Mushroom botany … for the sake of beauty

This poem was composed after a concise explanation of mushroom taxonomy focused on the specimen, the species, the genus and the family, was set out in conversation in the evening after a mushroom foray, at Longueville House, Mallow, County Cork. I dedicate this poem to Jim Fraser. Another title that works for this piece is – Mushroom Taxonomy. .

I.
The carpophore is true.
This stalked fruit body is true.
A specimen is real to me,
And, is real to you.
A stem, with cap, and gills,
you have…
A specimen is one true,
one true, taken from nature,
one true, made from this.

Fruit bodies of one species…
ought to have properties in common.
Features of cap,
features of stem,
and features of gills,
all that are true,
by God, by colour, by form,
by growth, by life, by all.

Congruence in morph,
equal in tone,
over the cap,
equal in zones,
neat radial gills,
attached equal in some way,
with stem surface parts …
equally rolled,
over the round.

Species is the ultimate unit
science creates to cope with this –
variation on the round, of
features of cap, gill and stem.
A name to go with it…
The species epithet…
we have to use it, now and then,
when we, who know and see it,
when we, see it again,
the name of the species …
is the epithet, we know it by.
And this will be the name we call it,
when nothing has escaped our eye.

A genus is a way of grouping,
A way of grouping species …
By pairs of species that share some features,
Whether we have the words or not
Things that are made of the same sort,
Things that are made of the same kind,
Things that form in the same kind of way,
Congeners share …
Congeners are our decision
on the closely knitted group.

Families, then, are more abstract, with a few, or more, principles in common …
Spore print colour …
White, cream, pink, cinnamon or dark purplish black …
Stem cap and gills for an agaric,
Stem cap and pores for a bolete,
Stem cap and folds for a girolle,
Gills break easy or milk when reflexed in Russulaceae
Families, then, are more abstract, with a few, or more, principles in common …

II.
The name we use botanically is a binomial of genus and species –
The genus: a predictor of form,
and the species: the one of that kind.
The family placement: an overview that we summarize.

Bizarre that taxonomy is so predictable,
the same result each time.
Constructed on logical argument,
and close observation of …
mycological colour, morphology and anatomy, studied optically.
Taxonomy is the consensus about the same kind.

Imagine the groups,
imagine genera,
something that comes with experience,
comes with a synopsis of one’s specimen examinations…
Drawing together forms in common,
that look the same,
that dissect the same,
that live in the same worlds …
of lacustrine moss …
but have different words – Massalongia carnosa fertile, foliose, Polychidium muscicola fertile, fruticose,
Imagine creating a family: Massalongiaceae
Logically needed for this congruence…

Put together a taxonomic system,
the goal of systematic botany,
A system to cope with all species,
is a sort of a yoke …
A yoke that makes sense of
All what we have seen …
living and growing in nature,
with logical keys to separate out
this from that,
that we can cope with,
a yoke to make nature comprehensible,
to those folk
with the insatiable curiosity
to look, and provoke.

Collect, observe, magnify,
draw, colour and illustrate.
Name and label the parts,
and distill into science,
a taxonomic method,
for enlightenment …

Writing up species for human utility is no way…
Use taxonomic honesty, systematic creativity, and floristic reality …
to describe our lands’ vegetation geography, for conservation, in a prescribed legal way,
to make destruction of each life, a species taboo, with which we inhibit
the banker’s and their chainsaw’s …
greed
in a society that destroys beauty.

Howard FOX

Sharing a meal from one’s own world

Distilling the vocabulary of genera,
detailing their morphological senses,
applying nuances to an under-explored forest.

A creative pamphlet for Honduras,
hurriedly assembled to guide, from afar,
Irish people walking by trees.

Knowledge for communication and
an incentive to tarry, turn and see
botanical detail, that bypasses me.

My table shared, in a request for family seating for a meal,
withdrawn in a botany manuscript, booklet editing,
overheard conversation, cues for discourse,
as I emerge, courteously, from my own world.

Accented English hints at exotic linguistic prowess,
Language, French, German, no, Lithuanian, Russian, yes, Irish, cupla focal.
explaining with my best roundaboutly told story of how to practice Irish,
of caint ar an madra ag rith go tapaidh, tar eis an anibhdhe ag rith go tapaidh freisin …

Howard Fox,
21 March 2016

Gazing across tree tops

Cloud mist in wafts rising across
tree tops, sentinels under a grey sky
late morning and still.
Forest walkers below,
hushed by branches of needles,
unaware of the watcher above,
track-bound, receding now,
around to the next stream bridge.

Blue sky opens a small window to the North,
otherwise grey. Pottering away,
listing species from a chalk lined plot,
pencil busy on notebook, clinometer out,
bark slope taken, camera shot.
Leader bark with a few needles attached,
stem spines prickle the skin
below my hand holding fist.

The tree flexes as one moves,
a step up to a new branch,
swing around to the other side,
to do the North plot next.
A new vista across the hills
with hedge-rowed fields for miles away.
The day is improving and
the cloud base is rising,
bluer now, greener too,
air washed by rain saturates colours.
My eye rests on a white-washed farm yard,
with red-roofed sheds, among winter brown hedges,
and wet grass fields.

