The Nasty Secrets of Scientific Nomenclature

Of late I have been reading a good many gardening books, and a good many of them use scientific nomenclature for plants. This is to avoid confusion – or at least it would be if those in charge of said nomenclature didn’t keep changing the names between books. Still, once you have a bit of Latin (and occasionally Greek) under your belt, you have a nifty resource for extracting information about the plant in question.

The first part of the name is the surname or family name; and the second part is the specific species name. To give you an example, if I was a plant I would be Makarios deborah, or, if members of the family Makarios were the subject of discussion, just M. deborah.

Camellia sinensis, to give you an actual plant example, is a camellia from China, and is the plant that produces tea. Camellia japonica, on the other hand, is from Japan, and… also tea. If you like. It is said to be higher in caffeine and lower in tannin, so if you need to absorb iron but also stay awake all night, Camellia japonica tea may be for you.

You are going to need a bigger teapot.
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Of Politics and Poo

“Medicinal rhubarb was commercially grown from 1777 in Oxfordshire. It had been valued as a purgative and laxative for many centuries: a bag of rhubarb was considered sufficiently valuable to have been listed in the will of Marco Polo, and in the mid-nineteenth century the Chinese official Lin Zexu, unaware that it was, by then, a familiar feature of the Victorian vegetable garden, threatened Queen Victoria with a complete ban on the export of rhubarb. His intention was to bring a constipated nation to its knees and thus to end British sales of opium in China.”
from The Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia by Frances Wood.

Portrait of Lin Zexu

Personally, I wish Lin Zexu had been successful in his quest to stop (or possibly stop up) that giant pusher the British Empire and “eliminate this poison once and for all and to the benefit of all mankind.” You can read more of his letter here. It’s powerful stuff, and even today, there are those to whom it could well be posted.

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7 Things My Desk Says

About me, that is. What it would probably say if given free rein is “help, I’m being buried alive!” Except, of course, for the trifling point that it is not alive, being neither made of sapient pearwood, nor belonging to someone who has refused hospitality to a French enchantress lately.

But what my desk says about me is Quite A Lot, and not all of it flattering. So here is the dirt the desk would dish: seven things one can deduce about me from my desk – or at least the top of it, because even I cannot give you a clear account of what exactly I have in the cupboard and drawers thereof (which tells you something about me all by itself).

Louis-Léopold Boilly - A Lady Seated at Her Desk - WGA02352
Lady, there is a dog on your desk. Also a small stone flasher.
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