Ascospore life to live!

Ascospore life to live
On the tree surface
Living hyphae tend to a lenticel
Exploring corky bark stomata
Seeking nourishment
Of plant oil or sugar sap
Surface tensions in dew
Rain drip moved along
For an endophytic phase
To be phloem transported inside
Open plumbing to impede flow
Within a tree’s annual ring vasculature,
Making for a tree genus pandemic,
Mating type by hyphal mating type,
Continent by temperate zone continent,
Making a fruitbody to reproduce thee.
Ascospore to filamentous hyphae,
To colony, to mate, to fruitbody,
to the ascus and ascospore,
to move, to settle on tree bark:
Ascospore life to live!


Black clouds by moonlight

Black cloud lobe margins are a high silhouette
Orion’s starlight above, Indian ink blotted through
Moonlight stripes an onshore sea to an eastern horizon
Grey wisps billow around the moon above
Foreshore rocks rise like glistening black limestone sentinels
As rockpools mirror and kelp reflectors drape the shore.
Clouds half hide the constellation, after rain, tide out
tranquil boomers, long range waves sound from a bay far south.
Memory from a dog walk, nocturnal sky over outside Loughshinny pier.


Arms brown, tacky, glistening with evaporate
In this evening’s moonless darkness
A street light ellipsis punctuates my view
Restless, the fridge quietens down
Leaving just a laptop fan to hiss
Warmth this evening postpones sleep
Necessary to get back on track

Checking online, struggling to pick up
A neighbour’ generous connection to broadcast status
Waiting for the pleasure of feedback from another soul
A mark of emotional effect provoking keyboard strikes
from something of ours in mind, like calling hello
and getting an answer, brings me a smile.

Compassion essential a prelude to contentment
A guide to happiness set down in verse
While the warmth of the evening seers
pleasure into my bones, and hands arm rub
temperature evenly under a cotton tee shirt
contentment with a toss of long hair
ready for a neck masseuse backcombing my locks
and a return to bed to get the beauty sleep I need

The Poetry Salon in Old San Juan

Having arrived, grocery shopped,
I sit on couch with an open mic,
nibble and slug provisions
in Poet’s Passage, a sit down
A stroll from a cruise-ship line,
The air fan buffets the hairs on my bare legs,
Music on the sound system is in Spanish creole.
Wicker chairs for an audience of a Tuesday.
Found this place yesterday Wednesday.
Checked it out online,
a struggle after Hurricane Maria, she wrote.

I am here for a chat with the owner
Running this art shop cum poet’s space for a decade
A living embodiment for me of a place only imagined
Spanish not English the language of choice here
Not far from Marshall’s, in the centre of town.

The Caribbean Literary Salon
A moderated space for Caribbean writers
Posting content on the internet
Joanne Hillhouse of Antigua
Kris Rampersad of Trinidad
Robert McDonald Dixon of Saint Lucia
A place on-line where I started my career in writing
Thinking of getting an article into literary magazines
Like the ‘Caribbean Writer’ or ‘Small Islands’
to address the issues of promoting my line.

Caribbean botany as a cultural creation
and a full engaging mental activity
of exploration of the landscape here,
each mushroom with its latin name
a scientific geography of the Caribbean
with a microscope and a graticule
to measure the spore dimensions,
to bring them a tangible reality.

The geography of site place names
to allow the mushroom species
to be followed in the future
ephemeral transient beings
living in the one place, year on year
after Hurricane Maria, and many storms
from when the botany begins
before the Great Hurricane of 1780.

Amazing places to stop on the way from Dublin to Enniskillen – Bun Lough, Belturbet, Co. Cavan.

