Sunday, June 22, 2008

profusion of June

The agony of being a botanist, I just want to stop the clock, right now, because there's far too much to keep up with, and never pass on to the desert of December. For non-botanists June is when you give up looking at plants altogether, because there are just too many - the flowers that are known to everyone are nearly all spring flowers. But I don't really want to stop the clock either, because what is a real living plant if it isn't a process through time, always changing, and if there were no winters there would be no summers, and life is something we can't ever hold in our hands and catalogue, and this is good, but it's agony.

Anyway here are some samples of June caught in the aspic of my studio, which is in fact the kitchen sideboard with IKEA underlighting.

Were the town of Frome to be abandoned by human beings it would very soon be an ashwood. In the lowlands by the river there would also be lots of this, which is corky-fuited water-dropwort (Oenanthe pimpinelloides), a plant that springs up in surprising quantities whenever it's given a chance, which is not often, except on certain estates where the chore of civilizing the gardens has been abandoned. The other interesting weed around here is some sort of wild plum that I've never understood. Local gardeners who patiently try to eradicate it say that it never flowers, but this is folklore; I have seen it flowering dully when allowed to become a tall sapling in wasteland. It must be very fertile because it's in every garden, and I think of this submerged population as a flourishing orchard in the days after oil.

Flowers and (below) fruits - the satellite flowers are evidently just for show.

Other kinds of water-dropwort grow actually in the flow of the river, and though this sort has migrated into valley meadows the leaves still sing a fluvial song.

Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), large handsome tree native to the Eastern USA, widely grown here in towns and parks - the flowers are usually too high up to see, and when I managed to reach up and pick one I felt like I was witnessing something I was never supposed to see.

(the kichen sideboard gets a bit cluttered in June, and the grass that has crept into the back of this picture is rat's-tail fescue...)

Laura found a new pet between the panes of a sash window in an old house. Unfortunately Dragonfly wasn't up to the rigours of being petted, flourished in the face of strangers, and carried around in a side pocket, and soon broke into three pieces - the abdomen, the eyes, and the rest. A dragonfly's wings are a very primitive design, the analogy with a bi-plane is inevitable. Compare it with a house-fly's wing, the very latest in smart technology - many less "veins" (they are actually structural, not conductive) but far better positioned so the whole contruction is stronger, and the hind-wings phased out completely, or rather, converted into ingenious little balancing sensors called halteres whose precise function aerodynamic engineers still haven't quite figured out. But still, this wing-design works very well for the after all quite demanding needs of dragonflies, but I suppose hunting over water is a niche market in the grand scheme of things, anyway, "classic design", "stood the test of time", etc.

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At 12:12 pm, Blogger Vincent said...

marvellous Michael. More please. (more often)

At 12:54 am, Blogger Unknown said...

Very interesting. Found some of this today in wet grassland near Newport Wetlands. Was confused as no bracts beneath umbel, so thought it might be natrrow leaved water dropwort. Your pics confirm though at fruiting stage the bracts appear to have withered away.

At 2:24 pm, Blogger Michael Peverett said...

Yes the bracts don't seem very reliable. This species seems to like anywhere near the Severn estuary!


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