Another push and the list is complete,
notebook packed away, with some time to one-self.
Unfurl a teabag string, douse in the flask,
the hot liquid greens, ready for reverie,
tree top tea, with a stray spruce needle
floater, for the lips to avoid.
A grey tractor moves in the farm yard,
damp soft sounds in a lower landscape,
from the hill forest,
gazing across tree tops.

Howard Fox (C) 2015

What

Relax, take it easy, calm your mind, not so fast.
Time is a healer, on your day off.
Isolation is unneccessary, censure is intolerable.
Talk in friendliness about anything,
compose something, talk it out loud,
for your sanity demands it,
connect with other souls, talk about modernity.
Listless in the heat, brain fry complete
deep breath, take it easy,
calm down, not so fast.

Take a walk to a tree,
use your eyes for an exercise
to see what is a twig,
develop the vocabulary to communicate
about an entity external to me,
keep going, screening with your eyes
until you have seen something you did
not know exists, now
take your time, really take it easy,
look at nature, calm, with your mind.

Recreation in nature is an inquisitive enqiry,
what is it like ?
Use your mind to describe this entity,
maybe do a dissection, or a drawing, or a painting,
or a photo, if you are impatient.
Make an image in your mind to communicate with the future
so that we can speak of the same entity,
in the same language, in the same words,
to some other soul, for we are all kindred.

Minister some spiritual kinship, by mentoring
this exercise in clarity, calm from the anxieties
of a distressed mind, a bit of visual yoga.
All you need is a tree, standing nose to a low branch,
short-sighteness helps, and tropical sunlight, to give good acuity,
for to see what is this entity, before me.

I am not the first to need something external,
to drive my tortured concerns away, but perhaps
with the spark of curiosity, looking is something my eyes can do
mindlessly, contribute kinship with that entity,
that needs a bit of dew, and respect too.

Calm the mind from its anxieties
is the exercise here, a diversion perhaps
if it works perhaps, perhaps, perhaps
the scales on the eyes of your perception,
will need a gentle rub, why torture your mind,
with intolerable situations, take a deep breath
and let it all go, keep your eyes open, and
release yourself from the tyrrany of why.
Why, for you have now delved
into the torture of what !

(c) Howard Fox, June 2013

See the diversity

Stopping by trees
focussed on individuals
thalli of colour and form
units of biology
living on bark
in community patterns
related to the conditions
that surface offers for life;
here where the thallus lives.

Grouped through the ages
into genera, the observer
sees, into species that
require a chemist’s senses
What are the intrinsic,
and what are the extrinsic?
the factors that make life here.

A spore grows ontogenetically in
a place suitable for juveniles once
a place where the thallus can fruit
complete the life cycle as the
substrate changes over the years.

Habitats in the forest
are not the easiest
for a tourist to imagine
Night, rain, heat,
sun-flecks, trunk axil
seeps. What can
the resident islander see?

Host trees each
one, watching the
variation intrinsically
as the extrinsic is
thought to differ,
wetter, western, trunk
age, all to genus
as grouped by the observer
all to species if thalli numbered
and patiently seen.

Choices of vegetative reproduction
geometrically tangential to the
surface of the tree, rain
drips and seeps apply chemistry
what bacterifuge is necessary
for life at the surface
of this thallus here. Taxonomic
identity comparison one against one
one has observed before.
Taxonomic insight takes patience
in the forest to see
In the dark shade, the
warm sweats drip and blur
the optical aids vision
of the intrinsic, minds
free for the extrinsic
wondering about the daily
routine, here at this
thallus, physiology.
How does it manage a
shower, how does it manage
at dawn, noon and sunset?
When does a vector interact?
Is the surface alive with
an ant? How sour is
the rain that passes
over? Where do those
tree mists flow in
the valley, where
does the night dew fall?
Does the tree canopy
harvest occultly the
clouds here or
what is this surface
like, leached or
flushed.

When to move
on to another thallus
to start the routine
again. How slow
do we move in the
forest to see
that thallus taxonomically
Give the pin a number
and write all the answers
methodically of a mindful of
questions organised scientifically

So what is your method
as you are wandering about,
for the method controls the
enlightenment your mind
can perceive. Focus on the
intrinsic, answer the
extrinsic litany.
Start a new thallus
then on, methodically,
until the day is
done. Stand still if you can see
a thallus is front of
you. Move over
barren ground, those
quadrats need scrutiny,
several a day if you are
able, until a week is
done. They say seven
weeks is enough to get
you to the front line.
Look at bark, imagine
the chemistry. Add weather
and dendritic geometry
for then you will see
like a forest master.

One plant whose flower
has never been seen
by mankind, then
you will see the once
off. Taxonomic
insight watching for
the raw edge between
hypothesis and reality.
The anomalies need recording
as they are scientifically,
new, new to science.

Walk, observe, stop, observe,
patiently repeat your litany.
There are hundreds of forms
on the trees of the islands.
How can you see them all
and challenge them for their
reality. Imagine the
muriform, imagine the simple
and where they would start life
on this surface, where do we
look on a tree, to see you.