Heading North on the N3 past Navan, Kells, Virginia, the roundabout before Cavan, one can set off along the new road that bypasses Butler’s Bridge. After a few more miles the long stripe of good road runs out. One is faced with a windy stretch that brings you on into Belturbet. This next stripe of country has an amazing little swampy wood in it – on the left near a place called Bun Lough. If you are passing through, this swamp wood is a worthy destination for a few hours on the way back home to County Fermanagh. As the good road ends, the windy stretch tracks past the place that the people of Cavan learn to swim, and then goes on past a Church on the right. You cannot miss the Zetor tractor compound on the left at the corner of the road to the west for Milltown. Bun Lough is a bit further on, just where the road straightens up across a causeway through marshy ground to the east of Bun Lough. There is a tiny car park that services the fishing stands on the south side of Bun Lough. This is the place I think is amazing. After the vicious bends one left and then one right, one passes The Omega, a charmingly named nursing home on the left just before Belturbet. If you go past The Omega, you have gone too far.

By now a frequent visitor to Kilduff, one Saturday morning in March 2005, I had the misfortune of leaving my car lights on while reading a newspaper in the Bun Lough carpark, and the battery went flat. Nothing to be done, I continued my explorations of the Kilduff swamp, until it was time to get help. A very kind farmer willing to help was found in a jeep on the byroad from Milltown. The jump start did not work, and he gave me a tow to the garage across the bridge in Belturbet. When a mechanic was found, a blast on the battery charger and Margaret’s crew in the garage set me straight. Kilduff is the townland name on the map at the amazing patch of swamp wood just to the south east of Bun Lough. Kilduff or Coill Dubh can be translated as Black Wood. The tiny carpark at Bun Lough floods in the winter, so one can only stop there on the way past a bit later on in the year. The first patch of wood holds a wee bit of litter, not so bad considering Cavan County Council’s warning sign in the carpark.

Moving on into the first swamp wood, the ground underfoot is amazing – after the flood the leaves are left like dried out spent tea leaves, dark brown and crispy. Any shed sticks on the floor have lost the lichens due to immersion. In places where the leaves drift off in the floods, the ground is bare, and in the basins you get deposits of tea leaf swill building up. Over some barbed wire, the next field has a few birch trees at the southern edge, and crossing the drain here (only if you have wellingtons on) one can get an impression of what the heart of a real Cavan swamp wood is like. The trees here include willow, alder and ash with a bit of hawthorn. Every trunk has a grey swathe of leafy lichens. With lots of collapsed trees, getting through the thickets is a challenge. This is a fascinating area with a mixture of trees and disturbingly soft bottomed pools in which ones footing ought to be tested rather gingerly.

The special feature of Kilduff is that one can see a ‘lichen-line’ phenomenon, a level on the trees below which there are no leafy lichens alive. The ‘lichen-line’ is caused by flooding and prolonged immersion. After a few days underwater, lichens on the tree trunks and submerged boughs are killed. Once dead then start to rot, and in a few months after the floods one can see the ‘lichen-line’ in swamp woods clearly. Due to the buoyancy of spreading boughs in floods means that in dry condition the ‘lichen-line’ is just a wee bit lower on the branches at bush extremities. Every winter the ‘lichen-line’ forms at whatever level the floods reached for a few days. In the late summer, little small young lichens grow in the bare patch of tree trunk bark below last years ‘lichen-line’. A very high flood might only occur once in a decade, so such a flood would obliterate all the previous lichen lines. It can take a bit of time looking about at tree trunks and boughs in the swamp wood to work out the levels.

Looking at the lichens and fungi in Kilduff one can pick out the green cup fungus that stains dry rotted sticks Chlorosplenium aeruginasens. This is better known as Tunbridgeware of Oak, where the green stained wood is used for marketry inlay for ornamental jewelry boxes. One can also pick out the tiny one milimeter green grey ear like scales of the lichen Normandina pulchella on brown liverwort covered boughs of willow. There is a bracket fungus on decaying willow trunks known as Daedaleopsis confragosa, with a white or ruddy skin and a strange mazegill network of slots underneath. The swamp wood here though is really a place for the leafy lichens. There is a lot of Parmotrema reticulatum, a swamp specialist that has a reddish tinge to the crimped crispy lobe edges. Close up the upper surface has a reticulum of cracks, but this might vary according to the climate or time of year. This is something that we really do not know yet. Moving on through the swamp wood one can pick a way between the pools. Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria is beginning to pop up. There are a few reeds of reed canary grass in places. A collapsed birch tree was rotten with the birch polypore Piptoporus betulinus. If you want to follow that these plants look like, just type in the latin names on google images search on the web.

