Letters (on fungi) from small islands – comparisons from around the world.

Howard F. FOX, National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, D09 VY63, Dublin, Ireland.
Maria L. CULLEN, Barrow Herbarium, Ballyanne, New Ross, County Wexford

BIODIVERSITY INVENTORY
Inventorying the botany of small islands is a satisfying objective of field studies in nature.
In addition to the need for the botanical synopsis of an island to be visually tractable, all the major habitat types, that walking can determine are present on a small island, need to be screened for component species. Voucher specimens preserved in herbaria provide the basis for the scientific decision making of identification of species.
Since HF and MC began our lifelong botanical quests in 1987 and 1995 respectively, we have endeavoured to incorporate our scientific observations in their appropriate botanical context. Identification is time consuming work from first principles of consulting type specimens in herbaria, but is more rapid in taxonomically well documented biomes, where original acts of scholarship are documented and copied from book to book.

IRELAND AND HER OFFSHORE ISLANDS
We began this quest in Ireland, focussing on offshore islands (Lambay, Clare Island, Inishbofin, Inishturk, Foynes Island, Tory Island, Bere Island, Cape Clear Island, Inishtrahull, Sherkin Island, Great Saltee, Achill Beg, Skellig Michael) accessible by boat and by ferry. Kayakers have landed on many more smaller offshore islands, and in some places, botanical exploration on some Irish offshore islands is still scant.

SAINT LUCIA & JAMAICA
In our experience, the mycology of Saint Lucia and Jamaica will require several more rounds of revision, prior to satisfactory knowledge is assembled. There is potential for species new to science to be found here, as well as many species already described with a wider that hitherto known distributional range. We are building on the science of the late Edward Vainio, the late Henry Imshaug, Harrie Sipman, Andre Aptroot, Marcela Cacares and other taxonomists what have collected and considered botanical specimens from Saint Lucia, Jamaica, and similar iso-climatic habitats in sub-tropical and tropical zones of the Caribbean and Central American neotropics, as well as all around the world.

NEW CALEDONIA, TAHITI, MOOREA AND NIUE ISLAND
The mycology of Nouvelle Caledonie is at a relatively advanced stage. Numerous taxa are understood from voucher specimens preserved in PC in the metropole and NOU locally. Jean Mouchacca, John Elix, Patrick McCarthy, Robert Lucking and others have built upon the scientific infrastructure of William Nylander, various French 19th century mycologists and the late Rolf Santesson. The exploration of French Polynesia is uneven, and while Tahiti has a long list, information from Moorea is modest. An overview by John Elix and Patrick McCarthy shows a wide tropical diversity in the central Pacific. Niue Island has been explored mycologically in our studies of voucher materials kept in Ireland.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITIES
The festival for the Transit of Venus at Pointe Venus in Tahiti in June 2012 demonstrated the lack of scientific instruments in daily use by natives of the Pacific Islands. Most optical instruments and telescopes were operated by native French scientists. Such can be said for the Atlantic Ocean and the offshore islands of Ireland and in the Eastern and central Caribbean. A botanical herbarium is kept in Saint Lucia by the Forestry Department in Union, south of Castries. A website for plant species identification by Roger Graveson is instrumental in promoting Saint Lucian botany. Similar resources are not obvious in Jamaica. In Ireland, since 2000 there has been a renaissance in taxonomic resources online, starting with Stuart Dunlop’s 2003 to 2007 Donegal Hedgerow. Many other sites have grown up alongside the NBDC at Carriganure, Waterford and the GBIF mined resources that computerised Ireland’s biodiversity information. The development of third level colleges and universities in Noumea, Alofi, Papete, Suva, Morne Fortune, Mona, and so on, provide the potential for botanical research on fungi to grow, and the virtual herbarionauts of Paris will help accelerate this aspect of mycology.

THE LAUDATO SI OF POPE FRANCIS AND CONSERVATION
We are still left with the primacy of nature as a creator of species of interest to the scientific enlightenment, the need for conservation of nature first, and the availability of specimens in the museum and private sector for study, to enable all this scientific infrastructure to be generated. In addition to google, we still need the minds of people, who express the wit and the curiosity and willingness to curate knowledge as an altruistic act for society. The burning of the Amazon, with fires set on 10th August 2019, show the resistance to the wise use of forest resources. This is an example from in the Lusophone tropics, primary forest burning and ancient forest clearance is something that occurs in every townland, even in 2019 as close to home as in Corracloona, in County Leitrim in Ireland, an ethic which needs to be challenged effectively by all humanity.

