Archive for the ‘Critical Plant Studies’ Category

Planting a Clock That Tracks Hours by Flowers

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The Horologium Florae, or floral clock: “The professionals said it could not be done. They had never tried it, and they didn’t know any public garden that had tried it, and they wouldn’t recommend anyone else give it a try.”

“Flower opening has inspired many artists and seems of special emotional value to people,” write the sober scientists of the Journal of Experimental Botany. Support for their suggestion, writes Michael Tortorello in the NYT, rests in the sentimental British garden journals of the early 19th century, where the flower clock inspired some marvellously bad poetry:

Broad o’er its imbricated cup,

The goat’s-beard spreads its golden rays,

But shuts its cautious petals up,

Retreating from the noontide blaze.”

Now, readers of the Plant Intelligence Project will know that questions around the emotional value of plant behaviour, and of whether stuff like the above is bad poetry is are what I like to go on about (see my essay, whenever the eff it finally appears, on Shelley’s “The Sensitive Plant”).

But Tortorello’s article (thanks Brian Bacchus, for sending it to me) appears just a day after I finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s recent novel The Signature of All Things (Penguin, 2013), in which she keeps alive the idea of timekeeping flowers:

In her ninth summer, completely on her own, Alma learned to tell time by the opening and closing of flowers. At five o’clock in the morning, she noticed, the goatsbeard petals always unfolded. At six o’clock, the daisies and globeflowers opened. When the clock struck seven, the dandelions would bloom. At eight o’clock, it was the scarlet pimpernel’s turn. Nine o’clock: chickweed. Ten o’clock: meadow saffron. By eleven o’clock the process begins to reverse. . . . What Alma wanted to know most of all was how the world was regulated. What was the master clockwork behind everything? (p. 63)

Tortorello notes that “the poetry of the flower clock continues to grip the imagination.” He finds a few recent references but notes that “three authors do not make a trend.”

Gilbert makes four. And me, I suppose, makes five.

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Read Your Flowers

2015 02 14 Read Your Flowers - Paris Review

Giving flowers may be older than written history, but these language of flowers systems were an invention of Victorian gift book culture. There is no ‘ancient lore’ by which these flowers get these meanings, only the wisdom of some savvy marketing-to-tween-young-ladies booksellers in the 1800s. Courtesy of The Paris Review.

Guerrilla Grafters Secretly Graft Fruit-Bearing Branches onto San Francisco Trees

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City officials contend that Guerrilla Grafters are breaking the law, but their actions have been celebrated by proponents of urban agriculture. And they have been included in the US pavilion’s Spontaneous Interventions exhibit at the Venice Biennale.”

You know that somewhere a lawyer is figuring out who owns any resulting fruit.

Us and Us

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Read the script of this episode of Cosmos with Carl Sagan.

Australian Ecopoetics Past, Present, Future: What Do the Plants Say?

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“In what follows, I will be guided by my own green biases and botanical proclivities. To foot-slog a swathe through the intricate ground of Australian ecopoetics, I will don chlorophyll-streaked glasses – will listen closely to what the plants say.”

Over at the Cordite Poetry Review, John Charles Ryan uses Marder’s plant-thinking to suggest where environmentally-engaged poetry in Australia is headed.

“A postcolonial ecopoetics of plants is about paying attention – and learning how to listen, a process whereby the botanical becomes a lens for the literary, rather than vice versa.”

‘Fractal Poetics’: A rose is a leaf is a rose is a leaf

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“Before Benoit Mandelbrot’s fractal mathematics and Gertrude Stein’s roses, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote about a primal plant, “Urpflanze,” which was constructed as a leaf within a leaf within a leaf. I wonder if his Platonic vision for this plant, from which all other plants derived, was an early imagining of fractal mathematics and response to fractal forms in the natural world (coast lines, human migration patterns, Romanesco broccoli).”

Read the rest of Amy Catanzano’s article on fractals, feminist philosophy, and models of poetic form at Jacket2.

Helping Forests to Flee?

There are few reasons why the whitebark pine has been declared an endangered species. But a warming climate is the worst threat, says this NYT article, and scientists are considering “moving” this population of trees from their home in the Rockies northward in order to save it. The idea is called “assisted migration,” and not all biologists are on board.

Our very idea of a “plant” suggests the inability to pick up and change locations in order to escape threat or find food. Certainly we have moved plants around the planet to suit our needs; we created our own categories of native and invasive species. When we start moving plants to conserve them, do those categories even matter anymore?