On progressing through I reached the central drain against the townland of Bun. A fallen willow straddles this broad tea water filled ditch. Stepping precariously along the trunk, not wishing to get wet, gripping some fine flexible sallies for stability, a final exhilarating leap, and I was in another townland. Swamp woods are special places that people in Cavan or Fermanagh, who care for clean clothes, forbid family members to go a walk. These swamps are rich in trees, perennial herbs, and the bushy and leafy growths of lichens, mosses and tree decay fungi, and a fine array of insects in the summer. As a part of the real Cavan out there, the uncertainty of orienteering through tangles of thickets; the unpredictable give of the mud and cracking of sticks underfoot, and the protracted risk of heart-quickening trips bringing one headlong closer towards a bath of mud – all make going for a walk in the swamp wood at Kilduff the perfect antidote for a day in, reading the Impartial Reporter.

Howard Fox

Preparing for the Enniscoe BioBlitz

Talk to me about the trees
What you have and for how long where
Decade bracket the human history
Plantings and fellings, of what tree from each Pairc,
And where you’d go to catch a cearc.

Parkland trees to native bushes
Wetland woods or drier sorts
Field hedges and river banks
Makes for a landscape of many ages
Wild corners from half a century ago
To a tree two centuries old.

Beech, Oak, Sycamore and Lime
Willow, Ash, Alder, Birch
Hawthorn, Cherry, Sloe and Apple
are the sort of trees we can expect
When we walk round Enniscoe

Take me to the woods,
And show me to the trees,
Let me look a while
‘til I’ve seen some life,
and into species so decide,
list their Latin names,
from a feature of this place.

Let that feature be some plot;
an area so clearly marked
that one cannot miss
its edges or its ground
when one next is passing round.

Footsteps botany, large or small,
Sonic memories from minds afar,
Linguistic sounds consistently uttered,
as species forms are acknowledged,
hypotheses of scientists’ from now right back to long ago.
Latin keywords that compassion allows.
Spread that tapestry of botanical micro-geography,
between each path and for each coup of wood.

Preparing for a BioBlitz
Lobarion, Parmelion, Graphidion
Lecanoretum and Pertusarietum in an arboretum
Where to look for all those sterile crusts!
Self-thinned dead branches low on trees
On the ground where the stem and cap mushrooms grow
All those mossy beds, with this and that.
Will the Ramalina & Usnea, so bushy be
in the apple orchard?
Where to look for all those sterile crusts!

Is this place geographically flat?
We will wonder if it is too even.
Was the landscape prison too wet
From trees to grass has it been
opened up and aired in a western wind
That it has dried out too much
Until there was nothing left, or did every stick
get collected in 1847.

A Temple House by the lake
A Sligo analogy for the place
A Brookeborough Demesne or a Doneraile Park
Flat limestone, lake wet,
with an equal isopleth

Morning sun into a western shore
An anti-flow that prevails
Tree wood water has to go
to make our liverworts and mosses
guide us, here, how wetness works.
For fungi and lichens too, water moves
between soil and ground or tree bark and air
with glades that bring lake dew back down to earth

Are there empty niches round the Estate?
Was canopy butchered to make end meet?
In that false economy, the cost of living,
And the price of burning nature’s furniture,
To keep us warm in our piles,
For want to keep a country seat,
And all inside in finery.

Wood from the trees costs lives
Of those who out here with spores survive
Trees for the wood, the planter’s struck
Assets for the future of all life.

