In Our Hands Forests Sleep

lynx-la-balsaminaProbably from the botanical manuscripts of Federico Angelo Cesi (1585 – 1630), founder of the Accademia dei Lincei

 
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.
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2017/jan/13/seeds-little-time-capsules-that-could-secure-our-future?CMP=share_btn_tw#comment-91392416

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

 

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Pediculus cervi

fauna_germanica_diptera_1793_vol-1_p10_pediculus_cervi_fabrJacob Sturm (1771–1848)
Faunae insectorum germanicae initia Sturm

Guinea Pig

Guinea pig UdineGiovanni Nanni (1487–1564)
(Giovanni de’ Ricamatori, Giovanni da Udine)

 

The earliest known written account of the guinea pig dates from 1547, in a description of the animal from Santo Domingo.
Based on excavations on West Indian islands, it seems that the animal must have been introduced by ceramic-making horticulturalists from South America to the Caribbean around 500 BC, and it was present in the Ostionoid period, for example, on Puerto Rico, long before the advent of the Spaniards.
The guinea pig was first described in the West in 1554 by the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner.

W

Juniper

ehretGeorg Dionysius Ehret (30 Jan. 1708 – 9 Sep. 1770)


Ehret, a botanist and entomologist, began his working life as a gardener’s apprentice near Heidelberg.
His first illustrations were in collaboration with Carl Linnaeus.

 

Garden of Malabar

Hortus Malabaricus Palm Berries

Hortus Indicus Malabaricus is a comprehensive treatise that deals with the medicinal properties of the flora in the Indian state of Kerala.
The first volume was published in 1678, and the last in 1703.
Among the contributors and editors were physicians, professors of botany, amateur botanists, technicians, illustrators, and engravers. And assistance came from the King of Cochin and the ruling Zamorin of Calicut.

Much western lore was rejected, as was the Arabic classification of plants. And it was found that when questioned, the Brahmin scholars always depended on the field workers for precise answers.
So the book employs a system of classification based on the traditions adopted by the practitioners of that region, and the medical information presented in the work was extracted from palm leaf manuscripts passed down through the family of local ayurvedic doctor, Itty Achudan, in which were recorded names of medicinal plants, methods of preparation, the application of drugs, and the illnesses for which they were used.

A certificate states:
. . .  According to the Command of Commodore Henrik van Rheede, the trees, shrubs, twines and herbs and their flowers, fruits, seeds, juices and roots and their powers and properties described in the famed book of the Malayalee physician born at Carrapurram, of the Ezhava caste and of the name Colladan, have been dictated separately in Portuguese language and Malayalam language. Thus, for writing this truthfully, without any doubt, my signature . . . (attested 19th April I675)

Later, the plants were arranged at the University of Leiden garden exactly as prescribed by Achuden and his fellow Ezhavas.
Linnaeus subsequently adopted the same method of classification in 1740, as did many other scientists who followed.

http://historicalleys.blogspot.com/2010/01/itty-achutan-and-hortus-malabaricus.html

 

All the country around was diligently searched by the natives best acquainted with the habitats of plants; and fresh specimens were brought to Cochin where the Carmelite Mathaeus sketched them, with such striking accuracy, that there was no difficulty in identifying each particular species when you see his drawings. Names of each species is written in Malayalam as well as Konkani (Then known as Brahmananchi Bhas) A description of each plant was written in Malayalam and thence translated into Portuguese, by a resident at Cochin, named Emmanuel Carneiro. The Secretary to Government, Herman Van Douep, further translated it into Latin, that the learned in all the countries of Europe might have access to it. The whole seems then to have passed under the supervision of another learned individual named Casearius, who was probably a Dutch Chaplain and a personal friend of Hendrik van Rheede, who was the Governor of Dutch Malabar. The book confers honour, both on those who compiled it and the place where it was compiled.

 
T. Whitehouse, 1859, Historical Notices of Cochin on the Malabar Coast

 

The Rhinoceros

rhinoceronPen and ink drawing, Albrecht Dürer, 1515


The Rhinoceros

In early 1514, Afonso de Albuquerque, governor of Portuguese India, sent ambassadors to Sultan Muzafar II, ruler of Cambay, to seek permission to build a fort on the island of Diu. The mission returned without an agreement, but diplomatic gifts were exchanged, including a rhinoceros.
Albuquerque decided to forward the gift, known by its Gujarati name of ganda, and its Indian keeper, to King Manuel I of Portugal.
On the Nossa Senhora da Ajuda, with two companion vessels, all loaded with spices, the animal sailed across the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope and north through the Atlantic, stopping briefly in MozambiqueSaint Helena and the Azores.
The rhinoceros was finally unloaded in Portugal, near the site where the Manueline Belém Tower was under construction. The tower was later decorated with gargoyles shaped as rhinoceros heads under its corbels.

