All Is Leaf

Lucas Cranach the Elder (c. 1472 – 1553)


“To divide the united, to unite the divided, is the life of nature; this is the eternal systole and diastole, the eternal collapsion and expansion, the inspiration and expiration of the world in which we move.”
“I compare the earth and her atmosphere to a great living being perpetually inhaling and exhaling.”

 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)

 

The Humble Bee

bees
by Elizabeth Pennisi
for the American Association for the Advancement of Science

For years, cognitive scientist Lars Chittka felt a bit eclipsed by his colleagues at Queen Mary University of London. Their studies of apes, crows, and parrots were constantly revealing how smart these animals were. He worked on bees, and at the time, almost everyone assumed that the insects acted on instinct, not intelligence.
Chittka’s team has shown that bumble bees can not only learn to pull a string to retrieve a reward, but they can also learn this trick from other bees, even though they have no experience with such a task in nature. The study “successfully challenges the notion that ‘big brains’ are necessary” for new skills to spread, says Christian Rutz, an evolutionary ecologist who studies bird cognition at the University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom.
Many researchers have used string-pulling to assess animals, particularly birds and apes. So Chittka and his colleagues set up a low clear plastic table barely tall enough to lay three flat artificial blue flowers underneath. Each flower contained a well of sugar water in the center and had a string attached that extended beyond the table’s boundaries. The only way the bumble bee could get the sugar water was to pull the flower out from under the table by tugging on the string.
The team put 110 bumble bees, one at a time, next to the table to see what they would do. Some tugged at the strings and gave up, but two actually kept at it until they retrieved the sugar water. In another series of experiments, the researchers trained the bees by first placing the flower next to the bee and then moving it ever farther under the table. More than half of the 40 bees tested learned what to do.

Next, the researchers placed untrained bees behind a clear plastic wall so they could see the other bees retrieving the sugar water. More than 60% of the insects that watched knew to pull the string when it was their turn. In another experiment, scientists put bees that knew how to pull the string back into their colony and a majority of the colony’s workers picked up string pulling by watching one trained bee do it when it left the colony in search of food. The bees usually learned this trick after watching the trained bee five times, and sometimes even after one observation. Even after the trained bee died, string pulling continued to spread among the colony’s younger workers.
But pulling a string does not quite qualify as tool use, because a tool would have to be an independent object that wasn’t attached to the flower in the first place. And other invertebrates have shown they can use tools: Digger wasps pick up small stones and use them to pack down their burrow entrances, for example. But that two bees figured out how to pull the string with no help while other bees picked up on that ability, was impressive, says Ivo Jacobs, a cognitive zoologist at Lund University in Sweden who was not involved with the work. “This shows unexpected behavioral flexibility.”
Rutz is impressed, too, because the work involved almost 300 bees and clearly documented how string pulling spread from bee to bee in multiple colonies.
With additional experiments, Chittka hopes to figure out the neural basis of these abilities.
The findings hint at a form of culture in bees, Jacobs says. With their ability to learn where others are, find out what they are doing, and experiment on their own, the insects demonstrated that they can pass on knowledge—a key requirement of culture, considered to be a complex phenomena.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/10/hints-tool-use-culture-seen-bumble-bees

Study of a Tree

Georges Michel (French, 1763-1843)Georges Michel (1763-1843)

 

by Hope Jahren

A seed is alive while it waits. Every acorn on the ground is just as alive as the three-hundred-year-old oak tree that towers over it. Neither the seed nor the old oak is growing; they are both just waiting.
What each seed is waiting for is known only to that seed. Some unique trigger-combination of temperature-moisture-light and many other things is required to convince the seed to jump off the deep end and take its chance–to take its one and only chance to grow.
. . . .
When you go into a forest … you probably don’t look down, where just beneath your single footprint sit hundreds of seeds, each one alive and waiting. They hope against hope for an opportunity that will probably never come. More than half of these seeds will die before they feel the trigger that they are waiting for, and during awful years every single one of them will die.
. . . When you are in the forest, for every tree that you see, there are at least a hundred more trees waiting in the soil, alive and fervently wishing to be.