Pope Francis on his Buddhist round
In Laudato Si calls for all Christians to care for all life
Make civil habitat for all life where you are
And then we can turn this extinction clock
to make the pairc and grove
Be home to Cearc and dove.

On land and lake, field and wood
when a species watches you,
and looks to be understood,
will you do the best for this,
outside the gates of Economy.

A mycological model of this place,
Pick some mushrooms, as you see ‘em
When you are walking, far away
Bring them back to the potting shed
To fill a nature table, which we will label
with some Latin names, if we know and if we are able
And with many eyes together see
we will make a better job of Bio Blitz
Than e’er we could do alone

So pick a punnet of mushrooms,
Fill a paper bag, not short with sticks
From on and under trees of every kind,
With your mysteries, share with us,
a way to help the botanical model emerge
so together go forth and let us make
A Bio Blitz for this place.

Howard FOX
25 September 2018

Culture Night at the Margaret Aylward Centre, Friday 21 September

Glasnevin House Botany Walk on Culture Night Friday 21 September 2018

A Betula pubescens
Birch tree with papery and hard corky bark on the trunk, boughs, branches and twigs. The twigs have leaves and buds. Each leaf has stalk and a blade, with a glossy upper side and a matt lower side with veins.

B, C Old Sundial Plinths
The two plinths have Physcia caesia, a grey lichen with marginal lobes that are 1-2mm wide and central convex powdery patches called soralia. The orange leafy lichen is Xanthoria parietina, and orange yellow rimmed discs make the ascospores. This lichens’ fruitbodies are called apothecia. The grey lichen has no fruitbodies, however there are black spots which could be a lichenicolous fungal infection, of unknown species until it is sampled, dissected and observed under the microscope. More species are on each plinth too, if you stay a while and look close up with short sight or a x10 hand lens.

D Stump seat
This has, in the cracks of the wood of the tree trunk heartwood, a cushion moss, an acrocarp, with fruiting stalks or seta, with the fruit or capsule, on the end, up in the air. A tree ring count might assist in dating the planting of large trees in the Glasnevin House grounds.

E Cedrus atlantica glauca
This cedar has green grey leaf needles and the cones have resin droplets on them. Some of the young cones are green grey too, while older cones the surface cells turn into cork and go pale brown. The needles are in clusters, the twigs end in buds that make clusters of yellower young needles. A dead branch has no needles with old brown cones that are sometimes overgrown by the yellow lichen Xanthoria parietina, and other cones have been eaten by grey squirrels, Scurius carolinensis.
These tree rodents with fluffy tails can bite the fingers of the hands of people when they attempt to feed them by sharing some nuts from their packet of hazelnuts, Corylus avellana.

F Taxus baccata
This gymnosperm has a naked seed, inside a green aril, which goes red when ripe. The seed can be seen as a green or brown vessel inside the soft fleshy red aril. The Arils can drop onto the path, and are squashed by perambulator wheels or feet, and are eaten by pigeons, Columba palumbarius.

G Shrine roof
On the vertical slate joins acrocarpous cushion mosses grow. These green cushions, perhaps Bryum capillare, are not making fruits, and will make them in the spring. On the sloping slate surfaces the yellow lichen Xanthoria parietina grows.

H Sedum telephium
This fleshy matt grey green leaved herb with a broad clustered head of red flowers that mature late in the season in September and October. The leaf cells have a system of Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) different from normal plants. The CAM system occurs in Cacti and other desert plants like Euphorbia. When in flower well into the Autumn, the umbels make nectar for the evening flying migrant Silver-Y moth, Plusia gamma.