A rhinoceros had not been seen in Europe since Roman times: it had become something of a mythical beast, occasionally conflated in bestiaries with the “monoceros” (unicorn), so the arrival of a living example created a sensation.
In the context of the Renaissance, it was a piece of Classical Antiquity which had been rediscovered, like a statue or an inscription.
The animal was examined by scholars and the curious, and letters describing the fantastic creature were sent to correspondents throughout Europe.
The earliest known image of it illustrates a poemetto by Florentine Giovanni Giacomo Penni, published in Rome fewer than eight weeks after its arrival in Lisbon.

It was housed in King Manuel’s menagerie at the Ribeira Palace in Lisbon, separate from his elephants and other large beasts at the Estaus Palace.

Manuel decided to give the rhinoceros as a gift to the Medici Pope Leo X. The King was keen to curry favour with the Pope, to maintain the papal grants of exclusive possession to the new lands that his naval forces had been exploring in the Far East since Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India around Africa in 1498.
The previous year, the Pope had been very pleased with Manuel’s gift of a white elephant, also from India, which the Pope had named Hanno.
Together with other precious gifts of silver plate and spices, the rhinoceros, with its new collar of green velvet decorated with flowers, embarked on December 1515 for the voyage to Rome.

The vessel passed near Marseille in early 1516. King Francis I of France was returning from Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume in Provence, and requested a viewing of the beast. The Portuguese vessel stopped briefly at an island off Marseilles, where the rhinoceros disembarked to be beheld by the King.

After resuming its journey, the ship was wrecked in a sudden storm as it passed through the narrows of Porto Venere, north of La Spezia on the coast of Liguria. The rhinoceros, chained and shackled to the deck to keep it under control, was unable to swim to safety and drowned.

The carcass of the rhinoceros was recovered near Villefranche and its hide was returned to Lisbon, where it was stuffed. Some reports say that the mounted skin was sent to Rome, arriving in February 1516, to be exhibited impagliato (Italian for “stuffed with straw”), although such a feat would have challenged 16th-century methods of taxidermy, which were still primitive. If a stuffed rhinoceros did arrive in Rome, its fate remains unknown: it might have been removed to Florence by the Medici, or destroyed in the 1527 sack of Rome. In any event, there was not the popular sensation in Rome that the living beast had caused in Lisbon, although a rhinoceros was depicted in contemporary paintings in Rome by Giovanni da Udine and Raphael.

Valentim Fernandes, a Moravian merchant and printer, had seen the rhinoceros in Lisbon shortly after it arrived and had written a letter describing it to a friend in Nuremberg in June 1515. A second letter of unknown authorship was sent from Lisbon to Nuremberg at around the same time, enclosing a sketch by an unknown artist, Albrecht Dürer.
Without ever seeing the rhinoceros himself, Dürer made two pen and ink drawings, and then a woodcut was carved from the second drawing

The German inscription on the woodcut, drawing largely from Pliny’s account, reads:

On the first of May in the year 1513 AD, the powerful King of Portugal, Manuel of Lisbon, brought such a living animal from India, called the rhinoceros. This is an accurate representation. It is the colour of a speckled tortoise, and is almost entirely covered with thick scales. It is the size of an elephant but has shorter legs and is almost invulnerable. It has a strong pointed horn on the tip of its nose, which it sharpens on stones. It is the mortal enemy of the elephant. The elephant is afraid of the rhinoceros, for, when they meet, the rhinoceros charges with its head between its front legs and rips open the elephant’s stomach, against which the elephant is unable to defend itself. The rhinoceros is so well-armed that the elephant cannot harm it. It is said that the rhinoceros is fast, impetuous and cunning.

