Saturday, 7 August 2021


These gemels (from the Latin for pair, like Gemini) marked by foresters to not chop down (there’s some light logging in our woods but done fairly surgically with deference to unusual or aged trees though I wish we could protect them all with apotropaic magic) results from the above natural phenomenon (Anastomose) in which the roots, branches or trunks grow together. Conjoined specimens are colloquially called “husband and wife” or “marriage trees” and were possibly the sites of nuptial ceremonies.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021


Via Dark Roasted Blend, we are directed to the extensive archives of the J.R.R. Tolkien Society and their periodic journal—the above titled in reference to the mellyrn trees of Nรบmenor that grow to immense sizes—whose issues include peer-reviewed scholarship, editorial, art work and academic essays on the legendarium of Middle Earth and related topics. Some of the manual typesetting and formatting, illuminated scripts really, of the earlier instalments, like this coda to an argument about the physics of Gimli’s armaments and fighting style with the contributor having developed his own Fรซanorian glyphs to render their by-line, are especially worth a read through.

Thursday, 25 March 2021


a tree grows in brooklyn: a map of New York’s great perennials  

no wine before its time: an interview with the director of Orson Welles’ infamous commercial for Paul Masson’s California champagne  

foley artists: the talented individuals who help make supplemental sounds for nature documentaries  

what level of wood panelling is this: McMansion Hell yearbook 1979—previously  

riding the rails: the portfolio of Wang Fuchun (RIP), celebrated photographer best known for capturing the narrative train travel  

schwarzschild radius: the Event Horizon Telescope—previously—takes another picture of the black hole  

hempire state: New York poised to legalise cannabis

Wednesday, 10 March 2021


Occupying a liminal space between 2001: A Space Odyssey and the juncture that went with cosmic opera in one direction and dread aliens in the other, the environmental-themed, weakly-endorsing techno-utopia Silent Running by Douglas Trumbull—released on this date in 1972—does resound with our times and the bleak climate catastrophes we are facing, nearly fifty years on. The film follows a resident botanist (Bruce Dern) on board a greenhouse just beyond the orbit of Saturn, maintaining specimens of Earth’s plant life for its eventual reseeding the planet after all native trees and crops went extinct. Disobeying an order from the corporate headquarters that sponsored the space ark project to jettison their living cargo and return to commercial services, the botanist with his three service robots try to save the last biosphere.

Monday, 1 March 2021

casanea dentata

Previously we’ve written about the consequences of blight and efforts to reintroduce the American chestnut tree with generic engineering but failed to appreciate the devastating magnitude that the loss of a keystone species had for industry and ecosystem until acquainting ourselves with this extensive Sierra Club article, excerpted by Super Punch. Crucial as building and construction material, the westward expanse of Old World settlers would not have been possible with log cabins and later railroad ties made out of the durable, rot-resistant wood, to say nothing of its sheltering branches and bark, the food-chain of fauna it supported or its pharmacological merits. Cutting or coppicing the tree didn’t kill it and rather it re-sprouted and was ready again to be harvested in a couple of decades, leading to the strangest, tortured Promethean twist in this study: as the blight only damaged the surface part of the tree, extensive root systems still exist, an estimated half a billion individuals and every once and a while grow new saplings, though these too succumb to the fungal disease within a few years.

Friday, 19 February 2021

your daily demon: amduscias

With a charge and a voice like a thunder-clap, this infernal duke governs from this day through 23 February, the first part of the sign of Pisces, Amdusias presents in the form of a unicorn and is the Kapellmeister of Hell, responsible for the cacophonous music of the dread realm and can manifest and possess other instruments. Opposed by the Angel Eiael, this sixty-seventh spirit controls twenty-nine legion and can reportedly bend trees at his will. 


Wednesday, 25 November 2020

tycho magnetic anomaly

The recent buzz about the discovery of a mysterious yet most likely of mundane origins of a metal monolith in the desert of Utah that channels in a sense the cinematic titan of 2001 made me think about this smaller though also puzzling concrete post I encountered during a walk in the woods last week. 

It’s in a clearing where some trees were recently felled for lumber. Though just off a logging trail, there’s nothing else nearby and no other signs of construction. The blue bit embedded seems to be the pontil marked base of a cobalt glass bottle. I wonder what it could be for or why it was placed there—I’ll have to keep an eye on this one. 