A coconut is a seed as big as your head. It can float from the coast of Africa across the entire Atlantic Ocean and then take root and grow on a Caribbean island. In contrast, orchid seeds are tiny: one million of them put together add up to the weight of a paper clip. Big or small, most of every seed is actually just food to sustain a waiting embryo. The embryo is a collection of only a few hundred cells, but it is a working blueprint for a real plant with a shoot and a root already formed.
When the embryo within a seed starts to grow, it basically just stretches out of its doubled-over waiting posture, elongating into official ownership of the form that it assumed years ago.
. . . .
After scientists broke open the coat of a lotus seed and coddled the embryo into growth, they kept the empty husk. When they radiocarbon-dated this discarded outer shell, they discovered that their seedling had been waiting for them within a peat bog in China for no less than two thousand years. This tiny seed had stubbornly kept up hope of its own future while entire human civilizations rose and fell.


With gratitude to Nicolas Silver for presenting me with the book from which this incomplete excerpt is lifted.
“Lab Girl” is a 2016 memoir by American geochemist, geobiologist, and professor Hope Jahren.

See also:

https://secretgardening.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/in-our-hands-forests-sleep/

https://secretgardening.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/the-seed-shop/

 

Letters on the Natural History of the Insects Mentioned in Shakspeare’s Plays

mothOrder 3. Lepidoptera
William Bartram (1739 – 1823)

 

“Robert Patterson (1802-1872) was a remarkable naturalist you’ve probably never heard of. At the age of 19, he co-founded the Belfast Natural History Society. He also wrote a number of zoology texts and designed a series of zoological diagrams for use in schools. In 1857, he posted a ‘real Irish Rabbit’ across the Irish Sea to Charles Darwin, at Darwin’s request.”
Manu Saunders, https://ecologyisnotadirtyword.com/

Manu Saunders introduces Robert Patterson irresistably, and so caused me to seek his book online–where I found it!
But the introduction and table of contents were so charming: intermingling the science, the poetry, the observations of human as well as insect life, that I have yet to work my way through to the actual body of the book itself.
Here is some of what snared my attention, broken up, and sometimes re-punctuated, by me:

Letters on the Natural History of the Insects Mentioned in Shakspeare’s Plays.
With Incidental Notices of The Entomology of Ireland.
by Robert Patterson

Contents

LETTER I. INTRODUCTORY EPISTLE.

Ennui occasionally experienced while residing in the country.
Its cause. (Originates in a defective system of education.)
Proper meaning of the term Naturalist. The legitimate objects of his inquiry.
Periodical changes in the aspect of the external world.
Pleasures which the study of Nature affords; mental effects of such pursuits.
Poetry and Natural History might “each give to each a double charm.”
Inquiry proposed with regard to the knowledge of Natural Phenomena, exhibited by some of our most admired Poets.
Shakspeare “the Poet of Nature.”
Opinion of Dr. Johnson.
Remark of the late John Templeton, Esq.
Shakspeare, in accurate observation, superior to Milton.
Illustrative extracts from ” Lycidas” and the” Winter’s Tale.”
Number of the notices of natural objects in the Dramatic Works of Shakspeare.
Their investigation, why interesting . . . page 1

 

LETTER II. ENTOMOLOGY RECOMMENDED.

Solace which the study of Natural History affords to the man
of business. The benefits it confers on the man possessed of leisure.
The study of insects proposed. It should not be deemed frivolous, because the objects are diminu-tive. They are a portion of the works of God. Their diversity and beauty.
Peculiar advantage enjoyed by the Entomologist.
Numbers of insects.
Importance of a knowledge of their habits.
Their destructive powers. Benefits they confer . . . page 13

 

LETTER III. LARVAE AND PUPAE.