Dürer’s woodcut is not an accurate representation of a rhinoceros. He depicts an animal with hard plates that cover its body like sheets of armour, with a gorget at the throat, a solid-looking breastplate, and rivets along the seams. He places a small twisted horn on its back, and gives it scaly legs and saw-like rear quarters.
None of these features is present in a real rhinoceros.
It is possible that a suit of armour was forged for the king’s exhibition of the rhinoceros versus an elephant in Portugal, and that these features depicted by Dürer are parts of the armour.
Alternatively, Dürer’s armour may represent the heavy folds of thick skin of an Indian rhinoceros, or, as with the other inaccuracies, may simply be misunderstandings or creative additions by Dürer.
Dürer also draws a scaly texture over the body of the animal, including the armour. This may be Dürer’s attempt to reflect the rough and almost hairless hide of the Indian rhinoceros, which has wart-like bumps covering its upper legs and shoulders.
On the other hand, his depiction of the texture may represent dermatitis induced by the rhinoceros’ close confinement during the four-month journey by ship from India to Portugal.


[Silvio Bedini (1917 – 2007)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/08/AR2007120801552.html]

 

 

The Rhinoceros
2015

A critically endangered male Sumatran rhino born in a US zoo has been flown to Indonesia to mate, as part of efforts to save his species. Eight-year-old Harapan, born in Cincinnati, was the last Sumatran rhino in the Western hemisphere.
The rhinos natural habitat in the forest of Sumatra is being devastated by illegal logging, and forest fires set by farmers clearing land for palm oil and pulp plantations
They are prized by poachers as their horns are used in [fake aphrodisiac scams dignified by the term] “Chinese medicine”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34695888

 

The ancient Sumatran rhino has been declared extinct in Malaysia,
following the fate of black rhinos in West Africa in 2011.

Central Africa’s northern white rhino has been reduced to four animals,
and conservationists say the more plentiful southern white rhinos are under unprecedented attack from poachers eager to sell the horns to Asian and Arab buyers.

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34527409

 


After roaming free for millions of years, rhinos may be able to survive in Kenya only if they are protected behind fences in sanctuaries, a leading conservation charity has said.
Those that remain are increasingly vulnerable to extremely well-organised poaching gangs,  and people from inside the Kenya Wildlife Service have been found to be colluding with them.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/05/kenyan-rhinos-wild-poaching-sanctuaries

 

Just last week, preservationists at the Old Pejeta animal sanctuary in Kenya conceded that their one male and two female northern white rhinos will not reproduce naturally.
The animals were flown from the Czech zoo to the Kenyan conservancy in December 2009 in hopes that the natural environment there could be easier for them to breed in than in captivity.
Efforts will now be made to keep the species alive through in vitro fertilization. That experiment could take place with a southern white rhino surrogate mother. Southern white rhinos almost went extinct at the end of the 19th century, plunging down to only 20 at one point. Decades of conservation efforts gradually brought them back to life. 
The greater population of the southern white rhino could aid in reproduction of its northern counterpart. Scientists who have studied the critically endangered animal claim that dramatic population loss has reached the point at which inter-crossing the two subspecies will likely be necessary for the survival of the northern white rhino.
Geneticists view breeding rhinos across subspecies as a last resort of sorts, because of the possibility that the genes of the northern white rhino would not be preserved.
Other options are even less appealing. The six remaining animals in the subspecies would have to inbreed to produce any pure-bred offspring. But the negative effects of inbreeding, like reduced fertility and higher infant mortality rates, decrease the likelihood that the population of the subspecies could rebound this way.
“One can always believe in miracles but everything leads us to believe that hope they would reproduce naturally has gone,” Dvur Kralove Zoo spokeswoman Jana Mysliveckova told Agence France-Presse.


http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2014/1215/Only-five-white-rhinos-left-on-earth.-Can-this-species-be-saved-video

 

Plant-Blind

marshal sunflowerAlexander Marshal (c.1620 – 1682)
English entomologist, gardener, and botanical artist, noted for the florilegium he compiled

We Need a Cure

Humanity is suffering from an illness the extent of which is not fully known, and the impact of this is being felt across the globe. It renders humankind unable to see the plants in their environment, and leaves us deeming the plant-life everywhere as nothing more than  background for more important things.

Take an image of a lion in the wild in Africa and ask anyone what they see. The answer you will invariably get is “a lion”. If you are lucky, you may get the answer “a wild lion”, or if you are extremely lucky, “a wild lion in Africa”.
Generally you won’t get the answer “The African savannah in the dry season with some amazing acacia scrub and a lion lying on a bed of dry red grass (Themeda triandra) in the shade of a really old sausage tree (Kigelia africana)”.