Wednesday, 21 October 2020

silvicultural practise

Similar in technique and results to the woodland management practises of coppicing and pollarding, we learn—via preeminent friend of the blog Nag on the Lake, that the artistic and practical application was developed in fifteenth century Kyoto as daisugi (ๅฐๆ‰, platform cedar) as a way to redress a timber shortage. Cutting a young tree down to its stump, if done correctly, will result in numerous shoots and can prevent deforestation.  Learn more at Spoon & Tamago at the link above.

Friday, 21 August 2020

castagno dei cento cavalli

In one of the first official acts recognising and treasuring the environment, the Royal Court of Sicilian Heritage (Tribunale dell’Ordine del Real Patrimonio di Sicilia) inscribed the Hundred Horse Chestnut into rolls of protected property on this day in 1745.
The four-thousand-year old tree on the eastern slopes of Mount Etna (perhaps owing its longevity to rich volcanic soil—all the more so because of its precarious location) is believed to be the oldest in existence. Recorded as having the greatest girth—having split into a grove multiple trunks above ground, the tree received its name after local lore relating that when Queen Juana I of Castilla (called La Loca) passed through with her large entourage of knights, the entire company was able to shelter under its boughs during a thunderstorm. This venerable tree is a sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), whereas a horse chestnut is a close-cousin.

Thursday, 13 August 2020


Most famously portrayed in Milanese Mannerist painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s 1590 portrait of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II with a fruit and vegetable filter—Arcimboldo’s signature work as well, signifying the age of prosperity under his reign, Vertumnus is the shape-shifting deity of the seasons and metamorphosis and is celebrated with festivities (fasti) on this day on the Roman calendar.
Suitor of Pomona, the goddess of gardening and fruitful abundance—a hamadryad, that is a kind of nymph that lives in trees, Vertumnus seduced her in her orchard, having earned her confidence in the guise of an old woman, whom procedures to lecture her on the dangers of rebuffing advances, and this myth is considered to be the first Latin one, not derivative of earlier Greek traditions—the domesticated nature of landscaping and tending fruit trees perceived as too tame for the woodland spirits yet neither something as intensive—or fickle and dependent on the favour of the gods as agricultural activities. The god’s statue in a temple near the Forum Romanum was hewn from maple trunk and decorated according to the changing seasons typified by vestments made of the turning of leaves.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

daily constitutional

Even before availing myself to my midday walks through the woods where we live, it was a privilege to live in such proximity with Nature and wandered solitary for miles without encountering another soul, and now this peaceful, restorative ritual has really become an important one that’s never stinted or cut short as I’ve taken to exploring every fork in the path and have discovered quite a few hidden, anchoring landmarks in disused cabins, fishing holes and welcome vistas.

 Though still alone and hardly seeing another person out at any hour or no matter what the weather, in one direction, lies the gently logged but managed woodlands with extensive trails and opposite is our section of the European Green Belt, a nature reserve than spans the former Inner-German border and Iron Curtain with paths that follow old patrol routes.
The birdsong is exuberant and watching the trees awaken, day by day, has been a priceless and cherished thing to experience and am deeply grateful for these long, extended hikes and the chance for a change of pace to reconnect.

Thursday, 16 April 2020


From BBC’s Monitoring desk, we appreciated this rejuvenating, restorative suggestion from the senior ranger of Iceland’s largest forest, Hallormsstadur, in the eastern part of the island that one go, safely, out and embrace a tree, really savouring the connection and letting it support one and draw strength from it. Not all of us might have the woods at our doorsteps but I think all of us are lucky enough to have a tree at hand.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

wollemia nobilis

Via Super Punch, we learn about the clandestine, successful mission pulled off by botanists, park rangers, conservators and New South Wales’ brave firefighters to save the only known wild population of Wollemi pines.
The trees, which may be up to one hundred thousand years in age, number about two hundred individuals and prior to their discovery in 1994 (akin to finding a living dinosaur), were believed to be extinct and only known through the fossil record. The operation was kept secret so as to not disclose the grove’s location as caretakers fear that visitors could bring contamination that could harm the critically endangered species. Clones have been propagated worldwide and have distinct broad needles and knobbly bark.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

palm house and parterre or bulletin of miscellaneous information

Underpinning nearly all life on Earth and comprising a majority of the planet’s biomass, the kingdoms of plants and fungi are constantly yielding up new discoveries that we must cherish and preserve as best we can, for their own sake and to mediate on the strange and novel adaptations and chemical magic that Nature has developed, some habitats lost before we could fully appreciate or even identify what sorts of treasures we’ve destroyed. Curators at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew have selected ten superlative finds out of the some one hundred and nine newly, officially recognised species all across the globe to highlight this wonderful and surprising realm, including a berry that has the effect on the human palette of turning sour tastes to sweet (Synsepalum Chimanimani) and a tenacious shrub confined to a single waterfall that produces its own adhesive to stick to rocks and prevent it from being swept away.

