Seventy at Seventy

Life Begins at 70


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[06] Eats, Shoots and Leaves

[06] Eats, Shoots and Leaves – a Pictorial Blog about Greenery.

One way of looking at this blog is that it is what’s left in the plant world when you take out the other blog topics. I have separated out more primitive plants – moss, lichen and fungus; grasses and ferns. This leaves flowering plants and trees but I also have separate blogs on the actual flowers and the berries and fruits that come afterwards.

So we are left with the green bits – shoots and leaves – and some of the buds just beginning to develop into leaves or flowers.

I am not aiming to be complete and there may be some overlap with other blogs.

In a fairly random order here are some buds, catkins and growing blossom; then a few pictures grouped by plant type; and finally some leaves – green or sometimes red as they emerge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation is a book written by Lynne Truss published in 2003, in which she bemoans the state of punctuation in the United Kingdom and the United States. The book mixes humour with instruction.

The title of the book is a humourous syntactic ambiguity, a verbal fallacy arising from unfortunate use of bad punctuation:

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

“Why?” asks the surviving waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“Well, I’m a panda,” he says. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. “Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.

 

 


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[05] Lonely as a Cloud

[05] Lonely as a Cloud – a Pictorial Blog about Bulbs

Sometimes I take quite some time searching for biblical or literary quotations as titles but when I decided to do a blog about bulbs the source was obvious.

These are very familiar words.

I wandered lonely as a cloud,

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils …

They come from the poem, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ by William Wordsworth, inspired by an actual walk with his sister. It’s one of the most well-known and well-loved English poems and is sometimes also known by the shorter title: Daffodils.

Bulbs

It has been hard to find where to put some topics when aspects of plant and animal life correspond to the seasons. I am never sure whether bulbs flower in late winter or early spring (perhaps it is both) so they are getting a blog to themselves.

I presume that storing food as bulbs enables these plants to flower before the warmth and light of spring and summer. I know little of botany and will more or less stick to pictures of our common species, in the order in which they normally flower, with some botanical notes from Wikipedia.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops come under the genus Galanthus, which has about twenty species. Galanthus nivalis is the most common and widespread. We think of it as a native British wild flower but it was probably introduced in the early Sixteenth Century. First recorded as naturalized in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire in 1770, it’s generally a woodland species but now it is frequent in gardens and parks.

Crocus                                                                    

Wikipedia says that crocuses have corms, not bulbs but in horticultural terms we can count corms as bulbs!

When I was young I just remember the large ones that were purple, white or yellow. They are among my favourite flowers, particularly the purple and yellow ones.

There are many species of Crocus, of which about thirty are cultivated, including Crocus sativus for saffron. Only five species are commonly planted for decoration in the UK. Each has horticultural varieties. I will start with the familiar ones and use Wikipedia to guess at species.

The familiar large yellow ones could be C. Flavus.

The large plain purple or white ones are probably C. vernus.

 

Maybe even this blue one.

Those are the only ones I remember from my youth. We now have lots more varieties, mostly smaller or thinner, some with delicate lilac colouring. Between them they may be C. chrysanthus, C. sieberi or C. tommasinianus but I will leave identification of the following pictures up to you.

The honey bee was a bit of a bonus!

Mythological Diversion

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter known for his beauty. He was proud and disdained those who loved him. Nemesis noticed this behaviour and lured him to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. He lost his will to live, staring at his reflection until he died.

I wanted to say that he was turned in to a narcissus flower but Wikipedia is less precise. The word has come to be used for the flower but it seems that it is not certain whether the flower is named after the myth, or the myth from the flower, or even if there is any connection at all!

He is, of course the origin of the self-fixation known as narcissism. (I mean – the words are cognate. He was just a story.)

Daffodils and Narcissus

There are many species of Narcissus and Wikipedia is a bit coy about which of them are Daffodils saying merely that some species of the genus are sometimes known as daffodils.

To me a daffodil has an all-yellow flower with a distinctive elongated shape. Narcissus includes daffodils and all the other colourations and shapes. (I won’t use the word jonquil, which seem to a be flatter shaped Narcissus, mostly white.)

Anyway, there are several species and many varieties. The one that grows wild in the UK (but was probably introduced long ago) is N. pseudonarcissus, the Wild Daffodil or Lent Lily, flowering up to around Easter (mid-April.)

Here are some pictures of some varieties I have seen this year. I will not even guess at species.

I haven’t found a large ‘cloud’ of daffodils yet but there are some larger areas full of daffodils. We have them along pavements and on roundabouts and spare little bits of open land in town.