Republished by lichenfoxie. Text for a poster at the European Mycological Congress, Warsawa, Poland, September 2019.

Howard Fox on Dante’s endgame in the Amazon

In reading The Dipper’s Acclaim and other essays again in the last fortnight, I am making distillate of a vision of John Feehan’s inspirational text and how it moderates mine. John has of course four major books Slieve Bloom, Laois, Bogs of Ireland and Farming in Ireland, in addition to his spiritual reflections on Laudato Si. This last book has been our recommended reading at the Corracloona Old School, Kiltyclougher, in County Leitrim, this week.

This latter book concern is the ecological conversion from the Augustinian to the Franciscan view of nature. The land use conflict and extinction turmoil that this change in philosophical guidance is attempting to moderate is devastating, as seen by soy and beef farming and the fires set in the Amazon on 10th August 2019, Dante’s endgame. The destruction of nature is the financial crime of the millennium.

The taxonomic tools we have for understanding the organization of nature is won by studying the morphology of species alive in the Amazon and nature everywhere in the global forest. We have had scholars of Brazil like Vainio in 1890 and Cacares 2011. Now she is organizing a lichen congress in Brazil in 2020 with the blessing of the International Association of Lichenologists’. These scholars have set a framework for the comprehension of the Amazon from the perspective of the genera and species of lichens on tree bark, intellectual insight showing that the Amazon is tractable and not to be feared. Lusophone literature on the Amazon shows the cultural abuses against nature have at least half a millenium’s lead in.

Taking the townland of Corracloona on the lakeshore of Upper Lough Mac Nean in North Letirim on the shore road between Glenfarne and Kiltyclougher where I am currently installed as a lichen studying hermit, I want to explore some insights on these topical concerns in my usual way.

Consider the lilies

It is not complexity rather the elegance

of plant parts, their veining and their form

That provides us with a congruence of consanguinity

Units of composition, order and harmony

That reveals our wonder in

The taxonomic aspiration for species

Consider the lilies

A bog myrtle and a sedge

Myrica gale and Carex panicea

The utricles in September

Transcending inference and analogy

A hopeful contemplation for the future

New to science once, but from nature first,

Predicted in another place

Open to another mind

Genetic readings of a plant part

A synapomorphic insight

in our vigil on life.

Ask not what you can do

The leap of recognition

A signal of joy

Of an encounter

With a specimen

Of a species

Known from literature before

New to us, admitted to our skeptical reality.

The extinction of micro-habitats of species

In the Amazon inferno

and across the masai warrior

plains of the pale of Ireland

Is the crisis and war of our time

Cast this injunction

In the extinction rebellion

To temper the flames

We apprehend you

Slow you with a sample

Of nature herself

The latin binomial

Of a novelty

only encountered in nature

Fathomable facets

Of a townland

A hopeful contemplation

for the future

Beyond the inferno

Forest bureaucratically dismissed

as farmland

the financial crime

of the millennium.