The picture is not just a picture of a lion. It’s a picture of a whole environment and the biodiversity within it, without which the lion cannot survive.
A human is in exactly the same position as the lion. However, we have forgotten our need for this web of which we are a part.
The inability even to see the vegetation surrounding us has been given a name; plant blindness

The number of garden designers is growing, and yet specialist plant nurseries, with their focused knowledge of the individual plants in their care, are closing.
Plants – living things – often become throwaway items used purely for decoration, with little acknowledgment given to their much deeper importance to the human state.

Plants are vitally important elements in our ecosystem that clothe us, feed us, give us the oxygen that we breathe, and the medicines that cure us.
They are carbon sinks that will allow us to reduce global warming, control the impact of drought, and filter pollution out of the air and the water.
They need to be understood as the complex living organisms, in their myriad of forms, which they truly are.

Plants need to become valued again, recognized, seen.
We need to find a cure for plant blindness, and quickly.


Robbie Blackhall-Miles is a modern day plant hunter’s propagator and gardener. He is interested in ancient families of plants and blogs about these on his website fossilplants.co.uk. He also tweets as @fossilplants.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2015/sep/17/we-need-a-cure-for-plant-blindness


https://secretgardening.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/1154/

‘Does it matter that so many of the stories we tell take place in some ecological make-believe, where plants and animals are treated as little more than the living wallpaper of a stage set for human actions or as interchangeable ciphers for conveying life lessons?’


https://secretgardening.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/the-secret-gardener/

“the people who live in cities have lost their connexion with the earth; they hang, as it were, in the air, hover in all directions, and find no place where they can settle”


https://secretgardening.wordpress.com/2015/08/06/to-ungive/

We are blasé, in the sense that Georg Simmel used that word in 1903, meaning “indifferent to the distinction between things”.
As we deplete our ability to denote and figure particular aspects of our places, so our competence for understanding and imagining possible relationships with non-human nature is correspondingly depleted.

Study Of A Cucumber, With Its Leaves

jacques-le-moyne-(de-morgues)-a-cucumber,-with-its-leaves-(study)
Jacques le Moyne de Morgues (1533 – 1588
)

 

The Jay

Marshal_-_Purple_crocuses,_cloth_of_gold_crocus,_liverwort_(double_form),_poppy_anemones_and_jay

Purple crocuses, cloth of gold crocus, liverwort (double form), poppy anemones and jay Alexander Marshal (c. 1620 – 1682)

 

NOT NOW

storia uccelliStoria Naturale degli Uccelli Trattata con Mmetodo e Adornata di Figure Intagliate in Rame e Miniate al Naturale. Ornithologia methodice digesta atque iconibus aeneis ad vivum illuminatis ornate
Saviero Manetti (1723-1784) (editor)
Lorenzo Lorenzi (act. c. 1760) and Violante Vanni (c. 1732-1776)                     (artists and engravers)

When To Prune Trees: NOT NOW

The idea that we can keep pruning, if we’re careful, is wishful thinking.
When arborists or tree trimmers tell you it’s OK to prune in April, May or June because they will keep an eye out for nests, the blunt translation is: “Forget the birds.”
Although rules exist that require tree workers to stop cutting when active nests are discovered, a nest revealed is a nest imperiled.

In short, only one valid excuse exists for spring or early summer pruning: a danger in which a potentially falling tree threatens life or property.

California has a long nesting season.
Hummingbirds have been broody since January and will remain so for some time.
Think of them when you tell your gardener to leave the hedges, camellias and hibiscuses alone.
Bushtits, swallows, wrens, woodpeckers, phoebes and finches are either sitting on eggs or constructing nests.
Think of them, then put off termite work, gutter repair and tree thinning.

Also: Nothing else does the kind of job that birds do controlling insects.
No pesticide matches their safety for humans.
If your hibiscus has whitefly, it’s probably because constant pruning keeps out the flocks of bushtits that would have devoured the insects.
If unwelcome caterpillars are wreaking havoc on your vegetables, rethink letting the garden crews with buzz saws evict the finches that would otherwise have eaten the pests.
If rats appear on your telephone wires at night, you don’t need poison. You need a hawk.

For trees and shrubs, water deeply and occasionally, say once a month, to avoid the stress of drought.

Years ago, in a bid to stop the routine destruction of nesting grounds in Southern California, the Los Angeles Audubon Society produced the Guide to Bird-Friendly Tree and Shrub Trimming and Removal.
Online versions are available in Spanish and English.


http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/…/…/when-to-prune-trees.html