Disorganized Thinking

Summer evening light,

In bed early for a fresh start, to deal with:

Lack of version control.

Too scattered to have the killer instinct,

Or the ruthlessness to put down others,

A protracted process, evolving to a style,

thought through, iteration by iteration,

until it is right,

polished from disorganized thinking.

A weakness I hide, only the malicious exploit;

Advocacy for an artist’s defense,

From the depredations of the less benign.

Vulnerable, slow to whinge,

If all is not right.

Persistently evasive to deny hardship.

Planning is a much more central part for survival,

for those pushed to the pin of their collar,

to revoke white collar abuse.

Generosity reciting reviewed information live,

To scientifically document life’s home truth

until they are lucidly communicated

is the service provided,

polished from disorganized thinking.

Howard FOX

Summer 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.


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,

Mr. Murphy.

800-850 words.

Nine Worlds

Our very own Yggdrasil fell the other day,
An Ash tree,
holding Nine Worlds in its branches and roots.
Bourne from the Well of Urd, right here by the Tolka,
snowbound and closed, storm Emma blew
from the East-North-East for three days:
Wednesday ‘til Saturday.

Glasnevin watched over this ‘Waterer’s Variety’ Ash
in the far grounds, number 1888.011023.
This 30 metre tree – some 120 years old, graceful,
holding Nine Worlds in its branches and roots.

A yellow flame of Chrysothrix candelaris
on its latticed trunk, made it visible from afar.
Honey fungus, at a root buttress,
was noted, 14 September, five years ago,
warning that its time was near.
Armillaria gallica, a honey fungus variety
has rotted out its fifth of the root plate.

Nine Worlds of our very own Yggdrasil were alive here, last week.
Leafy lichens of 20 kinds,
crusty ones and fungi of another 20 sorts.
Nine fungal infections of lichens,
five mat-forming mosses, three cushioned ones,
two liverworts and a 16-spot ladybird, in an Ash tree.

Sixty species crowned this Glasnevin village Ash:
all grown from wild gardener’s spores,
30 years afresh in Mary Harney’s clean air.
Our very own Yggdrasil
holding Nine Worlds in its branches and roots,
full of cryptogamic spore bark life,
a centre of spiritual cosmos,
right here by the Tolka, the Ash that fell the other day.

Howard FOX, Botanist, 7-8 iii 2018

Kildare Snowdrops

The tall tree casts its long shadow at dawn in a weak sun; winter is beginning to ease. Snowdrops catch little of the hint of warmth in still air. Cool but not cold. These Galanthus nivalis could be from the mountains in Turkey, from a valley far above the Black Sea, where I have never been.

Our snowdrops in the garden at home were planted by a previous owner, a different family and a different generation. Snowdrops from Crimea, snowdrops from the Balkans, snowdrops from the First World War. Ottoman trophies – a few bulbs brought home in soldier’s luggage – memories of friends lost in the chaos and misadventure of war.

The snowdrop varieties here in our garden are the same as the ones of the big houses of North Kildare: Castletown and Carton. Snowdrops as a signature of social cohesion, a society within a society, traded as presents between the tenant farmer’s wife and the big house. The snowdrops in Hosie’s garden were in a white sward, right across from the 33 milestone on the old coach road from Dublin. That is 33 Irish miles, marked on Taylor’s Map of Kildare of the 1770s.

Writing for pleasure itself is alive here on a Saturday morning in the halls of Ardgillan, the home of the road improver Taylor of Taylor’s Map at his country seat. And there are snowdrop varieties to see here in Ardgillan gardens too, in the shade of the tall trees.

This short piece developed from an exercise of 15 minutes composition, from the prompt word -Tree, freshly written at this morning’s meeting of the Ardgillan Writers Group and read a few times by a our readers, for sentences that did not work, transcribed this afternoon from the pencil manuscript typed up, edited and elaborated this evening and made ready for this internet blog.

Handwriting – twin pencils catch the muse

Always to hand,
ink in all its permanence
leaves its pale tattoo,
on a right-hand middle finger tip,
from a hand held fountain pen,
after washing with soap,
while leaks make for
a messy laundered pen pocket.

The capped fountain pen requires tissues,
an ink bottle of south sea blue too,
and a draw fill chamber squeezed –
inhaling ink for handwriting,
patted down for cleanliness
in a grip well above the nib
A leather shod foot to break a fall
might save the nib, if you are quick.

