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The fourth branch of the Mabinogion. The opening verse is derived from a variety of folk traditions described in Roy Vickery, A Dictionary of Plant Lore , Oxford, , pp.

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Whin and furze are synonyms for gorse. Bladderworts Utricularia spp. This poem describes an Australian species, Utricularia menziesii , observed in August near to the Point Possession walking trail, Albany, Western Australia. Butterwort is a carnivorous plant which traps insects on its adhesive leaves. Laplanders use the leaves as a sort of rennet for solidifying milk. The milk, after passing among them, is left for a day or two to stand, until it begins to turn sour; it throws up no cream, but becomes compact and tenacious, and most delicious in taste.

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It is not necessary, that fresh leaves should be used after the milk is once turned: on the contrary, a small portion of this solid milk will act upon that which is fresh, in the manner of yeast. The Western Australian Christmas Tree is an arborescent mistletoe, the roots of which parasitize a wide range of hosts, both annual and perennial. It produces spectacular clumps of yellow flowers in terminal fascicles up to 25 cm long, and blooms more prolifically in the season after a fire.

You might as well. She was said to turn men into swine Fly orchids are comparatively difficult to find, appearing on single spikes amongst the ground vegetation on the edges of woodlands. This does not, however, account for the wide range of other orchid forms, which so excite the imagination. Bee orchids imitate the size, shape and colouration of a female bumble bee.

Male bumble bees attempt to copulate with the orchid lip, only to discover that yellow pollinia have been plastered to their heads. See W. Norman E. Hickin remarks that in , he did not see a single bloom of the early purple orchid in the Wyre forest, and contrasts this experience with a spring forty-five years earlier when the meadows around Dowles Church were full of them.

However, given that the tubers of this orchid, which contain bassorine, a starch-like substance, have long been regarded as a highly efficacious aphrodisiac, it is tempting to attribute the decline in numbers to its reputation, rather than to little girls. Salop, a soft drink made out of the dried and ground tubers, was a popular drink in Britain before the introduction of coffee and tea, and was consumed in establishments devoted to the purpose.

Salop appears to have been a common refreshment for Victorian labourers, perhaps because it is highly nutritious. The quip about Cobham Park is quoted by Mabey from an unidentified seventeenth century botanist, and the Royal College of Surgeons included orchid roots in the aphrodisiac mixture recommended in their Pharmacopoeia. Based on observation of orchids in flower on the magnesian grassland at the edge of a coastal dene, county Durham, in Summerhayes Wild Orchids in Britain, p.

Many species of orchid worldwide are capable of hybridising to produce fertile offspring, which exhibit variable combinations of the characteristics of the parent plants. It has little or no chlorophyll, and is incapable of manufacturing food through photosynthesis, but this enables it to grow in deep shade, such as that encountered in beech woods. The orchid remains as an underground root for around nine years, gradually building up enough food reserves to send forth a flower spike, which is pollinated by insects.

Like many orchids, the flowers are also capable of self-pollination. Occasionally, specimens have been recorded which have met some obstruction, and yet have successfully flowered and seeded without ever breaking the surface of the soil. Summerhayes, Wild Orchids in Britain , pp. Frog orchids do not look especially like frogs, and are easily overlooked because of their small stature, and because of the colour of their flowers, which is the same shade of green as the stems and leaves. Many orchids reproduce through the production of enormous numbers of very small seeds, but unlike other species which also reproduce by rhizomatous growth, frog orchids are almost exclusively dependent on sexual reproduction.

Ichneumon flies are hymenopterous insects which deposit their eggs in the bodies of caterpillars. After the eggs hatch, the larval ichneumons devour the caterpillars from the inside, emerging from their corpses after their hosts have pupated. Man orchids bear spikes containing as many as ninety flowers. The lip of each flower is shaped like a minute human form. I would curse.

Pterostylis recurva is a native of southwestern Australia, and is fertilised by small insects such as gnats and mosquitos. It is difficult to ascertain what benefit is gained from the transaction by the insect, or indeed, what attracts it to the flower in the first place, unless the petals somehow remind it of living flesh. However, when I photographed a specimen at Cranbrook, near the Stirling Range, in August , the air was so full of mosquitos that it seemed quite believable that they should become trapped within the flower purely by accident.

Angiosperms: the secret lives and lore of flowering plants

Caladenia latifolia , and the lower-growing Caladenia reptans , both of which are native to South-Western Australia, bloom in profusion in the spring following hot summer bushfires. Donkey orchids imitate the forms and colours of native Australian pea plants, thereby attracting bees which pollinate them without gaining the nectar reward. Metamorphoses , Book Each group of cowslip orchid plants is genetically identical, the individuals having cloned themselves from an individual seedling.

