Voucher specimens, the DBN herbarium and BSBI county recording

Botany with your own herbarium voucher specimens available from previous field work allows for anatomical understanding of higher plant parts.

Only recently I was informed that a pomegranate produces 613 seeds. In checking this out further online, the ‘pomegranate seed’ statistics are on http://www.aquaphoenix.com There are numerous other anatomical features of botanical interest that can be studied with a fruit-bowl, and one’s imagination that values scientific activity and questioning. Almost fifteen ago, a bug found by a breakfaster in microwaved porridge from somewhere along the east coast of America arrived in Dublin for forensic analysis and was passed along to the herbarium for investigation. Dissections of the bug returned a satisfying result that it was an edible blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosa (Ericaceae).

As a botanist into the identification of lichens, mushrooms, micro-fungi, mosses, liverworts, slime moulds and seaweeds, my use of vascular plant herbarium resources has been focussed mainly on woody plants (trees and shrubs; native and introduced) as substrates for epiphytic life.
Higher plant parts that I am interested in, as part of epiphyte ecology, include twigs and branches with bark, buds, leaf and bud abscission scars, dead attached branches with bark, trunk bark, and twig and branch timber with tree rings. Terminal branches from leafless hedgerow bushes collected in winter from September to April in the farmed Irish landscape can be very challenging to identify without herbarium reference collections. Willow, hawthorn, sycamore, ash, sitka spruce, etc. can all be placed.

With herbaceous plants, one becomes interested in what specifically rots them down, and one begins to gather interesting plant leaves with rusts and mildews, and herbaceous litter stems from deep ditches and hedgerows for dainty ascomycete fungi for study. When one is walking by the sea, beachcombing, it is always interesting to attempt to identify plant and plant parts in the sand. Sources include wetland, dune front and salt marsh plants, with river mouth flotsam including riparian tree and reed parts. A standard reference is Ellis & Ellis’s Microfungi on Land Plants. This is now in its second 1997 edition. Ellis and Ellis consider land plants as substrates for fungi and have the following categories (1) plurivorous wood and bark fungi, (2) plurivorous leaf litter fungi, (3) fungi specific to trees, shrubs and woody climbers, (4) plurivorous fungi on herbaceous plants, (5) fungi specific to herbaceous plants in general, (5) plurivorous fungi on grasses, (6) fungi specific to grasses, (7) fungi specific to rushes, sedges, bur-reeds and reed maces, (8) fungi specific to ferns, horsetails and clubmosses, (9) fungi parasitic on rusts and powdery mildews. The jargon plurivorous refers to fungi feeding on many different kinds of plant in a non-specific way. Analagously, one could suggest most corticolous lichens are pluricolous, each species living on many host tree genera.

In order to broaden one’s experience in botany in the field, becoming a specialist in locating plants in the landscape is a very satisfying apprenticeship. Herbarium resources are built from reference collections needed by botanists, and are made for various botanical purposes. In DBN, we are keen to support floristic botany in Ireland, and our collections are open for researchers to visit and consult. We have kept a wide range of voucher samples from floristic explorations, and from ecological studies, and have filed all plant flowering shoots in a systematic sequence. There are collections of seeds, timber anatomy slides, DNA extracts and other reference materials of value for the identification of plants, and plant parts, to their botanical species. Frodin’s (2001) Guide to standard Floras of the world is a compendium of the literature created and written by botanists for botanists for use in each geographical region. This provides a good guide to what can be made with herbarium specimens. Womersley (1981) shows how ethnobotanical collections can lead to a herbarium. Dalby & Dalby (1980) provide advice on line drawing from specimens. Mitchell (2000) gives a list of floristic botanical publications in Ireland. Since then, more works have appeared (Fox, in manuscript). Lawrence & Hawthorne (2006) advise on making plant identification keys and they set out the steps involved in making such publications from herbarium voucher specimens, written with the primary purpose of assisting people with plant identification.
I would like to conclude this article by calling for the making of herbarium specimens from one’s own ad hoc collections of plants and plant tissues. Being in the field, doing botany is an expense and a luxury to satisfy ones nosiness for what grows where, and how to find it. Making voucher specimens suitable for addition to herbarium collections is a worthwhile end use for plant materials gathered from a day’s botany.