Hyacinth and Muscaris

We see expanses of apparently wild snowdrops and daffodils but the Hyacinth is essentially a domesticated plant. You can see some in gardens but often they are grown indoors as pot plants. They even come in kit form as suitable for Christmas presents.

Hyacinthus orientalis is of Asian origin but widely cultivated in Europe. Wikipedia says that is flowers are purple but to me the main colours are blue, white or pink. There are many varieties.

 

The Muscaris (also known as a grape hyacinth) is in the same family as the hyacinth – the family named from one of its other members, asparagus!

They are probably Muscari neglectum, one of several species with small blue flowers. They have become a plant sometimes seen in the wild but also often grown in gardens.

Tulip

I will end with the Tulip, very much a cultivated plant. Its taxonomy is complicated with about 75 species and horticulturally it has over three thousand varieties in fifteen groups. We sometimes have them now as cut flowers with long stems.

I won’t cover all 3000 types. Here are some pictures of tulips seen in local gardens.

I’m issuing this blog at the beginning of the tulip season. I may sneak in some more tulip pictures into other blogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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[00] A Rolling Stone

[00] A Rolling Stone – A Blog about Lichen, Fungi and Moss

I knew this introduction was going to be difficult because the taxonomy of living organisms is a developing science. We used to have just Plants and Animals, then we accepted that Fungi somehow were neither Plants nor Animals. And then it got more complicated.

Now we have Eukaryotes, with cells that include a clearly defined nucleus – Animals, Plants and Fungi; and single-celled ProkaryotesBacteria and Archaea. [I was surprised to find that Viruses, even though they may contain DNA, are not actually classified as living organisms.]

 

I thought I would look at Lichen, Moss and Fungi, three very basic tiny forms of ‘plant life’ in one blog, but it will be more pictorial than scientific. As a prologue, here are some notes obtained, as always, from Wikipedia. Please don’t take them as absolutely right. Even when scientists agree about anything, which doesn’t happen often, they reserve the right to change their minds and disagree in the future.

Lichen

I used to think that lichen were very elementary plants, the only plants to survive in the frozen North, providing food for reindeer. Well they are generally tiny and insignificant but they are not simple and they are not exactly plants. Each form of lichen is a composite organism composed from Fungi and Green Algae (or Cyanobacteria) in a symbiotic relationship. The lichen form is different to both of its component organisms.

Lichens come in many colours, sizes, and forms. Their properties are sometimes plant-like. Sometimes they have names that include the word ‘moss,’ but they are not related to mosses or to any other plants. They do not have roots and they produce their own food by photosynthesis. They may grow on plants but they are not parasites.

Algae, generally divided into Green Algae and Red Algae, are not easily defined. You will have noticed that I missed them out above. They are Eukaryotes that use photosynthesis, but are not true Green Plants. Sometimes Red Algae, Green Algae and Green Plants are grouped into a more general group of all Plants. Cyanobacteria are bacteria that obtain their energy from photosynthesis – sometimes they are included within Algae!

Fungi

I won’t attempt to define Fungi, the large group that includes yeast and moulds but are not today considered to be plants or animals. To most of us the well-known ones are the Mushrooms with their fruiting bodies. (No, I won’t attempt to define a Toadstool either.)

Moss

Mosses are very small non-vascular, flower-less plants, often confused with Lichens, Hornworts and Liverworts. I tend to think of all moss as the same – little and green.

 

That’s enough science and information. What follows are some of my pictures with some layman’s comments.

Lichen

I never really noticed lichen until I started doing photo-blogs. I first noticed it on trees and hedges.

lichen01

The lichen becomes noticeable in the winter when the leaves have gone. It makes the tree look dead but I think the relationship does no harm to the tree.

Then, when I looked at Walls I noticed that these were often partly covered in lichen of various colours.

lichen02wall

This is on an old wall in the countryside. I wasn’t sure whether the orange-brown patch was another lichen or just a fungus so I put the picture on Facebook. Well, apparently the white (possibly Caloplaca teicholyta or Diploicia canescensare), orange (Caloplaca flavescens) and very dark brown patches (perhaps Verrucaria nigrescens) are all lichens – and the right hand side pale brown is a fourth lichen! I won’t do any more identification!

 

I was surprised to see white lichen on walls in town where I had never noticed it before. These next two pictures are just a few yards from my front door.

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The next picture shows a green lichen covering a tree trunk.