I Malva sylvestris
The mallow has purple flowers with five separate petals. The leaves are rounded with long stalks.
There is a beetle that makes small shot holes in the leaves, by munching on them, while a youngster. The beetle eggs are laid on the leaf underside, right next the veins. When they hatch into larvae, these hungry creatures feed on a few mallow leaf cells, as salad making the holes. Once they mature, they turn into a pupa, and then hatch and fly off as an adult beetle.
The place where this beetle pupates is unknown, but must be in the habitat close by. For the biodiversity garden, we should think where these beetles like to pupate, and provide them that place undisturbed for the autumn, winter and spring, until the first generation of spring adults emerge.

J Quercus ilex
This evergreen oak or holm oak has glossy leathery leaves with a white hairy underside and a prominent white midrib below. The tree makes acorns in cupules, like in all kinds of oak trees. The grey lichen on the trunk bark is Diploicia canescens. It has neat narrow encrusting lobes, makes grey powdery areas, and sometimes black disk fruitbodies. If dissected under the microscope the ascospores will be 1-septate and brown, like all fertile taxa in the Physciaceae family of lichens.

K Quercus alba
This is an American oak with a rather strange leaf shape. The acorn cupules have long, eyelash-like, green prongs. The acorns themselves are like those of any oak. Many acorns fail to produce viable seeds, and do not swell at all, before they harden and become corky and fall from the tree. The acorns on the sloping path roll readily and can be a slip hazard, under an unsuspecting nun’s moccasin. Twigs of the pin oak have a second fruiting yellow lichen, Xanthoria polycarpa.

L Ilex aquifolium
The undulating edged prickly leaves, green stems, and red berries, of a female Holly bush are a feature of Christmas. The berries are green until summer and redden in the autumn. The holly blue butterfly, Celastrina argiolus, breeds in leaves of this tree, laying eggs here.

M Cedrus libani
This cedar of Lebanon has a trunk from which ivy has been cut back. It is a graceful tree when viewed from the Margaret Aylward centre meeting room. Below this is some Elder, and Ash grove and a Hawthorn hedge. The yew walk begins next, and Ivy flowers can be seen.

S Rubus fruticosus
A blackberry patch is below the cedar on an open slope.

T Sambucus nigra
The elder leaves are looking a bit yellow here in Autumn 2018.

U Fraxinus excelsior
The ash grove of saplings has a leaf mildew on the leaf underside in some leaves in Autumn 2018. There are other leaves that have been partly eaten, have inrolled galls, or are otherwise brown spotted and so on. A wide range of insects live on ash trees, and this is a good place to study which species are actually present on ash here in Glasnevin.

V Bindweed
A small flowered bindweed with fused petals making a white trumpet flower is growing among the upper part of the Blackberry patch above the grove of ash saplings. Convolvolus arvensis or Calystegia sepium are options. Can you find out what species this is?

W Crataegus monogyna
The large hawthorn bush here is without parallel in my repertoire, with the parasite Mistletoe.
Mistletoe, Viscum album, has green forked stems and small green ellipsoidal opposite leaves. It was introduced into Europe from South America in ancient times, and now grows from Norway to Portugal. The white berries, are they arils too?, rather fleshy and eaten by some birds.

X Symphytocarpus alba
The snowberry is a hedging shrub from Virginia in eastern North America. It has white to pinkish flowers and berries with frothy pulp and seeds inside. It is in the heather family with Calluna vulgaris, Erica cinerea, Erica tetralix, Arbutus unedo, and the Frochan, Vaccinium myrtillus. Can you see some reasons why it is in the heather family?

Y Fence laths with cushion and mat mosses
This old fence has been outdoors for several decades. It has taken on some mosses that normally grown on oak, sycamore or ash tree bough high in the boughs and branches of the canopy. The mosses on the fence laths include acrocarp cushions of Orthotrichum anomalum and pleurocarp mats of Hypnum cupressiforme var resupinatum. A pleurocarp is a moss with a branched shoot making a mat.

