Category Archives: Botany

Plant of the Month, October 2018

What is an autumn crocus? The easy answer is that it is not in fact a crocus (in the Iridaceae family) but a colchicum (in the Colchicaceae family), Colchicum autumnale to be precise. Needless to say, neither life nor taxonomy … Continue reading

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Sister of the More Famous Tycho

When I wrote a valedictory piece in another place, before starting my Vita Nuova, I mentioned that one of the many books I might never now read was a biography of Tycho (properly Tyge Ottensen) Brahe (1546–1601), by John Louis … Continue reading

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William Turner, Naturalist

I have mentioned before Dr Richard Pulteney (1730–1801), the sole survivor of eleven children from an Old Anabaptist family near Loughborough, Leicestershire, who was apprenticed to an apothecary and then set up as an apothecary and surgeon in Leicester. After … Continue reading

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Plant of the Month: August 2018

This month, I give you Gladiolus murielae, for no better reason (or, in my opinion, the extremely cogent reason) that I have, after several years of trying, actually got it to flower this year! Admittedly, one flower and one bud … Continue reading

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Doomed to Find a Premature Grave

These portentous words appear in the introduction to the 1834 English edition of Letters from India by the French natural historian Victor Jacquemont (1801–32), ‘Travelling Naturalist to the Museum of Natural History, Paris’. If his name is remembered now in … Continue reading

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Plant of the Month: July 2018

I had vaguely hoped that during my recent sojourn in Florida I might see a catalpa in (almost) its native habitat. Its usual southernmost range is further north in the state, but I had plans to visit botanic gardens, until … Continue reading

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(Yet) Another Artist Of Whom I’d Never Heard

Well, had you (assuming, of course, that you are not an expert in eighteenth-century French flower paintings) heard of Gerard van Spaendonck? You will gather from his name that he was not French – he was born in 1746, in … Continue reading

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