Graphite wood case pencil rounds,,
long handled twin pencils in hand,
from finger clamp to palm side,
pointed by an office topper,
metallic sharpener’s wood turned coils
make for dusty graphite centered shavings
caught by a sea whelk shell’s belly,
twin pencils pared, essential, if a lead breaks,
one pencil left to keep going with.

Pastel A4 paper, so the handwriting can be,
by colour, of ink or paper,
re-found on a cluttered desk top to type up.
Beech wood quartos and bamboo octavos
as writing boards, travel with me.
Filter paper scientifically blots the mess
from emotionally dry sentences,
while sea shells from beach combing
fancy goods of a stationery press
are a scouts’ tools for handwriting.

Fair copy hand typed on a keyboard
lines set for the computer and internet,
a postcard to you and your smart-phone
so as to be ready to be read,
if you have the battery charged,
and you are in the humour, to connect.

With a scouts’ obsession of having tools to hand:
for when the fickle muse calls
and words start to tumble out
some unholy time of day or night,
my trusty twin pencils pared
are always ready to write.

Howard Fox

I do not like squared paper – towards a solution to a science dilemma

Laboratory Books I need to love
on every page have squared paper –
a push away from science.
Title, abstract, introduction,
materials, methods, results,
discussion, conclusions, references
is our way.

Squares for every single letter.
Squares for every single digit.
Obsessively square control
for everything written every time,
every day in a square,
day by day, in laboratory books.

My love of digits in squares faded
with childhood mathematical prowess.
Now I could not do a budget
to save a single round cent,
yet I need to love squares again
to get some science done.

I think I am finding a way.
1000 questions in long hand
writing across square boundaries
as if they do not box me in.
Angle the page so as my hand
follows a horizontal sometime.
Write on every second line
for a page at least.

Are the problems real? The trauma is.

An unethical pharmacology demonstration
in a graph on squared paper
displaying after injection the last of a life.
Traumatic physics assignments,
of metallic springs stretched
beyond their design load.
Laboratory Book marking
turned me to botany,
and on to vegetation quadrats
standing in squares recording plants.
Geographic co-ordinates are
squares set on arcs on the celestial round,
squares undermined by cadastral appeal.

The scientific solution is to add
a compass with pencil arcs
to turn squared paper on the lathe to beauty.
Arcs and curves, sine waves and parabolas –
squares inhibit, if you do not love them.
Rekindle that spirit of botanical inquisition
to understand, model and represent.

Build that scientific model
from the materials to hand
of some phenomenon in the world.
Back of an envelope, they say,
Why not the herbarium folded packet
Latin name, plant geography, date, collector.

Find your voice, find your style,
let your laboratory book be
your window on to that inquisitive life.
For the love of squares, with a compass then,
create arcs of roundness,
and a few tweaks here and now,
terms of reference, ethical concerns,
why this science is good for society,
and why it is right for us to do.
Masking tape to add notes culled from
notes written in undisciplined places,
until I like squared paper in the
Laboratory Books I need to love.

Beaufort five and falling

Flapping in the wind,

For quarter of a hour between 8 and 9,

Clouds flow east across the evening sun.

Hammock silk tugs and stretches,

As tree mallow flower spikes sway,

Awaiting her return.


Noodle nests boiled for supper

Seasoned by butter and goats cheese

With Miso, provided for what I need.

Low clouds zip east.

Eyelids closed for an inner volcanic rouge

From solar bound shut eye.


Wind hammock billows

cooling shivers motive to go in.

Bluer above, catching the evening air

Heading out to the Irish Sea.

Cooler chilled back and coughs,

signal a last swing,

Before I unfurl my hammock,

And let my day out end.


Rewarmed in still air inside,

Hisses the drafts of unsteady wind,

Beaufort five and falling,

As mallow lilac flowers wobble,

In the last of the day’s sun.

Crescent moonrise over Loughshinny

The dog looks over me, waiting for me to wake up. A whimper to see if I am emerging from unconsciousness, and then a few more insistent barks when he sees he is getting a result. Clasping palms, I roll towards the edge of the bed, my elbow righting myself for the day ahead.

His single woof, at his nemesis Bran, chambered next door, is his acknowledgement that he is on his way up and out for his morning walks. Out the door, down the steps, to the lawn for a quick pee, and the pressure is off. He runs dollop, bear-like, a black and white Manx panda dog, tailless, with ferocious teeth, sometimes.