Advantages which may be anticipated from the proposed in-
quiry. Subject of the present Letter — Insects in their
early or imperfect states.
Expression used by Hamlet, “If the sun breed maggots in a dead dog.”
Distinction between the vertebrate animals and insects.
Destructive powers possessed by caterpillars; frequently mentioned by Shakspeare.
The pupa state. “There is a difference between a grub and a butterfly.”
“The smirch’d moth- eaten tapestry.”
“The worm i’ the bud ;” “the canker.”
Cocoon of the silk-worm; its value. “The worms were hallowed that did breed the silk.”
“An empty hazel nut.”
“The old grub.”
“Your worm is your only emperor for diet.”
Different meanings of the word “worm” in Shakspeare . . . 27


There is more–much more. I don’t want to overload anyone’s attention, but allow the words and ideas to stay lively as you take them with you.

I may not be able to resist sharing more at some other time.

 

Thorns

acacia
Acacia
John William Lewin (1770 – 1819)

 

The gross heathenism of civilization has generally destroyed nature, and poetry, and all that is spiritual.

John Muir  (April 21, 1838 – December 24, 1914)

 

 

Joy, Musike, Cloves

Vintage Crocus Botanical - Google Search
Crocus speciosus M. Bieb.
Sarah Anne Drake (1803–1857)

 

A Briefe Epitome
Katarzyna Lecky

Unlike many large botanical herbals, which boasted elaborate frontispieces and pages filled with engraved plates of flora, whose size and preciousness made them objects to be admired and treasured, pocket herbals were everyday objects printed cheaply and scribbled in extensively by all sorts of people.

Rams little Dodeon: A briefe epitome of the new herbal, or history of plants, was published in London in 1606 by William Ram. The text is an abridged version of Henry Lyte’s popular A new herball, or historie of plants (1578).
It was a sound sales tactic: Lyte’s English translation of Rembert Dodoens’ 1554 Cruydeboeck had already seen four editions in as many decades, while Dodoens’ herbal would continue to be a seminal text for botanists for at least another century.
But whereas Lyte’s thick quarto was, like Dodoens’ Old Flemish original, an unwieldy reference for the typical herbalist (who in seventeenth-century England was more likely to be an unlicensed practitioner than an certified doctor or academic scholar), Ram claimed that his “briefe and short Epitome” is a “very small volume. 
So as where the geat booke at large is not to be had, but at a great price, which canot be procured by the poorer sort, my endeuor herein hath bin chiefly, to make the benefit of so good, necessary, and profitable a worke, to be brought within the reach and compass as well of you my poore Countrymen & women, whose liues, healths, ease and welfare is to be regarded with the rest, at a smaller price, then the greater Volume is”

Although he names Dodoens’ herbal as his source text, Ram qualifies that the structure of the book is more intertextual:
“the first page of euery leafe being opened, contayneth the practice of M. R. Dodeon:
And that the second opposite page, vnder the Title Incidenta, contayneth the practices of others for the same Physike helpes, collected and inserted by the Author of this Treatise”

Moreover, these cobbled-together recipes are not always strictly herbal.
Under “Good for heart” are listed “Saffron, Bourage, Laughing, Joy, Musike, Cloves”.
The things that encourage or signal delight are intermingled with heart-healthy simples– all are similarly remedies.
The things bad for the heart, meanwhile, include “Anger, Dread, Too much heauinesse”

 

https://collation.folger.edu/2018/03/small-format-herbals/
Katarzyna Lecky is an Assistant Professor of English at Bucknell University.

Her first book, Pocket Empire: Portable Maps and Public Poetry, 1590-1649 (forthcoming from Oxford UP), uses small-format cartography to study how poets writing for monarchs and magistrates drew from cheap print to chart Britain as the property of the commonwealth rather than the Crown.
She has also published in Exemplaria, The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Philological Quarterly, Reformation, Studies in English Literature, and Spenser Studies, as well as edited collections, and has earned fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Renaissance Society of America, and the Folger Shakespeare, Huntington, and Newberry Libraries, among others. 