I encountered my first leek orchid whilst out walking with my parents a few minutes from their home in Little Grove, near Albany in Western Australia. My father and I thought for a few minutes that the single flower spike was that of a broomrape Orobanche spp. The poem also refers to the Albany Pitcher Plant Cephalotus follicularis , which undoubtedly once grew in the region, but is increasingly scarce, perhaps due to the impact of grazing by rabbits.

The dense scrub of the region is inhabited by a variety of poisonous snakes, including the handsome but lethal tiger snake. Withers and Miss S. Drake, about whom little further is known. During the late nineteenth century, Frederick Sander built a veritable empire out of the orchid business. From the top of the odd sepal to the top of the lateral ones, the flower measures five inches Some plants bore five peduncles at one time.

One had three spikes with forty-seven flowers and buds, thirty-four being open at one time, thus presenting the appearance of a bouquet. He was rescued by tribesmen who were kindly disposed towards him because they wanted his help in defeating a rival neighbouring tribe.

As Roebelin clung to the wreckage of the house, dawn disclosed a specimen of the stupendous orchid, soon to be named Vanda sanderiana , sticking through a hole in the floor. Instead of offering a gift of nectar, Stanhopea species attract their pollinators, iridescent green bees, by exuding a highly perfumed oil with which the drones anoint themselves in order to entice prospective mates.

Franz Bauer was employed by Sir Joseph Banks at Kew, where he painted many beautiful and meticulous pictures of orchids. He was a talented microscopist, and his painting of four pollinia of Bletia purpurea , with their thousands of individual pollen grains, is testimony to his patience. See Joyce Stewart and William T. Bauer always wrote p as b, and vice-versa, hence his unusual spelling of Feldsberg. Broomrapes are distributed worldwide in temperate regions. They do not produce chlorophyll, but are wholly parasitic, the roots clamping onto those of other plants.

Their colloquial name arises from the fact that in Britain, the host plant of the Broomrape is normally Broom or Gorse.

Metrosideros lanceolata is known today as Callistemon citrinus , a bottle brush. Medea poisoned a cup of wine with the same plant in the hope of disposing of Theseus, but it is said that the poison was first used by Hecate, or indeed that Cereberus is himself a later version of the witch-goddess. Classical tradition relates that the shepherd Melampus first realised the medicinal properties of the Christmas Rose or Black Hellebore, Helleborus niger , and cured the daughters of Proteus of their mental afflictions by giving them the milk of goats which had eaten the plant.

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The first century physician Dioscorides lists a number of precautions required when harvesting hellebores, and these are the subject of this sonnet. On a more mundane level, hellebores have long been a folk remedy for worms, and a highly efficacious one, save for the fact that the poison often kills the patient as well. The Green Hellebore, Helleborus viridis is less responsible for such overkill than the lethal Stinking Hellebore, Helleborus foetidus.

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The chorus is the wassailing song attributed to Spratty Knight, Captain of a wassailing band from Duncton in West Sussex in the s. The gifts given to the apple tree and faeries are described by Margaret Baker, Discovering the Folklore of Plants , Princes Risborough, , pp. It is a common folk custom to fire guns into apple trees.

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If aimed at the branches, the intention appears to be the scaring-off of evil spirits. On other occasions, apple trees which have given poor crops are threatened, and shot in the trunk to make them more fertile next year. Pooka, Bucca, Bwca and Puck appear to share the same etymology, and many similar characteristics, and all are often seen as popularised memories of horned deities.

Pistils and Poetry by Rolf Margenau - Issuu

The hawthorn is notorious for avenging itself against over-zealous axe-wielders. The large number of folk narratives in which a felled hawthorn gains its revenge by striking the surrounding land with infertility may well point to the fact that the May is itself a symbol of fecundity. Many observers, Robert Graves amongst them, have noted that the flowering hawthorn carries a strong scent of female sexuality.

In my own opinion, the flowers smell identical to the combined sex odours of a man and a woman after intercourse. No tree has inspired more folkloric associations than the Rowan. Paterson, Tree Wisdom , pp. Care must be taken when picking Rue, as its juices will cause blistering of the skin if exposed to sunlight. Rue was known as the Herb of Grace or the Herb of Repentance because the plant was used in the Asperges before the Mass as a brush for sprinkling holy water.

Whilst the herb certainly possesses medicinal properties, it is also poisonous, and most modern herbals warn that it should be avoided by pregnant women. It seems reasonable to speculate that, during the Middle Ages, many of the women who were persecuted as witches were in fact unofficial birth control practitioners.

Rue must have been particularly useful to them. The song describes a spring fertility ritual celebrated by the gypsies of Transylvania and Roumania, as described by J. Frazer, The Golden Bough , pp.