We go around the old lifeboat house to the beach. The sand is wind blown this morning, scalloped, like something fresh from the Sahara, dry, footprint free.

He has woken me before for astronomical highlights. The red-eyed full moon during the tail end of a lunar eclipse over the bay in the winter, the moonlight reflected in a damp beach with the southwest Dublin sodium lamp glow. Another nocturnal walk around and across to the Chevrons in the spring, rocks at the edge of the bay, Venus light, on a moon free night, from the east reflected as spots on a gentle lapping sea.

His track across the sand is distinctive, a three pawed cluster with his peg leg leaving the mark of a pirate’s stump. The sand blows and a few grains reach my lips and I rub my eyes. I have always dreamt of seeing full moonrise at sea in the Pacific Ocean, but that would take planning.

This morning’s view is of a crescent moonrise east through the orange pre-dawn stripe of the horizon, over the Irish Sea. Rockabill lighthouse is to the northeast, a twelve second red blink, with an open sea horizon southeast to Lambay and on to the green second light on the navigation marker south in Loughshinny Harbour.

Returning for the camera, I capture seven views of the crescent moon to illustrate it. Johnny still slumbers in the mobile home, with his dog Blackie, who had hid under his mobile home for a few days unfed, and Wiry, carried under his arm past our window last night, past the risk of an encounter with one of our pair.

Oberon has been out before dawn, and Bran tumbles back into his canine reverie, while Oberon supervising the door, he lies, exhales nasally, and lies horizontal like a door draft excluder, ensuring that any ingress or egress cannot possibly be missed.

Seagulls, Greater Black Backs pick for lugworms, along the stripe of the freshwater spring across the beach to the west, their breast feathers catching the early morning sunrise with a glossy white to prawn pink hue.

I sit looking west, curious to know if the crescent moon is visible now, when I have finished writing this, the long shadows have more contrast, and the sunlight has more strength, now that the day is here.

2 June 2016

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

Fieldwork, Observation and Notation systems in Floristic Botany

‘Providing names for plants subordinates them to our understanding.’ (paraphrased, Genesis 2: 3-5, after Lysaght 1997: 440).

Keywords: species, plants, fungi, geography, botany, philosophy, identification, specimens, vouchers, herbaria, methods, science.

There are still relatively few Irish field botanists, but a new heyday of Irish botany has arrived (Synnott 1997). Maria Long has illustrated figures that show that more botanists in Ireland have joined the BSBI, year on year in the last decade (2006-2015), than from the period 1964 on, with peaks in 1985 and 1997.

What do botanists do with their developing knowledge of Irish plants? What sort of works ought a botanist produce and publish for the wider society in Ireland is a worthwhile question to ask (Doogue 1992) of one’s own botanical activity and career. Listing the plants living in different sorts of places is what doing floristic botany is all about. Ecology is about learning how to communicate results about plants to the wider society, so that both the conservation of plants and what plants need to live and reproduce are actually taken into account by land managers.

Listing plant names involves observation, plant recognition, plant identification and note taking, all the while knowing precisely where one is, in terms of spatial geography and habitat, in Ireland. Each plant location in Ireland has townland and vegetation contexts. In addition, plant recording can include temporal, personnel, taxonomic reference, Ordnance Survey of Ireland raster grid and other contexts, all of which can become the normal part of a scientific biological record or a reference collection (Speight 1977, 1978).

All this geographic and spatial cognitive activity while reacting to seeing plants happens outdoors, so many kinds of notation systems are useful to record the history of these sightings, and to note any ecological or scientific interpretations, species determinations and so on, that cross one’s mind while in the field, and when thinking, about each place and detail seen, afterwards. Botanists parse the visual sensory stream that we experience into plant species, so much so that a decade ago the notion of botanists as ‘bipedal optical scanners with species recognition software’ was elaborated in a Dublin Naturalists Field Club programme and newsletter editorial. The literature that inform botanists of species concepts is diverse (Fox 2013), and includes biology syllabuses, natural histories, floras, identification guidebooks, science journals, geographic information, communication and research technologies, such as ‘Google Images ‘. Getting to know species in somewhere new and unfamiliar, like in tropical forests on a Caribbean island (Fox & Cullen 2014, Fox 2014), is a fully engaging process of botanical research.

