Digital Ischemia

30/11/2016

Flickering Shades

The Ghost of Species Past

Dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris)

Dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris)

See this dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris), a perennial herb cousin of Meadowsweet in the family Rosaceae, on its favoured dry pasture. Taste its bitter sweet tuberous roots and young leaves, cooked or raw. Smell its crushed mature leaves, like oil of Wintergreen, as they release methyl salicylate. Infuse dropwort’s flowers for traditional medicine. Feel its therapeutic effects, as the methyl salicylate is metabolised to salicylic acid, a proven NSAID, like aspirin.

There was balance there.

The Ghost of Species Present

Ghost orchid (Epipogium aphyllum)

Ghost orchid (Epipogium aphyllum)

Perhaps you may see the ghost orchid (Epipogium aphyllum), or perhaps not: declared Extinct in Britain in 2005, a single ghost orchid was subsequently discovered. Now Critically Endangered – one ghost orchid does not make a viable long-term population of a species – it flickers on the edge of existence. When it does appear, it occurs in beech, oak, pine and spruce forests. Ghost orchids obtain nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi that are associated with coniferous tree roots, thus they have no chlorophyll and do not photosynthesise. Being mostly subterranean, this ghost is named for its creamy-white to pinkish-brown colour during its fleeting appearances to flower in dark, damp woods.

Patience. It awaits serendipity: a pollinator that has visited a fellow ghost orchid flower recently and nearby. Such visits have been fewer and fewer, and further and further between. We might never know the full extent of what we might lose by its passing.

The Ghost of Species Yet to Come

Scottish bog myrtle (Myrica gale)

Scottish bog myrtle (Myrica gale)

Scottish bog myrtle (Myrica gale) has been known for centuries – Highlanders and other north-western Europeans used it to flavour beer and discourage biting insects. Bog Myrtle oil has antibacterial properties which promote healthy skin, but it is also an abortifacient.

Clinging to life, finding survival just that little bit harder with each rapid generation. Sense the air and the water, the light and the warmth, the shadow and the push of neighbours. Each individual knows only its local conditions and its individual success or failure to thrive there. But the collective intelligence of the plant species is there for us to grasp.

Here the path bifurcates. Feel the slight indicative changes in climate pressures. Dread the heralding of another ‘miracle’ plant, of industrial harvesting scouring moorland to feed human hyperconsumerism until the fad passes.

We don’t have time enough to wait for natural evolution to refill these niches. Meanwhile, other connectees in the web adjust to their space change. So, we rush to isolate our chemical benefactors, to artificially evolve what we want from only a fragment of understanding. Evolution has a very long timescale for good reason. It is not finished, never finished. Can we listen? Can we wear much smaller shoes?

 

Today is Remembrance Day for Lost Species.

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20/12/2015

A Visit to St. Nature

Come with me, along the sodden river bank. Put the bustle aside for a moment to mind a different world. Crunch through the crust and catch a creature beginning its seasonal lament…

A Visit to St. Nature, laid-eggs and gentians!

‘Tis the night before Solstice, and all through the soil
All the creatures are flat out, engrossed in their toil:
A-stoking the chimneys, a-polishing wares,
In hopes that their customers soon will be there.
The robin is posing above the rose bed,
While morsels of bugs and plums dance in its head;
Here parsnips and beetroots in their earthy wrap,
Are well settled in for a long winter’s nap,
While out of the woods comes paper for letters;
Gall wasps and acorns make ink for the writers.

But metals mined from precious earth leave a gash,
So you get your gadgets to throw in the trash.
Marvel at this pristine land under snow,
Hiding the poison, the maiming below.
What to your wondering eyes will appear:
An oak forest slain or great herds of deer?
A coral-free ocean, a melting Arctic,
Or land ripe for drilling and likely oil slick?

More rapid than eagles, the grousers’ guns came,
Despatching hen harriers, pursuing their game.
Now right whale, now rhino, now orca, now oryx;
For ivory, elephant; for petting, slow loris;
For timber, for palm oil, for pain medicine,
Farewell tiger, orang-utan, pangolin.
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
Each life is extinguished, without asking why.

So, can you get conscience, and consciousness too,
And see all your toys as distractions from you?
For you, in a twinkling, like stars on our roof,
Have altered our planet, yet deny the proof.
Hydrology, chemistry, flooding the ground:
Thresholds and chances passed by in a bound.

You still dress in fur, still leather your foot;
Your homes are still tarnished with ashes and soot.
Your bundles of toys are breaking our backs;
Your shopping addiction, your over-processed snacks,
Your eyes never wrinkle, your straight nose, how very
Successful, and how your lips swell like a cherry!
Your so-perfect life is wrapped up with a bow,
So where did your ultimate happiness go?
The therapy, pampering, white straightened teeth,
And the drink, and the dope and the smoke in a wreath;
Around your taut face and your little flat belly
That strain when you laugh, at dire, brainless telly…

Where went the magic, the fairy and elf,
The enchantment that humbles, in spite of yourself?
The wink of the eye and the twinkle of sled,
The ringing of bells and the sparks where it sped?

Oh, please step outside, and outside of yourself,
And fill up your ears and your eyes and your health,
And take in some fresh air and nourish your nose,
Or ask yourself why, if the smell isn’t rose;
You might be surprised, even pleased if you listen,
Delighted to see all of Nature a-glisten.
So, as the world turns and a new year is nigh,
Happy Solstice to all, and to all a good night!

 

Humble apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.

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