and which are not – and retain this knowledge for 10 times longer than the memory span of bees.
Entire forests are linked by an underground “wood wide web” of fungal “roots” that transport and balance nutrient flows and carry signals about disease and drought throughout the network.
Traditionalists have derided attempts to describe problem-solving and learning as “intelligent” in organisms that lack a brain.
The philosopher Daniel Dennett, in a neat parry, has mocked such views as “cerebrocentrism”, and lamented the fact that we find it difficult (and maybe humiliating) to conceive of intelligence as existing in any form other than our own brain-and-neurone variety.

But however they are defined, these new findings validate Sacks’s belief in plants as individuals – active and adaptive agents.
Some of the last pieces he wrote were enthralled appreciations of what is provocatively called “plant neurobiology”.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/oct/16/how-plants-think-the-cabaret-of-plants-richard-mabey

Herbs, Plants, Stones

ligozzi poppyJacopo Ligozzi (1547 – 1627)
Opium Poppy


O, mickle is the powerful grace that lies
In herbs, plants, stones, and their true qualities.
For naught so vile that on the earth doth live
But to the earth some special good doth give.
Nor aught so good but, strained from that fair use
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse.
Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied,
And vice sometime by action dignified.

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1613)
Friar Laurence, Romeo and Juliet

Red Orach

Johann Wilhelm Weinmann (1683-1741), apothecary & botanist

Johann Wilhelm Weinmann (1683-1741), apothecary & botanist

Gardens “a balance of poetry and practicalities”

Thomas Bewick 1753 – 1828

A Little History of British Gardening
by Jenny Uglow

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2004/jun/19/featuresreviews.guardianreview22

‘… a prosperous farmer’s wife was in charge of “ordering the kitchen garden; and keeping the fruits, herbs, roots and seeds; and moreover watching and attending to the bees”. There was art and invention in the garden too, and Uglow delights in telling us how the housewife worked “like a scientist with glasses and alembics, distilling purges and cough medicines as well as conserves and pickles”. They made perfumed oils for scents and soaps. Marigolds and violets were candied for sweets; elderflowers, irises and mallows made into lotions for softening wrinkles and rhubarb in white wine was used for dying hair blonde.

By the 1700s gardening had become a topic for coffee-house chat, with fashions provoking strong reactions from commentators. Alexander Pope, writing in a new periodical called the Guardian, decided that “persons of genius preferred nature”, whereas “people of the common level of understanding are principally delighted with the little niceties and fantastical operations of art”.’

Jill Sinclair

Plantae Medicinales Officinalis

Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck (1776 – 1858) was a prolific German botanist, physician, zoologist, and natural philosopher. He was a contemporary of Goethe and was born within the lifetime of Linnaeus. He described approximately 7,000 plant species.
W

Bees Are The Batteries of Orchards

caterpillar-pear

Illumination from Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta
Joris Hoefnagel (1542 – 1600)

 

Virgil’s Bees

Bless air’s gift of sweetness, honey
from the bees, inspired by clover,
marigold, eucalyptus, thyme,
the hundred perfumes of the wind.
Bless the beekeeper

who chooses for her hives
a site near water, violet beds, no yew,
no echo. Let the light lilt, leak, green
or gold, pigment for queens,
and joy be inexplicable but there
in harmony of willowherb and stream,
of summer heat and breeze,
each bee’s body
at its brilliant flower, lover-stunned,
strumming on fragrance, smitten.

For this,
let gardens grow, where beelines end,
sighing in roses, saffron blooms, buddleia;
where bees pray on their knees, sing, praise
in pear trees, plum trees; bees
are the batteries of orchards, gardens, guard them.


Carol Ann Duffy