In more than twenty years of floristic botany, mainly on lichens, but also on mosses, liverworts, macro-fungi, woody plants, micro-fungi, seaweeds, etc., one tends to develop habits, some ways of doing things that are retained, and some notation systems that are discarded or kept when improved, for the purposes of providing a rich record of species lists from fieldwork.

Historical geographers, librarians and archivists have taken to mine our collective printed botanical floristic information heritage (Collins 1992) for cultural ends. Indeed, Robert Lloyd Praeger’s printed legacy (Praeger 1934, etc.) has already attracted considerable attention (Collins 1985, Lysaght 1998), and now increasingly that of David Moore (Johnson 2011) and Ellen Hutchins (Mitchell 1999, Heardman 2015).

Narrative order
We have for several decades been fans of narrative order; i.e. the operative order that events and observations happen, during a day out in the field. The training for undertaking the Natural Heritage Area survey (Lockhart et al. 1993) instilled the value of a system of note numbers, linked to place points with interpretative ideas, facts and details, which were marked upon photocopied sections of the relevant six-inch map. HF’s contribution to this fieldwork, undertaken in 1993 and 1994, was mainly in County Wexford and County Wicklow. The Northern Ireland Lichen Survey, from 2002 to 2005 during which 150 sites were surveyed, for our part also employed a notation system of narrative order by stop numbers, dependent woody plant host details and short species lists. This narrative order based system, combined with the Mycorec reporting package, was also used in a fungal survey of Fingal Parks (Cullen & Fox, 2006).

Specimen numbering systems are a normal part of the continental European and North American botanical traditions. We can draw an example from H.A. Imshaug (d. 2011) whose legacy in making tens of thousands collection numbered voucher specimens, subsequently digitised in the MSC herbarium, facilitated the generation of a lichen checklist (Fox & Cullen 2014). A narrative order is a good basis for such a career long specimen numbering system.

Species name prompt caveats
We have taken a rather reactionary stance on observational prompting from reading text in the field. By that, we mean reading a species name from a prompt card, and then looking for that species in nature. This heightens the danger of delusion with cursory field observation. Conversely, using a prompt card to recording a search with a null result for a wide range of taxa would be interesting scientific data, for any area of search with a defined search effort. However, the recording of positive data on mapping cards is synoptic. By that, we mean that each one field observation itself is not of prime importance, and it is more that the repeat observations, of a series of views of a range of diagnostic characters needed to identify the species as present in the area of survey, that is considered the valuable currency, for record collectors to gather, in summary for onward communication.

Psychology of recognition
Writing on the psychology of recognition, Lawley (2011) indicates that the favoured haunt of rare species are rare habitats, and so these are rewarding places in which to search. The effort of naming every organism encountered in any place, according to the morphological differences between them, and being alert to the unfamiliar, requires calm, considered and reflective identifications. The critical questioning attitude towards the descriptions in identification manuals are the hallmarks of a good botanist, seeking to build a repertoire of species they can recognise in the field. When each habitat is assiduously quartered, geographic novelties are found by searching in places where others have not thought to look. Looking in the field, collecting material, illustrating and controlling the collection at the microscope (W. Labeij, in conversation) is a process that lead to the initial detection of interlopers from the southern hemisphere (Lockhart, Hodgetts & Holyoak 2012: 512-513).

Mapping cards and walking
Filling out mapping cards is nonetheless both a crucial and industrious habit, one that allows one to visually consume a considerable land area on foot, and rapidly gain a presentable synoptic record of the species present. This is ideal for novelty hunting; first records for set areas, and so forth. However, often operative order is not preserved, repeated observations of individual species are not tacitly acknowledged, and thus using a mapping card is an exceptionally wasteful system, always forcing synopsis, that inhibits more extensive notation, and limits, or rations, the person to plant contact time in the field.

Towards a general method of notation
We have this notion that in the field, the creative act in observation is notation. Notes in the field are signals for the mind (D. Stewart, in conversation). Writing diagnostic characters, species names and ecological words in the field helps create identification guides, and so we value this, and that reading, as an activity, detracts. We have the view that observation and recording is more significant, and that the main decision points in keys to species should be in mind, when outdoors. This allows the dividing lines between species to be interpreted in view of the morphological expressions observed in the field. Spending time outdoors reading field guides or keys as an aide memoir is not time well spent, but we would rather spend time observing detail in nature and time sampling to bring for laboratory study.