Z Salix vimnalis
This osier has elongate leaves. It is a willow, with fluffy catkins. The source of Aspirin, Salicylic acid is fresh willow bark

AA Carex pendula
By the River Tolka, the large sedge has a punchaun of basal leaves whorled together. The flowers are on long fishing rod like stems with tasselled hanging pendulous fruiting spikes with the seeds. The end spike is male and makes pollen on anthers, while the inner spikes are female and make seeds. It grows well in woodland in Ireland. The female fruits or utricles make a fine grained porridge.

AB Scrophularia nodosa
The figwort is a herbaceous plant with zygomorphic flowers that are small and snapdragon like. The ovaries swell to make green fruits.

AC Hedera helix
The leaves on the ground under the yew walk are of Ivy. A green stalk, brown runners, and a triangular hand like like leaf. Ivy tends to climb trees, bushes and walls before it produces flowers. Each flower is in an umbel, a cluster of flowers, and matures into a cluster of berries.

AD Snowberry
The snowberry in the Ericaceae family here has been cut back and the leaves have a white powdery mildew on them, 10 ix 2018, Erysiphe symphoricarpi, new to Ireland.

AF Salix vimnalis
The willow in the lawn is yellow stemmed. It is a basket or crack willow. Establishing certainty over which cultivar it is, will take more study.

AG Acer pseudoplatanus
Along the bank of the river here are some mature sycamore trees. These make winged seeds

AG Laetiporus sulphureus
On some of the yew trees of the yew walk, a yellow orange bracket fungus grows, making a brown rot in the heartwood of the yew trees.

AH Fraxinus excelsior
The ash trees by the river are large and shed terminal twigs and low branches as well as ask keys on to the lawn below. A set of young saplings could develop in this area, if left to grow.

AI Urtica dioica
A nettle patch occurs in the field at the end of the yew walk. Nettles are so well known, they need no introduction. They may be felt for on the darkest night.

AM Sambucus nigra
The elder here is full of berries. This tree could be propagated and encouraged to grow in other places along the slopes into the future. The fruits are fed on by finches, starlings, pigeons, and other birds. The flower umbels are a wonderful addition to flavour homemade pancakes in May.

AN Ulmus procera
The elm saplings here are hit by Dutch elm disease. Some persist. This tree pandemic occurs because, unlike humans, trees have no immune system. The disease, Ophiostoma ulmi, is spread by a fungus dispersing beetle which lives in galleries under the bark.

AO Inonotus dryadeus
The large oak tree here has an interesting bracket fungus on it, which leaks beads of a resin like fluid, which glistens in the light, of a humid sunny day.

AP Damson
There is a tree in the yew walk that looks as if it is a damson. There are no fruits. However if the ivy is cleared from it, and the tree is propagated, it might be interesting to see what fruits it produces.

AR Pinus montezuma
At the top of the biodiversity garden, there are three pine trees, probably from Monterey in California. The needles are in clusters and rather long, so it should be possible to establish with greater certainty, what species is present.

AX Platanus europaeus
A London plane is growing near the Margaret Aylward Centre.

BA Method
Google Images Latin name recalls what we know of species, how it looks to a camera. That scientific keyword is used to index this phenomenological existence on the surface of our planet.

BB Ethos
Humans are 25% Primrose, as the DNA of Primula vulgaris shows. Care for plants as part of a living community, as Pope Francis advises Christian civilisation in his Laudato Si encyclical.

BC Data
The Glasnevin O32 six mile raster square on NBDC in Waterford has the data. Download in csv a spreadsheet list of the latin names of what lives here.

BD Share our ability
A thousand names or more of species, to see in our neighbourhood, attested in reality in Glasnevin, by science in lingua Latin; an altruism of information, an abstraction of what lives here, our gift to society, cherished life for all of us, to care for. One by one, respect each, research each, design for each, care for each.

BE Plan with biodiversity
A garden grow more than a gardener sows. Propagate native species that do well in this place, Glasnevin, to feed dependent multitudes. Plan for all local species, make it possible for them to live here. Do that, and one is making a habitat for life in this biodiversity garden.

Howard Fox, 12 ix 2018