As part of a network of herbaria globally (Thiers 2011), we in DBN can support this activity of keeping herbarium specimens in a practical manner (OPW, 1992). Herbarium labels and standard mounting sheets for use with wood glue can provide impetus to encourage one to tend to processing one’s plants, pressed and dried, in folded newspapers, into something more formal and permanent. We use Evostick wood adhesive and cut out straps from paper to mount material. For advice on methods, one can turn to the herbarium handbook (Bridson & Forman, 1998).

If you are recording plants with the BSBI in Ireland, do visit us in DBN to see how your ad hoc plant gatherings, that support your studies and intellectual explorations of plants in Ireland, can be made into something more.

References:
Bridson, D. & Forman, L. 1998. The Herbarium Handbook. 3rd edition, xii, 334pp. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens.
Dalby, C. & Dalby, D.H. 1980. Biological illustration: a guide to drawing for reproduction. Field Studies 5: 307-321. http://fsj.field-studies-council.org/media/343259/vol5.2_135.pdf
Ellis, M.B. & Ellis, J.P. 1997. Microfungi on Land Plants: an identification handbook. New enlarged edition. The Richmond Publishing Company Ltd. 868pp.
Frodin, D.G. 2001. Floras at the end of the twentieth century: philosophy, progress and prospects; references: 52– 85. In D.G. Frodin. Guide to Standard Floras of the World: An Annotated, Geographically Arranged Systematic Bibliography of the Principal Floras, Enumerations, Checklists and Chorological Atlases of Different Areas. 2nd edition. 1107pp. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Lawrence, A. & Hawthorne, W. 2006. Plant Identification. Creating User-friendly Guides for Biodiversity Management. 1st edition, xvi, 268pp. Earthscan. London.
Mitchell, M.E. 2000. The Irish floras: a checklist of non-serial publications. Glasra 4: 47–57. http://www.botanicgardens.ie/glasra/ns4_3.pdf
Office of Public Works. 1992. National Botanic Gardens Management Plan. Stationery Office. Dublin. 40 pp.
Thiers, B. 2011. Index herbariorum: A global directory of public herbaria and associated staff. New York Botanical Garden’s Virtual Herbarium. http://sweetgum.nybg.org/ih/
Womersley, J.S. 1981. Plant collecting and herbarium development. A manual. In: FAO Plant Production and Protection Paper (FAO), No. 33 / FAO, Rome (Italy) 146 pp.

Reprinted from
BSBI Irish VCR Newsletter #5: 9-10, (December 2015).
http://www.bsbi.org.uk/ireland.html

Before reacting to europanto

Parataxonomy and Optical ambition

Microscopy of mountain land
ascospore sizes of all fertile crusts
slides and cover slips
ascus photomicrographs neatly
measured by graticule
each volcanic island, measured and compared
Vincent versus Lucia, unequal effort provides history for each hypothesis
a species concept for insularity
in the tropical heat, Soufriere’s whiff in a cauldron of lichenological creativity
Dominica’s thelotremes versus Guadeloupe’s, Martinique versus Grenada
An Atlas for a young intellectual’s eyesight.

Attached to a tree
Crustose blade attacks
Sovereignty transferred to a museum sector
types and standards measured immaculately
the taxonomic exploration for an island,
one genus and family at a time,
foretold in forests.

[On the scientific ambition of many years work]

The Dunsany’s Ending

Charon rowed his Pirogue mirthlessly across the Styx
The dull pains in his athletic arms ached and
his face grimaced at each passanger like they both had
for thousands of years of time.
The routine of fifty souls from the island a day had increased for a month
to thousands and then declined to almost none.
In a week without calls for crossings, his time weary aches eased and he thought
‘The ways of the gods of this time on the island were strange’
At the end of the journey across, one shadowy soul whispered
‘I am the last’. Charon concentrated on the final strokes ashore,
and with a withering swish of his oars, Charon smiled at him.