In recording vegetation, the discipline of setting out a quadrat of 10m, 2m or 0.5m, can be an interesting exercise in data collecting. All sorts of ancillary information can be documented in addition to the vegetation layer; e.g. soil samples can be taken for later analysis, voucher specimen packets for species determination validation, and so on. A system of releve plots, set out in experimental arrays (Gordon 2007) of 3 replicates in 5 sites ‘of a kind’ can be helpful in circumscribing within site, and between site, variation in particular habitat types.

HF has been involved in several quadrat surveys – the Moneypoint tree trunk epiphyte vegetation quadrat survey to bioindicate air quality in 1990 and 1991 for the Electricity Supply Board – and the Brackloon wood survey in 1997 for Coillte (Cunningham 2005) – and the FORESTBIO woodland vegetation study in 2007, 2008 and 2009 for COFORD. These surveys all provoked a consideration of and practice of notation systems; such as DAFOR scales for species cover abundance, as well as dependant epiphyte host substrate notations for 10m forest vegetation monitoring plots, discussed below.

Notation systems for epiphytes
In studying epiphytes, there is a structural dependence of epiphytes on woody host trees and shrubs for their micro-habitat, up in the air on the tree bark surface. Detailing this dependence is an important activity in modelling the correct evaluation of individual woody plants as the settling points for species dispersed in the aerobiota as ascospores, conidia, soredia and vegetative diaspores. Learning about the micro-habitat preferences of individual species, requires attention to recording the substrate details is a synoptic manner.

For many years, we have used a system of woody host plant substrate notation, initially observed in conservation site reports, and have adapted it to a standard contracted form of abbreviation which is resistant to misconstrual on re-expansion. This substrate notation revolves around noting the genus of the woody plant host, using double letter codes with leading capital and trailing small letters, followed by a hyphen, followed by a two letter coding for the tree part, to indicate whether a trunk, bough, branch or twig is providing the structural support for the epiphyte.

Epiphyte epidemiology
This notation system can be taken further in epidemiological studies. For newly colonising species, we have taken to note (Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, in conversation) that a species Teloschistes chrysopthalamus, occurs ‘as a single thallus with small apothecia, in the axil of the 8th annual node of branches from the south side of a willow bush, Salix cinerea, on the east shore of Whiddy Island, 30 August 2015. If it takes 2 or 3 years for willow bark to become a suitable substratum for lichen growth, and the thallus is 30mm in diameter, then it might be upwards of 3 years old, then the epidemiological inference is that this species colonised at some stage in the time period 2009 to 2013. Counting back branch nodes, marked by annual bud scale bark scars is a non-invasive method, while counting branch tree rings in cross section is suitable method, if woody vegetation sampling, and some note is taken whether the part of the twig, with the lichen thallus on, is live or one to several years dead attached. On a card, an epidemiologically instructive notation might be: 1380 Telos chry, Sx-br, 8yo, 30mm, fertile. This cuts to the chase, identification secure, and reports only the ecology. The logic of the taxon Teloschistes chrysophthalamus also needs to be abstracted.

The broader consideration here is to plan for using an optimal notation system through your botanical career, and for long term plant observation projects, so that data losses, between field observation and resulting scientific syntheses, are nil.

Writing a field guide
To engage with creating pleasant botanical activity outdoors for eco-tourism, one has to really consider what litany is to be recited about plants in habitats in nature. The Latin names of plants are a start, together with technical details in species memoirs, and a recital of previous finds. To make this, one needs to collate results from fieldwork, observations and notation into an illustrated guide book to the species in order to facilitate others to make species identifications (Fox 2014). This will ensure the propagation of floristic botany, as a pleasant outdoor visual and cognitive activity, for the wider society in Ireland to engage with.

Digital camera media streams
The practice of recording photographically the critical series of observations of the diagnostic features of particular plants and animals, needed during the identification process, with a digital camera is an interesting development.

Some plant recorders think little nowadays of making 500 photos from a day’s outing, and the macro-lens views can capture lots of interesting features for analysis. Editing this media stream series, down by 10-fold or more, for onward presentation, is a key method for improving the overall image quality.