Once the taxon emerges, then
the botanical use starts, a
predictor of environment on
the surface of a tree
united by physiology
a tolerance of life
nearby, one thallus to
the next, what differences
intrinsically emerge
and can be put down
to extrinsic causality.

Seeing in the forest
with the patience of
a forest master enough
to create a mythology
for an island’s culture
one thallus, one kind
Reality envisioned
and communicated internationally
in lingua latin
The name of species is such.
It is here, pantropically
If you can imagine
the chemistry of
bark in the tropics –
Plant host family
at a glance –
lines of an obsessive
romance with
a subject.
The insights that emerge in
free verse, summarise the
methods we can use to
seek enlightenment
in the forest. Why not
climb a tree, spend
time in the photophilous zone
with varieties of me, zip-lining
is too quick, a mental blur
hanging about the like a sloth
optically observing, remembering
the geography of where on the
island you saw a thallus like that.
This matching mismatching
mentally such names
as we have to handle the
forest, like a forest master,
and create a biological
mythology all carefully
attested in reality.
Deconstruction to unity
reassembly to botany.
Let us see these patterns
as vegetation, patterns
in the forest, visual memes
to stop your walk, so that
you see, the
diversity.

Walk on
now, go
again to
the wilderness
and watch
the forest.
Pencil to
note your reactions
in your mind
stimulated by
your senses.
Walk on,
see the
diversity.

Howard Fox, 16 iii 2013
Views: 25
Tags: botany, consiousness, discipline, of, poetry, stream, taxonomy

Tied to a tree

When I go travelling there,

I see what I see,

When I look at a tree,

the minutes extend one another

to quarter or half an hour,

before I move on to the next,

rewriting the logical words,

for each of the species,

with all those thalli,

on the surface of bark,

where I look with a lens,

and a spark.

Howard Fox,

14/15 ix 2015

Caribbean Literary Salon Blog II

What (unfinished)

Relax, take it easy, calm your mind, not so fast.

Time is a healer, on your day off.

Isolation is unneccessary, censure is intolerable.

Talk in friendliness about anything,

compose something, talk it out loud,

for your sanity demands it,

connect with other souls, talk about modernity.

Listless in the heat, brain fry complete

deep breath, take it easy,

calm down, not so fast.

Take a walk to a tree,

use your eyes for an exercise

to see what is a twig,

develop the vocabulary to communicate

about an entity external to me,

keep going, screening with your eyes

until you have seen something you did

not know exists, now

take your time, really take it easy,

look at nature, calm, with your mind.

Recreation in nature is an inquisitive enqiry,

what is it like ?

Use your mind to describe this entity,

maybe do a dissection, or a drawing, or a painting,

or a photo, if you are impatient.

Make an image in your mind to communicate with the future

so that we can speak of the same entity,

in the same language, in the same words,

to some other soul, for we are all kindred.

Minister some spiritual kinship, by mentoring

this exercise in clarity, calm from the anxieties

of a distressed mind, a bit of visual yoga.

All you need is a tree, standing nose to a low branch,

shortsighteness helps, and tropical sunlight, to give good acuity,

for to see what is this entity, before me.

I am not the first to need something external,

to drive my tortured concerns away, but perhaps

with the spark of curiosity, looking is something my eyes can do

mindlessly, contribute kinship with that entity,

that needs a bit of dew, and respect too.

Calm the mind from its anxieties

is the exercise here, a diversion perhaps

if it works perhaps, perhaps, perhaps

the scales on the eyes of your perception,

will need a gentle rub, why torture your mind,

with intolerable situations, take a deep breath

and let it all go, keep your eyes open, and

release yourself from the tyrrany of why.

Why, for you have now delved

into the torture of what !

(c) Howard Fox, June 2013

Views: 43

Tags: poetry, tree, visual, yoga

Comment by Howard Fox on June 7, 2013 at 9:16am

In composing this piece as a reaction to Roger Carter’s Why (unfinished), I am conscious of writing the same poem, again and again, on the Caribbean Literary Salon site, with different words. Such a preoccupation it has been warned against, and is common among those who express ideas in lyrical and poetic forms. My concern with the cognitive method of botany is pervasive and a difficult theme to escape from and a lot more needs to be written on this theme. I am also drawing on a conversation with a retired bryologist, Donal Synnott, over the use of the words tyrrany and torture – in botany, the need to provide polite society with scientific names for plants could be considered a tyranny or torture, formalised in binomial nomenclature by Carl Linnaeus, over 250 years ago. The predictive nature of the species and generic hypotheses of science is profound and a pleasure to use. Now we are in the midst of a phase of accommodating genetic information in the botanical synthesis to the detriment of a classical botanical education in morphology or form. In providing this stimulus to Caribbean botany, I trust this Salon will appreciate how to assimilate plants into their national cultures, and this will encourage a few who on the fringes of a botanical enlightement, might take cognitive steps in their observation methods to improve their perception for and respect for plants, that possess a subversive lack of an obvious utilitarian role in the society we live.