Sunday, 8 December 2019


ideograrch: the iconic works of architecture abstracted in Kanji-like calligraphy by Federico Babina

quasi-modo: a Russian DJ that combines his skill with bell-ringing with techno music

head in the clouds: a look at cities in the sky

dreigroschenoper: a gallery of playbills and references that cover the works of Bertolt Brecht—via Strange Company

pelagic zone: a deep sea explorer from (previously), via Kottke

fine html products: a survey of superlative links of the 2010s

apotropaic charms: stunning enamel pins from Lydia Daum, via Swiss Miss

you have the right to hush-up: Slaw & Order, courtesy the Art of Darkness

ๅ†ฌ: Aoi Huber Kono’s 1972 picture haiku book Winter

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

nacho typical arbour day

In light of Ethiopia’s big stride towards its goal of reforestation of four billion trees as part of a wider campaign and being cognisant that good efforts need some expertise to back them up, we appreciated this selection of products and projects from Futurekind, which included this sort of compostable chip-and-dip bowl for saplings called Cocoon, having taken part in many of these huge arboreal efforts, that helps boost survival rates by reducing the need for follow-up irrigation. Much more to explore at the links above.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

me + t

Having explored the proven and somewhat more esoteric ways that plants are networked and sustain one another in the past, we really appreciated Open Culture’s take on plant communications and how, if the titular character of Shel Silverstein’s story, had not been in isolation a You Gotta Be Kidding Me Tree would have intervened when the giving came to taking. See a suite of lessons on how trees talk to one another at the links above.

Friday, 5 July 2019


Though not totally out of the woods (like the paradox that holds one can only wander half way into the forest because after that point, one is on the way out), Swiss researchers bring the encouraging news that planting a trillion trees could reduce carbon dioxide levels by fully two-thirds, sequestering the green-houses gases that man has been flagrantly pumping into the atmosphere for the past quarter of a century.
That last third will be tough to eliminate but together with continuing emission reductions, dietary changes and advancing technology, the task at hand no longer seems as hopeless—the boost from the trees, according to new models, far greater than expected. Not only would the massive greening of the planet be logistically tenable and a bargain too great to pass up—at around thirty cents per sapling, it would cost all of three-hundred billion dollars—and despite the considerable space that this many extra trees would need to grow, continental America plus China, surveyors have found room at the borders and verges and in derelict land without taking any places used for growing crops and urban spaces—though more trees would dot pasture lands and be to the benefit of grazing livestock. Everyone can take part and aside from the intrinsic and aesthetic value of trees (helping to stop erosion, drought, flooding and preserve biodiversity), it’s moreover an intervention that is not predicated on convincing the nay-sayers and science-deniers otherwise.

Friday, 28 June 2019

buckeye state

Recommended by Digg, we really enjoyed reading this nuanced, thoughtful essay that explores the project to restore North America’s blighted chestnut forests (see also) by creating a genetic hybrid whose DNA contains material from wheat that makes it resistant to the fungus that wiped out the trees.
Given how some of our exuberance to adopt GMOs was misplaced—and conversely fears over it, it is especially vital to get the science right before releasing something synthetic into the wild as trees not thrive outside of our laboratories, fields and plantations, they are also a vital part of the landscape and ecosystem, host to their own particular constellations of Nature. What do you think? Testing is extensive and circumspect and well worth considering all the trials conducted and considered but one in particular stands out: tadpoles fed with either natural or transgenic chestnut leaf litter thrived equally well, but grew at nearly twice the rate of their siblings that had to make due with a diet of maple and beech leaves—their only option since the chestnuts disappeared a century ago, suggesting that the ecosystem is missing these magnificent and useful trees far more than we can appreciate.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

die unendliche anziehungskraft der natur

Inspired by a sketch executed in 1971 by fellow Austrian Max Peinter (*1937, a cousin of Ettore Sottsass) called “The Unending Attraction of Nature” art collector Klaus Littmann will bring the picture to life by transplanting a forest of trees in the sports stadium of the industrial city of Klagenfurt as public art installation of the same name.
Calling the government officials out for their inaction on climate change and habit loss (lifestyle choices do matter and have an impact but the real and difficult sacrifice is in legislating the polluters), Littmann fears that in the near future, such displays of Nature might in fact be within the purview of the viewing platform or gallery, like animals in zoos. They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum. Once the project concludes (9 September – 27 October 2019), the trees will be given a permanent home at a nearby location on public lands.