Howard Fox

5 September 2019

Postcard from the Edge of the Townland

This week, I met Brian, the writer.
I would never ever, ever, say this. Your text is past the point of rescue remedy. Complete Trollop’s. Never. Not ever. Always pour forth. You are getting there. I look forward to being a reader of your novel, printed and guillotined out of your mind, by Caesarian section, just in case the Manor Hamilton vet’s scan shows that there are two lambs in her uterus, Romulus and Remus. The Cotswold countryside is full of fecking fleecy sheep, Mr. Murphy.
The classroom, slow to react, was uncertain.
From Manor Hamilton mart, He continued, then sat down.
Is that paragraph good enough to pass your editor’s censorious picque.
Where the feck is the Cotswolds, again. The flautist piped up.
Let us pull out the map of Sasanach, and draw your fecking sheep on it, not on mine, your map, your hand drawn map, his teacher replied. Our understanding of their geography comes from the radio, the Cotswolds is silly mid-off when bowling from the Manchester end, wearing a woolly jumper on a scorching hot day. Overheated, he starts his run up at Hadrian’s wall. He is out, caught, by a snick to the first Cotswold. Mr Murphy the Irish Newsreader, is new to cricket commentating. He must have been left handed.
Republican lessons were going down a treat in the Corracloon School.
Brian had gone visiting over the weekend and had a new ally, receiving a book from an Alternative Ulster library on fungal taxonomy, the science of classification and the identification of the species from far flung country-sides from the Cotswolds to Barbuda.
The title of the fecking book, in a series of monographs on Humour Research had the bizarrely inappropriate title – A sence of humour. A thesis, read only once, by the poor author, so full of typos, which is so fecking funny, you cannot believe, I am serious, but I am.
Oberon, what is the problem. He is training to be the next dog in space.
Corracloona, we have a problem.
Oberon wants to go out for a space-walk.
Do not bother Mary or us.
Taxonomy is the great extinguisher of mirth, the next class, Mr. Murphy, thought ahead, almost for the first time in his life. Planning, scheming always, but thinking ahead. Never. In that stubborn, Ulster, blackberry bath of grey mould of a way, in a Penicillin prescription voice, that brings me on to Manor Hamilton, later on in the morning to return Library books, from that foetid stew that is his mind.
This week, I met Brian.
The bowl on his space ship is low in water and out of carrots, except there is a half, actually a smidgin less than a quarter of a carrot, still in his bowl, but there is no kibble.
I think we are getting there, closer to Corracloon.
The hermitage’s bedroom door is open. He puts his hand out and closes it.
The extraordinary happens.
Oberon pants vigorously after the aerobic exercise of barking continuously, while being ignored. Unlike Bran, he eats carrots quietly, in between barking.
He knows the story is not funny, and he is exhausted barking at me for offenses against the state of Oberon act. I read to him in my Richard Burton voice, as if it were Under Milk Wood. He sits by my side like a Manxian Panda, black and white with three and a half legs, settled, his gavel meeting out justice in camera in hermetic chambers. Oberon’s skill in justice extends to salami, which he found in a box of taxonomic collections left down to dry from Belmont’s picnic on Friday.
It is Monday. He looks to me to have the recess terminated, sitting, repositioned, back to the door.
‘Vivid Vivienne’s baskets from vimnalis in Vermont require Vermouth to soothe, explaining the benefit of the republic to the citizens of The States’ Mr. Murphy said. ‘The making of basket cases is our next class in Corracloon, Mr. Murphy continues. A class in home economics for your formation. ‘And Snowberry by the school yard grows native in Virginia, Symphytocarpus virginiana, continuing his taxonomy lesson, totally invasive, and unsuitable for making of baskets, but wreaths at Christmas perhaps, when it Snows on Killymanjaro.
Found your inner voice yet, Sir.
That is not funny.
Oberon, gnaws and licks in an attempt to soothe the itch of his underbelly mange, back to the door.
This week, I met Brian.
He is actually a writer. So much so, when he retired after his parents died and he bought an abandoned republican National School in Corracloon, to write in.

Corracloona,
Tuesday

Dear Brian,
Thank you for your hospitality in Corracloon on Saturday, and I trust you enjoyed your visit to our wee monastic hermitage in Corracloona by return, where our dogs eat carrots. Hope your dogs are well, especially the epileptic one. We enjoyed the homemade flapjacks and the black Earl Grey tea. Maria sends her Aubergine recipe from Manor Hamilton library.
Learning from you,
Regards,

Mr. Murphy.

800-850 words.