SUNDOWN AT MARIGOT

In the evening sun
sipping a glass of rum
bringing a bit of heat to my cheek
the left ear hot and sizzled
the right lobe breezy in shade
looking out on the deck to the bay
elbows comfortable in my chair
a poet’s clipboard above my knee
sharpened pencil galloping across
line after line of words
imagining being at Marigot Bay
Pencil grip firm in the heat
now with a sun burned cheek
Pour me some more rum

Sundown at Marigot (continued)

Heat that warms your bones
Incandescent backbone aches melt away,
earlobe breezes startle irregularly,
your shadow shades the grass, denies them some evening pleasure
as a cloud crosses to melt the shadows away
Grass blade quivers, waiting until the fall of day
Look back at grey clouds, absorbing the sunlight like a sponge
fluffy and hey, I need to get back to Marigot some day

Pacing around, pencils clipboard bound
with a luminous brightness the clouds will release thee soon
while I wait, a few drops hiss on the hair on the back of my knuckle,
and others miss in their entireity
Mew heat to keep the spirit flowing
and calm, warm and glowing
would the clouds ever part
and give me a new blast from Icarus’ Inferno
to melt the waxes on skin
that a few moments ago I was sunbathing in.

Pacing works, movement allows
the reassignment of sun to your back
exercise and territorial tresspass
allow your shadow to shade the road
greenery released to double one’s pleasure.
May the tarmac boils subside while I am outside
getting a penetrating fourth verse
of a submission to Saint Somewhere
as a cloud whimsys away across
a blue azule backdrop.

For eventually I will get to Marigot
On one fine evening
The bone heats and ear sweats dribble,
while the draught of the tipple burns away at the gullet
as there is a verse to do.
May the sunshine in Marigot this evening
as I imagine it to.

[First verse posted on CLS, September 2012]

This is not a Mosquito

In Bed with Byron, writing in pencil
children are safe and the wit is instead.
Hail fair mirror where is dost cobweb
above your head saliently moved above the head board
preserved but moved acting with coughs similarly
tucked up in bedlam
the fly makes it across

Rain on the roof, a squib of a shower, the pencil chop sticks
alternate points keeping the writer hewn close to the sharpener
Oh – where is this going, this errant verse
mattress sprung knuckles bouncing pencils crossed above
sprung in cotton, comfortable in bed
exhale what cotton what crisp comfort against the skin
a parable of a poet watching a fly traverse towards the cobweb
and exit stage left.

banded abdomen of a nematoceran fly with haltomeres
a dipteran cigar now rests on the sloping ceiling
in for the night as far from the light as is safe
knuckles spring thud in between the beat of the lines
writing is all in the head
what emerges on paper is just that, if it is let flow,
short words selected by texting
the little ways of saying shortly instead. Not a Mossie.

Longwinded maybe but longworded no
it is the style of the composition
that what you are used to allows
why don’t you write in Patois
and let us hear that voice
subsumed with explosive friccatives rupturing through your lips
It is hard to imagine the sound in a sweet carib voice
without the shortened syntax to go with the reading out loud.
The voice is so distinctive

it must have a metrical metre
to turn those ears around.
hark, listen to the phone conversation in the far room
drawing to an end in agreement over earlier daily rows
why does a fan of verse
worry how it will turn out
when all that matters is getting it written
and let others figure what it is about
writing a poem, some say,
this will do, hey

Number the page in the beginning
crosssed pencil slip in an extra s
excessm this metrical metre has
a caribbean-ness, composed for a salon of salubriousness
where comment is stiffled by literary politeness
while a few rauckous members scribble away, posting notices of their output.
The reader counter is addictive
maybe you have to read it twice
we are all inveterate readers no matter what it is about !

Oh what whimsical fantasy is going to emerge
from this session of scribing
I must post my Dunsany
a place in the county of Meath
a poem with a chilling ending of a civilisation
Where is the draft I have written
dropped carefully on the floor by the bed
pencils write vertically while biros are disastrous in bed

What do you do when you run out of paper,
to put the composition in the writers atellier
a quick raid from the printer, keeps us going ahead
The rhythm of the writing to keep everything going smoothly along
rushing down the page in a different way,
puts the ache in the arm rather than on the hand grip.