The pioneer in Ireland with botany image websites must be Stuart Dunlop of Donegal Hedgerow fame, who has made a huge contribution to biodiversity recognition in Ireland, with his media stream on his website from 2003 to 2007 which continues to this day as a blog. In the DNFC from the last few years, Pat Lenihan has been publishing many photos, on the DNFC event reports website. His images from weekly outings, ensure that a wide range of taxa that are named in the field by specialists and naturalists present on site, are captioned, harnessing the collective knowledge of people attending with years to decades of experience in Natural History species recognition and identification.

We have often retold the story of the making of Roger Phillips 1981 Mushrooms, which hinged on Roger setting up a camera studio in the corner of the week long British Mycological Society residential forays, starting from the amazing summer of 1976 with the autumn that was alive with mushrooms, and photographing choice exhibition collections from the residential foray, which were also dried and scientifically vouchered into the K herbarium, for a few years, until his set of photographs and technical descriptions were second to none.

There is an incredibly exciting future to 2020 for natural history illustration in Ireland using digital camera media streams, something that Mark Cruise on Twitter and Vincent Hyland in Derrynane are pushing out the envelope, with underwater digital videos of the behaviour of subtidal inshore fauna and the dynamic forms of seaweeds in the seawater column.

It would be remiss not end this essay by mentioning the Irish Association of Botanical Artists, with many artist members talented and fluent in watercolour and book design and production, which with some social crossovers, and exchange of natural history and horticultural materials to illustrate, will also be part of this Irish botanical media stream into the future. Conceptual line art in botany is a key area that requires attention in Ireland, and more intensive integration into biology syllabi, and the advice of a botanical artist Claire Dalby on making line illustrations has been highlighted too (Fox 2015).

Atlas 2020
The distribution of plants in Ireland is on the agenda to 2020. In this essay, we would encourage botanists to examine their notation systems, and try and improve them, extend them, with all mod cons, so that they have a rich legacy to draw from. While people are out botanising, why not point your mind to other pressing questions about plants, the number of flowers of a plant that set seed, annual reseeding success, annual vegetation gap dynamics, micro-habitat humidity, and plant point temperature measurements at a noted time on the survey day, to name but a few attributes that we have scant original data in Ireland for.

The day of the natural history mapping distribution card and the tick list, invented in the late 1950s for the first atlas in 1964, has evolved to the computer age in the 2010s to Mapmate, Recorder and Mycorec. These computer applications have been in use by recorders in Ireland from at least 2003, 1997/8 (P. Green, pers. comm.) and 2002 (the authors) respectively. The most troubling aspects of these computer systems have been (1) when a recorder has a large batch of records in an excel spreadsheet to append, and the precise process involved is tricky to discern and unclear with a worrying risk of things going awry, and (2) during the bedding in period in the early 2000s of the concept of ‘names in current use’ when the species name dictionaries were highly irritating and forcing recorders to select among species synonymies they did not agree with.

Species concepts in use in literature from continental Europe (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc.) and biogeographic regions of Atlantic Europe like Macaronesia, and not solely Britain alone (e.g. Fraxinus angustifolia, Cladonia stereoclada, Toninia kolax, Caloplaca polycarpa) always have played a role in informing the taxonomic repertoire of botanists studying Ireland. Indeed, taxonomic literature from New Zealand and Terra del Fuego has been helpful in learning about southern hemisphere aliens that are growing naturalised in Ireland. With the era of national checklists, many of the obscure taxa from many parts of Europe have come to light, and in the internet age now, with global access to taxonomic species concepts from arctic, temperate and tropical zones, there are interesting efforts afoot in harmonization of nomenclature between biogeographic regions. The use of regionally ground-truthed distribution cards and species tick lists, that act to enforce by consensus one’s taxonomic opinion, do not automatically hold universal appeal with the Irish psyche; ‘au contraire’, a psyche that is more comfortable with taxonomic nuance and ambiguity as a proxy for a scientifically laborious description of variation. One must be pluralist enough to accept that there is always a role for continental European and exotic taxonomic literature in Irish botany.

The migration to complexity will continue to 2020 with digital image stills, YouTube instructional videos on how to observe particular species, and GoPro footage of fieldwork, together with watercolour illustration, natural history sound libraries, and line art for naming the plant parts. All these ought now to be part of the Irish botanical record.

We are grateful to the late Willem Labeij (d. 2011) for inspirational conversations on art and floristic botany in Ballygriffin, Kenmare in the late 1990s. For insightful comments on reading an early draft of this article in 2015, we are grateful to Dudley Stewart, Quest Campus, Charleville Castle, Tullamore.