The Song of Sleep

Crane Fly and Ants
Joris Hoefnagel, illuminator (Flemish / Hungarian, 1542 – 1600)
Georg Bocskay, scribe (Hungarian, died 1575)

 


By Jason G Goldman

“Almost all other animals are clearly observed to partake in sleep, whether they are aquatic, aerial, or terrestrial,” wrote Aristotle in his work, On Sleep and Sleeplessness.
In The History of Animals, he wrote: “It would appear that not only do men dream, but horses also, and dogs, and oxen; aye, and sheep, and goats, and all viviparous quadrupeds; and dogs show their dreaming by barking in their sleep.”

Researchers can now humanely peer into the electrical and chemical activities of brain cells in animals while they sleep. In 2007, MIT scientists Kenway Louise and Matthew Wilson recorded the activity of neurons in a part of the rat brain called the hippocampus, a structure known to be involved in the formation and encoding of memories. They first recorded the activity of those brain cells while the rats ran in their mazes.
Then they looked at the activity of the very same neurons while they slept and discovered identical patterns of firing during running and during REM.
In other words, it was as if the rats were running the maze in their minds as they slept. The results were so clear that the researchers could infer the rats’ precise location within their mental dream mazes and map them to actual spots within the actual maze.

University of Chicago biologists Amish Dave and Daniel Margoliash looked into the brains of zebra finches and discovered something similar.
These birds are not born with the melodies of their songs hardwired into the brains; instead, they have to learn to sing their songs. When they’re awake, the neurons in part of the finches’ forebrain called the robutus archistriatalis fire following their singing of particular notes. Researchers can determine which note was sung based on the firing patterns of those neurons. By piecing together the electrical patterns in those neurons over time, Dave and Margoliash can reconstruct the entire song from start to finish.

Later, when the birds were asleep, Dave and Margoliash looked again at the electrical activity in that part of their brains. The firing of those neurons wasn’t entirely random. Instead, the neurons fired in order, as if the bird was audibly singing the song, note for note. It might be said that the zebra finches were practising their songs in their sleep.


http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140425-what-do-animals-dream-about

 

Ants are good sleep research subjects, as they live underground. Most ants get exposed to sunlight only very irregularly, so a sleeping rythm based on a photo period like ours would not be very useful. Because of their social and subterranean lifestyle, one might expect that sleep periods of ants are more dependent on the tasks at hand than on light/dark periods.

This is indeed what Deby Cassill and collaborators found. Queens of the fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) have an average of 92 sleep periods per day, lasting for about 6 minutes each (for a total of 9.4h of sleep per day). Workers are very different from this, as they had 253 sleep episodes on average per day, each lasting about 1 minute, for a total of 4.8h sleep per day, meaning they sleep more often, but less long. At any time of the day, about 80% of the work force was actually working instead of sleeping, which is an efficient pattern.

REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is the phase where we ‘blink’ our eyes often, and it’s the phase where our dreams are the most vivid; the dreams we actually remember occur during this sleep phase.
Ant queens show a similar behaviour when they’re fast asleep. Instead of their eyes, they twitch their antennae, resulting in so called ‘Rapid Antennal Movement’ (RAM) sleep.

 

Cassill DL, Brown S, Swick D, Yanev G (2009) Polyphasic wake/sleep episodes in the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. Journal of Insect Behaviour 22:313-323
https://antyscience.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/what-do-ants-dream-of/

 

Tempera Wind

Andrew Newell Wyeth (1917 – 2009)
detail

 

Published in: on July 23, 2017 at 1:24 am  Comments (2)  
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The Colours of The Winds

detail, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851)

 

from the 
SALTAIR NA RANN
attrib. Oengus the Culdee, ninth century

 

King who ordained the eight winds
advancing without uncertainty, full of beauty,
the four prime winds He holds back,
the four fierce under-winds.