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I am not sure about the next one, also seen on a tree.

lichen06red

I think it’s a pink lichen but it could be a fungus. (I’m not even sure of the green underneath it. It looks like moss but maybe it’s another lichen.)

The most extensive lichens I have seen have been covering old trees like this.

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You will notice that the lichen forms a horizontal band. In this case it comes above a band of moss.

Next we have a very definite yellow coloured lichen.

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All my examples so far have been on trees or walls. This last one shows two varieties of fungus on the edge of Boscombe Pier. I am not sure whether they like the salty sea air or just tolerated it.

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Moss

I can see why moss and lichen are sometimes confused with each other because they grow in similar habitats and are both fairly nondescript. But moss is generally greener and a bit more lush.

Here are two old country walls covered in moss.

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And a moss covered tree. I think the tree just provides a habitat. The moss is not parasitic.

moss03tree

Sometimes you can find extensive areas of almost grass-like moss on the ground under trees.

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I suppose the moss gradually grows upwards and often it forms a ring around the bottom of a tree in much the same way as some lichen.

moss05tree

But one of the favourite habitats of moss seems to be dead trees. Perhaps when they form they are just low level trees but they are soon covered in moss.

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Here are two pictures of walls to show how lichen and moss may cohabit closely.

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And another wall top to show that both lichen and moss are hardy – undaunted by coverings of frost.

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Fungus

I have pictures from several places but they all seem to be fungus growing on trees, usually dead trees. There is one I am not sure of but it’s probably a dead tree stump covered by other plants.

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Here is one of several examples to show how closely you may see moss and fungus together. It’s easy to associate both with decay on the forest floor but perhaps it’s more accurate to say that both survive in difficult habitats unsuited to flowering plants.

mossfungus1

The next picture does not look like a fungus but the tree at Slimbridge has a notice explaining it. It’s called a Witch’s Broom and is caused by a fungal infection on the tree.

witchesbroom

Of course we cultivate and eat some mushrooms. Here are some growing rapidly from a do-it-yourself mushroom kit.

funguskit

A Rolling Stone Gathers no Moss.

This is such a well-known saying and its literal meaning is obvious but I don’t really know what it means as a saying. I always took it to mean that someone who never stays in one place probably doesn’t acquire life-long friends.

It appeared in John Heywood’s collection of Proverbs in 1546. Brewer‘s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable of 1870 also credits Erasmus, and relates it to other Latin proverbs It appears that the original intent of the proverb saw the growth of moss as desirable, and that the intent was to condemn mobility as unprofitable. So says Wikipedia.

[I know you were wondering about the Rolling Stones. Their name was derived in a fairly random way from a blues song Rollin’ Stone recorded by Muddy Waters in 1950.]

 

I am going to end with some pictures I have saved until last. These are from a tree in the Forest of Dean. They are much more extensive lichen formations than I have seen anywhere else – maybe enough to keep a reindeer going for a while!

treelichen1

treelichen2

treelichen3

 

 


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[07] Red and Yellow and …

[07] Red and Yellow and … – a Blog about Berries

The words of the title come, of course, from The Coat of Many Colors from the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Webber

It was red and yellow and green and brown And scarlet and black and ochre and peach And ruby and olive and violet and fawn And lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve And cream and crimson and silver and rose And azure and lemon and russet and grey And purple and white and pink and orange And red and yellow and green and brown and blue

 

In the world of plants it’s not just flowers that are colourful. We also have a variety of fruits that come after the flowers. As for [25] Autumn this topic does not fit well into my time constraints because by November many fruits have come and gone.

So I will start with berries in many colours. I will not attempt to identify them all. Most are from gardens in Cheltenham but one or two exotic species are from WWT Slimbridge.

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colourgreen

colourmixed

colourorange1  colourorange3

colourpurple  colourredrosehip

colourred  colourred2

colourturquoise

colourwhite1    colourwhite2

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As with all fruit, berries may change colour and so timing is critical. In November I found the next two.

ivyberries

About the only way to find green coloured berries is to catch them when immature. These ivy berries will change colour later.

yewfruit

These are not the usual sort of fruits. They are not berries but they look very similar. They are on a Yew tree and will turn to cones.

It is hard to photograph trees well and I wanted to show one of several local Mountain Ash (Rowan) trees currently laden with berries. I have compromised with a partial crop rather than a whole tree.

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I have been tempted, just before issue, to add three more pictures from a country walk.

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That’s about it for berries but I expect to catch more fruit as the year progresses.

Here are two more fruits I have manage to catch so far – a late Blackberry and an early fig.

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