The sound of the paper is thinner,
now that I have reached the last page
There are opposite sides to be covered
if one needs to go on.

The sound of scribing is a tonic to the soul before sleep
let us type it in in the morning and let us see where we get
encouragement is unnecessary for one with a voice
but welcome when it is not given in jest
for what a poet needs is just some acknowledgement
a few readers smiles as you struggle along digesting this

[Vikram Seth’s novel ‘Golden Gate’ is masterclass in prose poetry]

Electric blanket heat – an Antillean subversion

Below the line, the temperate editor lurks

words in edgeways that never confine

the theme to direct for us, conversation

needs to be sublime, before subtexts can

emerge from a twist of that random lemon

bitter zest, acerbic, pillow scratching, backbone

against backbone, watching for subversion.

Heat from the mattress sheets seeps into my hip bone

Prolonged weight transmits pleasure of the electric

blanket, below a duvet. One sided, unsatisfactory tropical

heat in a cold airy bedroom. Feet swim in top cold

exploration of polar reaches, of the other’s off half’s half.

Cold arches rub, move and warm toes as towards

sleep slips a muse, watching for subversion.

Shadows of tossled hair on a blank page

disguise an earlobe in a newly read verse.

Horizontal composition of vertical lines

of edgeways letters that nicely rhyme.

The hazards of a back lit, blank page.

Oberon wolf dreams, backbone against backbone,

in the night light, watching for subversion.

Oberon whistles by my shoulder nasally, pillow

bound puppy, some months accustomed to a

comfortable bed. Dog smells waft through nose

inhalations, elbowed as the cold hand writes

in pencil on a folded A4, ooh, an overheated hip.

Time to turn it off, and turn in. Unsatisfactory,

un-tropical subversion for the real Antillean heat.

 

Read at Charleville Castle at the ‘the night before christmas eve’ concert – Wednesday 23 December 2015

Caribbean Literary Salon Blog VII

In the evening sun

sipping a glass of rum

bringing a bit of heat to my cheek

the left ear hot and sizzled

the right lobe breezy in shade

looking out on the deck to the bay

elbows comfortable in my chair

a poet’s clipboard above my knee

sharpened pencil galloping across

line after line of words

imagining being at Marigot Bay

Pencil grip firm in the heat

now with a sun burned cheek

Pour me some more rum

Caribbean Literary Salon Blog IV

Electric Blanket Heat – an Antillean subversion

Below the line, the temperate editor lurks

words in edgeways that never confine

the theme to direct for us, conversation

needs to be sublime, before subtexts can

emerge from a twist of that random lemon

bitter zest, acerbic, pillow scratching, backbone

against backbone, watching for subversion.

Heat from the matress sheets seeps into my hip bone

Prolonged weight transmits pleasure of the electric

blanket, below a duvet. One sided, unsatisfactory tropical

heat in a cold airy bedroom. Feet swim in top cold

exploration of polar reaches, of the other’s off half’s half.

Cold arches rub, move and warm toes as towards

sleep slips a muse, watching for subversion.

Shadows of tossled hair on a blank page

disguise an earlobe in a newly read verse.

Horizontal composition of vertical lines

of edgeways letters that nicely rhyme.

The hazards of a back lit, blank page.

Oberon wolf dreams, backbone against backbone,

in the night light, watching for subversion.

Oberon whistles by my shoulder nasally, pillow

bound puppy, some months accustomed to a

comfortable bed. Dog smells waft through nose

inhalations, elbowed as the cold hand writes

in pencil on a folded A4, ooh, an overheated hip.

Time to turn it off, and turn in. Unsatisfactory,

untropical subversion for the real Antillean heat.

Views: 51

Tags: Poetry, cold, heat, temperate, tropical

Comment by Will Gentieu on April 13, 2013 at 9:33pm

Oh, but quite satisfactory,

this tropical version, not a lemon,

but a lime, drifts on warm gulfstream currents

from caribbean climes, to be washed ashore, perhaps,

at Oberon’s feet in a midsummer night’s dream,

of botanical gardens, lianas and bougain-

villea, spirits that flourish unbridled,

without glass, without walls in

the real Antillean heat!

Saludos ~