There are four other under-winds,
as learned authors say,
this should be the number, without any error,
of the winds, twelve winds.

King who fashioned the colours of the winds,
who fixed them in safe courses,
after their manner, in well-ordered disposition,
with the varieties of each manifold hue.

The white, the clear purple,
the blue, the very strong green,
the yellow, the red, sure the knowledge,
in their gentle meetings wrath did not seize them.

The black, the grey, the speckled,
the dark and the deep brown
the dun, darksome hues,
they are not light, easily controlled.

King who ordained them over every void,
the eight wild under-winds ;
who laid down without defect
the bounds of the four prime winds.

From the East, the smiling purple,
from the South, the pure white, wondrous,
from the North, the black blustering moaning wind,
from the West, the babbling dun breeze.

The red, and the yellow along with it,
both white and purple ;
the green, the blue, it is brave,
both dun and the pure white.

The grey, the dark brown, hateful their harshness,
both dun and deep black ;
the dark, the speckled easterly wind
both black and purple.

Rightly ordered their form,
their disposition was ordained ;
with wise adjustments, openly,
according to their position and their fixed places.

The twelve winds,
Easterly and Westerly, Northerly and Southerly,
the King who adjusted them, He holds them back,
He fettered them with seven curbs.

King who bestowed them according to their posts,
around the world with many adjustments,
each two winds of them about a separate curb,
and one curb for the whole of them.

King who arranged them in habitual harmony,
according to their ways, without over-passing their limits ;
at one time, peaceful was the space,
at another time, tempestuous.

 

Translations from Irish Gaelic Poetry into English Prose and Verse 
SELECTED AND EDITED BY ELEANOR HULL, 1912
To Miss Eleanor Knott I am indebted for valuable help in the translation

 

 

[with thanks to  for twitter discussion of wind-color]

Stones of Ochre

Visita Allo Studio, Odoardo Borrani
(1833 – 1905)

 

by Sarah Cascone

Porc-Epic is a cave that, for 4,500 years, was used to produce ochre, a brownish-yellow pigment often used in prehistoric artwork.

The Porc-Epic cave was discovered by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Henry de Monfreid in 1929 and is thought to date to about 43,000 to 42,000 years ago, during the Middle Stone Age.
At the site, archaeologists found a stash of 4213 pieces, or nearly 90 pounds, of ochre, the largest such collection ever discovered at a prehistoric site in East Africa.

Ancient visitors to the site processed the iron-rich ochre stones there by flaking and grinding the raw materials “to produce a fine-grained and bright red powder.” The ochre stones can be used to produce powders of varying coarsenesses, in shades of yellow, orange, red, brown, and gray.

Ochre powder could be used medicinally or for other purposes, but this production is “most consistent with symbolic activities, such as body painting, the production of patterns on different media, or for signalling.”A pebble half coated in ochre, for instance, could have been used as a stamp to apply the pigment to soft surfaces. The researchers also compared pieces with long pointy ends to ochre “crayons.”

Apparently the local community relied on Porc-Epic for its ochre needs for millennia, the cave essentially serving as a studio for artists.

 

On May 24, 2017 researchers Daniela Eugenia Rosso of the University of Barcelona and Francesco d’Errico and Alain Queffelec of the University of Bordeaux in France published a paper, “Patterns of change and continuity in ochre use during the late Middle Stone Age of the Horn of Africa: The Porc-Epic Cave record,” in the PLOS ONE journal.
A similar find was discovered in a 100,000-year-old cave in South Africa in 2011.

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/worlds-oldest-art-studio-discovered-ethiopia-979637?utm_content=from_&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=June%202%2C%202017%20artnet%20News%20Daily%20Newsletter%20ALL&utm_term=artnet%20News%20Daily%20Newsletter%20USE