For commissioning botanical surveys in Ireland, we are grateful to Electricity Supply Board, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Declan Little, Woodlands of Ireland, Mark Wright, DoE(NI), Hans Visser of Fingal County Council, and John Fennessy of COFORD, National Council for Forest Research and Development.
For support in Saint Lucia, we are grateful to Michael Bobb, Roger Graveson, Chris Sealys and Margaret Ishmael Severin.

Collins, T. (1985) Floreat Hiberica: A bio-bibliography of Robert Lloyd Praeger 1865-1953. Royal Dublin Society, Dublin. xiv, 151 pp.
Collins, T. (1992) Research sources and publications. Irish Botanical News 3: 19-23.
Cullen, M.L. & Fox, H.F. (2006) Ecological Study of the Countryside Habitats in County Fingal. Phase III – woodland fungi. Fingal County Council, Swords. 197 pp. http://www.fingalbiodiversity.ie/resources/fingal_countryside/2006%20Woodland%20Fungi.pdf
Cunningham, D. (2005) Brackloon, the story of an Irish oak wood. COFORD. 148 pp. http://www.coford.ie/media/coford/content/publications/projectreports/brackloon.pdf
Doogue, D.A. (1992) Are County Flora’s obsolete? Irish Botanical News 2: 11-13.
Fox, H.F. (2013) Goodreads Listopia: Botany Reference Books. https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/42326.Botany_Reference_Books
Fox, H.F. & Cullen, M.L. (2014) A history of lichenology in Saint Lucia including a lichen checklist. Harvard Papers in Botany 19(1): 1-22. http://huh.harvard.edu/files/herbaria/files/19_1_1_fox_cullen.pdf
Fox, H.F. (2014) lichenfoxie | Writings from our forests on botanical perception. https://lichenfoxie.wordpress.com/
Fox, H.F. (2015) Voucher specimens, the DBN herbarium and BSBI county recording. BSBI Irish VCR Newsletter 5 (December 2015): 9-10. http://www.bsbi.org.uk/ireland.html
Gordon, J.C. (2007) Planning Research: A Concise Guide for the Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences. Yale University Press, 112 pp.
Heardman, C. (2015) Ellen Hutchins – Irelands ‘first woman botanist’. Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland News 129 (April 2015): 48-51.
Hill, D.J. (2006) Surveying and Report Writing for Lichenologists: Guidelines for surveyors, consultants and commissioning agencies. British Lichen Society, London. iv, 56 pp.
Johnson, N.C. (2011) Nature displaced, Nature displayed. Order and Beauty in Botanical gardens. I.B. Tauris, London, 267 pp.
Lawley, M. (2011) The psychology of discovery: finding and recognising uncommon bryophytes. Field Bryology 104: 22-27.
Lockhart, N., Hodgetts, N. & Holyoak, D. (2012) Rare and threatened Bryophytes of Ireland. National Museums Northern Ireland. 638 pp.
Lockhart, N., Madden, B., Wolfe-Murphy, S., Wymer, E. & Wyse Jackson, M., (1993) National ASI Survey. Guidelines for Ecologists, Unpublished Report. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Dublin. 154 pp.
Lysaght, S. (1997) Contrasting Natures: the issue of names. pp. 440-460. In J.W. Foster (ed.) Nature in Ireland, a scientific and cultural history. Lilliput Press, Dublin.
Lysaght, S. (1998) Robert Lloyd Praeger. The life of a Naturalist. Four Courts Press, Dublin. 208 pp.
Mitchell, M.E. (1999) Early observations on the flora of southwest Ireland. Occasional Papers, National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin 12: 1-124.
Praeger, R.L. (1934) The Botanist in Ireland. EP publishing. 460 pp.
Speight, M.C.D. (1977) What is a biological record? Bulletin of the Irish Biogeographical Society 1: 48-50.
Speight, M.C.D. (1978) What is a reference collection? Bulletin of the Irish Biogeographical Society 2: 63-68.
Synnott, D. (1997) Botany in Ireland. pp. 157-183. In J.W. Foster (ed.) Nature in Ireland, a scientific and cultural history. Lilliput, Dublin.

Howard Fox, National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin D09 VY63, Dublin.
Maria Cullen, Dublin City University Innovation Campus, Glasnevin Hill D11 KXN4, Dublin.

Reprinted from
Irish Botanical News 26: 7-15, (March 2016).