Saturday, March 20, 2010

Brief hist / IS / lit ephem

Just published a review on Intercapillary Space of Tony Lopez' Darwin...

I momentarily lost myself in a three-vol orgy of cut-price bookbuying in The Works yesterday - two of the vols being photographic guides (Collins) to UK Wild Flowers and Trees, by Paul Sterry. The Flowers is the less significant volume, and I think Collins use of the word "Complete" in the title is pushing the limits of definition. Even so, the dramatic improvements in colour photography and reproduction over the last few years mean that the the book does have some genuine usefulness. Check the duckweeds and small flowers on the docks, for example... Collins Complete British Trees is the real revelation, though. Here are photographs of every Sorbus endemic - leaves and fruit(surely a first)- a really useful supplement to Stace, and more up to date, e.g. it includes Sorbus 'Taxon D', a recently identified Exmoor variant - the elm pages are good too. But it's less comprehensive on common exotics that most people are far more likely to come across - extremely perfunctory, for example, on ornamental cherries (and surely the photo of "Sargent's Cherry flowers" is a crab apple?). But a useful complement to Alan Mitchell's books: Mitchell was interested in park and specimen trees, in practical forestry and landscaping; Sterry is interested in ecologies and semi-natural woods and hedgerows, hence he favours native species. Either way, Nature never entirely yields to being booked. (My third vol was "100 Songs in 100 Years", which will teach me to play and sing Fascinatin Rhythm, Georgia on My Mind, Only the Lonely, All Along the Watchtower and the Theme from Titanic among others.)

Here are my notes for the day, should it ever arrive, when I look for Sorbus species in the Exmoor area:

S. acuparia - Rowan. Pinnate leaves and purple buds. Watch out for Service Tree (S. domestica), also with pinnate leaves but completely different fruits (larger, green flushed red) and green buds (Bristol Channel area).
S. torminalis - Wild Service Tree, scattered in SW. Uniquely shaped leaves, basal lobes projecting at right-angles. Fruit brown.

S. anglica (part of Sorbus intermedia agg., intermediates between S. aria agg. or S. torminalis and S. acuparia). Small shrub (to 3m). Leaves somewhat lobed in lower half, but only 1/6 to 1/4 to midrib (S. intermedia is much more obviously lobed). Fruits crimson, v small lenticels. Mostly limestone.

S. porrigentiformis (part of Sorbus aria agg.) To 5m. Leaves obovate, toothed with apical tooth projecting. Fruit crimson with few large lenticels mostly towards base. Limestone.
S. rupicola ("Cliff Whitebeam") (part of Sorbus aria agg.) To 6m. Leaves narrowly obovate, straight-sided, entire in lower half. Fruit deep red with many medium lenticels. Usually limestone.
S. vexans (part of Sorbus aria agg.) Tree to 6m. Leaves obovate, entire in lower third, toothed lobes distally, apical tooth not projecting. Fruit scarlet with few lenticels. Old red sandstone. Near Culbone.
S. 'Taxon D' (part of Sorbus aria agg.) variety of S. vexans, rounder scarcely-lobed leaves and smaller fruit. Near Desolate.

S. devoniensis ("French Hales") (part of Sorbus latifolia agg., intermediates between S. aria agg. and S. torminalis). Tree to 7m. Leaves broadly oblong-elliptic with sharp teeth, lower erecto-patent (exactly like what you'd expect from crossing wild service tree and whitebeam). Fruits brown with many lenticels. Well-drained soils.
S. subcuneata ("Exmoor Service")(part of Sorbus latifolia agg., intermediates between S. aria agg. and S. torminalis). Tree to 10m. Leaves ovate elliptic, lobed 1/4 way to midrib. Fruits brown with many small lenticels. Old red sandstone.

I finished Stancliffe's Hotel last night. Charlotte Bronte is really one of the most wonderful writers in English - I mean wonderful as in "beyond anything you could imagine". And yet she sits there centrally in comfortable GCSE country, too. But these Tales of Angria give you a completely different idea of her (my relativistic fancy about a changed perception of "juvenilia" has already emphatically come to pass, in CB's case).

What else is on the floor? Ion (Euripides, not Plato), the Mourtray Family (Elizabeth Hervey), Kipling's stories (following last week's chilly but pleasant visit to Bateman's on its first day of the season) - A Sahib's War and Mrs Bathurst both for the dozenth time at least, Lisa Samuels' Throe, Bill Griffiths' Collected Earlier Poems (RSE), Sudden - Gold Seeker (Oliver Strange), Pope's Dunciad, När jag var prins utav Arkadien (Göran Printz-Påhlson, not Barbro Lindgren)...

If you live in the EU, sign this petition to force a reconsideration of the decision to permit GM crops to be grown in Europe:

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