Oberon sounds suitable for the Angelus

He goes in the rushes. When he is done, he bursts through the tussocks, rustling back onto the path.
Come on, Obi!
He gets to the door first.
I look in the window passing, see Oberon up on the bed already, walk to the door and shutting it, the door clips home.
Oberon is now drinking in his room, lapping, a sound track suitable for the Angelus. He moved on and is now settled behind the kitchen door. His chin is on a floor mat, watching.
Five books are to go back to the Library, in the morning, to Manor Hamilton. They are laid out on the bed.
I cough and splutter. Moving, I sit on the bedside to continue writing.
Oberon repositions himself on the Leaba, watching the kitchen door, in more comfort.
I turn in, too, shedding my slippers, which might irritate him, into action.
Oberon resumes his watch, noticing my feet. He picks at the kibble spilled from the bed bound dish.
He looks over at Patricia Fitzgerald’s 2004 book From Pictures to Words, a guide to books for children, by a County Clare Librarian.
Oberon is wondering when Howard would write and illustrate a book to read to dogs at bedtime, especially for him.
He growls, now, as I type up this.
He gnaws at the duvet, grooming the sheets, a pelt satisfyingly mange free. He noses and tips the bowl and then, nose in, selects another kibble, with a deft sweep of his tongue.
My arm is like that of a right-handed swimmer, with the muscle on the back forearm, tightening with each progressing sentence.
Oberon sits. His ears follow the sound of the story on the radio, and the rubbing of my toes and feet together. Socks hang from the radiator.
Oberon descends from his perch, and I check on him, disturbing him in the process. He is nosing around my shoes and socks. He lies flat out on the tiled floor. He rises, checking on Maria sounds, emanating from the kitchen – pots moving between berths on the cooker’s ceramic rings.
Howard remembered that Mary said Jose called her a good cooker. Jose was a kid, brought over by a Spanish priest, who came to stay in Ballyanne. The priest of Rathgarogue, Father Frank had arranged for a Spanish exchange in the parish, and one of the kids in the group to stay with her, and be on his best behaviour, with his most trusted parishioner, Mary. In his gratitude, Hose’s innate Spanish humour, attempting to speak polite English, lives on in Mary’s mind.
Michael Murphy, the newsreader, another Spanish exile, writes poetry of emulating voices for the Beeb Four, with select vocabulary of perfectly pronounced language of Joanna Trollope, one could never find on Irish Radio at Montrose.
‘A Country Girl’ starts on the radio. Ah, the stage Irish …
Oberon began to breathe more regularly and dozes off. The radio reception tuning here North of Manor Hamilton leaves a lot to be desired, contrasted with kettle boiling noises … as the water temperature, and the steam pitch rises.
‘Howard’, she calls.
‘Yes’, he responds.
Maria lightly scrapes and thunks on some crockery on the cooker with a fork, as Howard imagines that she is plating up din-dins.
As the Beeb Four radio play proceeds, he ask ‘What is that tune?’
‘The Parting Glass’, she replies.
How interesting! Go on https://www.lichenfoxie.com; do the contemplation required, reflect on the meaning of …
din,
before and after din …
make a composition about din,
in a poetic mode of thought.
He awaits dinner … but cannot write for much longer.
That’s it, time is up. His arm feels that last surge to write.
Come on! She calls …
Coming …, coming …

Aubergines sliced and salted,
dabbed in cream flour,
as batter,
fried on a pan,
chilies for her,
none on his,
serving,
after swabbing in a dish …
of microwaved honey.

‘That’s the amazing thing about a recipe’, from a vegetarian cookbook from the Manor Hamilton Library, she began, ‘is that even if one might not have tried or tasted it before, when making dinner, recipes really work out, best’.
Mary’s daughter, Maria, is a good cooker.
Should we keep the cookbook out for another week, or bring it back, man yana?

736 words

Howard Fox
20th August 2019

Lughnadhsa

LIn the hall, the scribes quietly put pencil to paper.

The North West is one of those dark places in our landscape. The moor on Thur Mountain has to be traversed to get to Manor, as the crow flies from the Black Pig’s Dyke at a ford west of Upper Lough Mac Nean. The walkers, to this haven, have picked the day before the grouse shoot opens. Frochans are barely ripe, with a green powdery bloom on the berries. Sika Deer in the woods of Corracloona know these mountain trails well. The first part of this walk follows a burbling stream, up through hazel and beech with mushrooms, then into the eyrie Sitka Spruce. A fire had claimed some young trees, years before, and the desolation of charred Spruce made for a relatively easy traverse.

At the bridge, there is another bothar heading up Thur Mountain. We are aiming to the right, making sure we hit the pass for Manor. The weather is improving today, and the midges are not part of our irritations. Walking into the heather, Oisin picks some buds of Bog Myrtle and makes a lozenge from them. He will taste this, until he lunches on cais, a Queen Maeve’s hard version. The story goes that in battle Maeve was hit on the head with a hard cheese, was concussed and died. Not an easy way to go …

Howard Fox, 11 August 2019

Themes

A pool of landscape myths for
bringing to culture, renewed;
the Shannon sings her legends
for drinking cattle.
Her stories of place
assimilate Gaelic tales,
creating a mythology for
each part of our country;
bringing these threads,
from the enlightenment, to you;
a sense of belonging
to each place,
of ours.

Howard Fox, 11 August 2019

Themes and Lughnadhsa are two short pieces which emerged from a creative writing class run by Monica Corish, at the Glens Centre, Manorhamilton, County Leitrim on 11 August 2019. Many thanks.