Le calendrier républicain

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montagnarde1793 said: Not to mention, along with oaks, they’re the most common kind of liberty tree! Which makes sense. But I read somewhere that they’re particularly susceptible to diseases and tend on average not to survive the centuries…

I didn’t know they were common liberty trees!   Good for them. 

They’re fast growers and they propagate well from cuttings, but yeah, I believe they aren’t generally long-lived.  Many of the cottonwoods are riverside trees, so they’re adapted to shooting up fast and spamming the surroundings with seeds—because they’re likely to get knocked down in a flood sooner or later.  They also grow well from cuttings, another thing that’s handy if you expect to be broken up and carried off by a river.

I was looking up longevity for Lombardy Poplars—they’re the distinctive columnar ones and yes, they’re vulnerable to a particular fungus—and found a whole article on the poplar popularity in the United States.  They were huge in the landscaping world but the thing where they don’t live long and spread out root systems into nearby sidewalks and pipes made it a fairly short fad.  (Apparently in 1871 planting Lombardy Poplars became illegal in Albany, NY.  I wonder if it’s still true.)

Filed under montagnarde1793 peuplier

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9 Pluviôse: Peuplier (poplar, Populus spp.)

—Well, do you think I’ll have a hard time getting a good price for this study?

—No…you just need to find someone who really likes poplars.

Daumier, The Artists (1865) (…and apologies to Monet, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Pissarro above.)

I really like poplars.  Poplars, aspens, cottonwoods—they’re all close relatives in the Populus genus.  I particularly like them in late spring, when the cottonwood lives up to its name by absolutely filling the air where I live with the giant floating white puffs that carry its seeds.

Maybe one of these days I’ll go and visit the Balmville Tree, among the oldest trees in the eastern US.  Legend had it the tree grew from George Washington’s walking-stick, planted during the American Revolution, but core samples show it to date from 1699.

Filed under French Republican Calendar Pluviôse peuplier poplar balmville tree

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8 Pluviôse: Mézéréon (mezereon, Daphne mezereum)

Like the snowdrops of a few days ago, this is a very pretty early bloomer.  Lovely pink flowers, brilliant red berries, and enough toxic mezerein and daphnin to cause rashes from skin contact and potentially death if the berries are consumed. 

Filed under French Republican Calendar Pluviôse mézéréon

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montagnarde1793 said: Interesting!

I mean, there’s a few mental leaps amongst bracket fungus, squishy tindery stuff, love, and…cajoling? coaxing?  That’s my sense of the verb “amadouer?”  But I dunno, I guess I can see it.  Not sure how much is folk etymology, though.

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7 Pluviôse: Amadouvier (tinder fungus, hoof fungus, Fomes fomentarius)

Some 5000 years ago a man died on what is now the Austrian-Italian border, in the Ötztal Alps.  When his body was found in 1991 he still had with him his pouch of tinder fungus, complete with traces of iron pyrite showing its use as a fire-starter.  So joining the French Republican Calendar may be a pleasant change of pace for this fungus in its relationship with humans.  Generally, we’re beating it into a pulp—amadou—to use as tinder or to dry fishing flies or even to make into hats. 

What would F. fomentarius rather be doing?  Mostly, parasitizing trees, slowly contributing to their death and decay.  Its mycelium enters the wood of a host tree through wounds in the bark, feeding on it; on the outside of the tree the fungus produces a hard, layered fruiting body that can live up to thirty years.  The yearly growth of new layers always occurs on the bottom of the fungus—if the host tree dies and falls over, the fungus adapts to the new orientation.  Pick your pun: it knows what’s up, or it knows what’s going down.

Filed under French Republican Calendar Pluviôse amadouvier tinder fungus ötzi the iceman

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6 Pluviôse: Laurier-thym (Laurustinus, Viburnum tinus)

Millin is stern about this plant’s name in French: this is not a laurel nor a thyme, but a viburnum.  The “laurel” comes from its similarity to bay laurel, also an evergreen with glossy leaves.  Which is all very nice, but what’s much more interesting is that the leaves have domatia.  The leaf produces a little tiny chamber for even tinier arthropods to live and breed in—in this case, mites. The predatory mite Metaseiulus occidentalis thrives on laurustinum and eats the eggs of the plant-eating two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae).

Leaf drama.

Filed under French Republican Calendar laurier-thym laurustinus domatia botany Pluviôse

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montagnarde1793 said: Well, they’re an astrological sigh. Mine though, as it happens, so not so much for this time of year. It would probably be anachronistic to assume that was deliberate. I mean, when they say they want an end to superstition, they don’t mean astrology.

The trouble with bulls is that there’s just too much symbolism.  You start writing about astrology and then the next thing you know you’re off on a ten-page essay… 

Bulls historical,

Bulls divine,

Bulls metaphorical,

Bulls all the time!

Filed under then there's that odd creature the papal bull