Viburnum tinus and a parallel world



Viburnum tinus is among  stars of the Mediterranean spring. Its dark green leaves contrast fragrant pentamerous flowers in white or pale pink, evolving into dark blue fruit resembling small pearls. Yet this obvious picture from maquis has its invisible side .It is called domatium, after Latin word domus, for home. Domatia are microscopically small chambers at the under sides of the evergreen leaves. Plant grows domatia to host mites. In this way Viburnum tinus can be seen as a botanical skyscraper with many  tiny apartments for arthropod neighbors. Imagine a little mite calling her friends to come over for a party at her condo! I am kidding, it only fascinates me to recognize there is another life underlying the botanical beauty of the plant we can see with our eyes. It is like a parallel world. Only the question remains, are the mites, or are we , at the right side?



Florenz- Giardino dei semplici

Medici from Florenz were a powerful family. Their wealth (they owned Medici bank, one of biggest and most truthful banks in Europe at that time), connections (family gave 4 popes,their daughters married to European courts) and fact that they themselves become royal house enabled them to politically dominate the region from late 14-th century up to the 18-th century.They were generous patrons to the artists of the time and spent huge amounts of money building palaces, fortresses, gardens.

It is obvious that it was in the spirit of renaissance to invest in lavish buildings with picturesque gardens around,to study humanities and collect art.But what was the reason , that on December 1, 1545,  Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany established botanical garden in Florenz -, Giardino dei Semplici (medicinal herb garden)]just after  Pisa and Padova had got their botanical gardens? What made him think this is important, as there were yet only two botanical gardens in the world? After all, he could build just one more palazzo with beautiful garden .

I guess the reason lies in his grandmother Caterina Sforza, for he inherited passion for alchemy from her.She dedicated her last years of life to her children, grandchildren and her alchemical experiments.She had curiosity (or need?) to experiment in alchemy, this were in a way natural sciences .From here is just a step towards wish to investigate natural phenomena, botany included. 

As enough passion to investigate nature and enough knowledge to distinct  observations of nature as something important were needed (among with enough money) to set a botanical garden in 14-th century-do we today have enough passion, knowledge and money to recognize botanical gardens as important humanistic legacy for  future generations?

Euphorbia and ancient king Juba II of Numidia

image image image

Euphorbia forms one of the biggest genera of plants.It originates in tropical and subtropical Africa and America and its more as 2000 species show big diversity.Which fascinates me, is the same plant making my day brighter today, took attention centuries ago already. Isn’t it strange to know the plant I write about today (and your read it ) was named by husband of Cleopatra’s daughter ? King Juba II of Numidia named Euphorbia after his personal Greek physician Euphorbus!

Juba and cleopatra coin.gif

Coin of the ancient kingdom of Mauretania. Juba II of Numidia on the obverse, Cleopatra Selene II on the reverse.from:

Juba II (Iuba in Latin; Ancient Greek: Ἰóβας, Ἰóβα or Ἰούβας)[1] or Juba II of Numidia(52/50 BC – AD 23) was a king of Numidia and then later moved to Mauretania.His first wife was Cleopatra Selene II, daughter to Greek Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Roman triumvir Mark Antony.

Juba II was brought to Rome by Julius Caesar and took part in Caesar’s triumphal procession. In Rome, he learned Latin and Greek, became romanized and was granted Roman citizenship.[1] Through dedication to his studies, he is said to have become one of Rome’s best educated citizens, and by age 20 he wrote one of his first works entitledRoman Archaeology.[1] He was raised by Julius Caesar and later by his great-nephew Octavian (future Emperor Caesar Augustus).

He is also known to have written a book about a spurge found in the High Atlas which he named Euphorbia after his personal physician. It was later called Euphorbia regisjubae (‘King Juba’s euphorbia’) in his honor (it is now Euphorbia obtusifolia ssp. regis-jubae).Botanist and taxonomist Carl Linnaeus assigned the name Euphorbiato the entire genus in the physician’s honor.[8] 


Citrus plants from Botanical garden Florence or big chino secret revealed




Memories from counties I’ve visited are like kaleidoscopic pictures made from vivid colors, music and noises from far away and-smells and flavors so different from what I know that I remember them forever.One such memory takes me back in eighties,when still living in socialist country but being lucky enough to travel abroad.Returning from our trips to Italy we would always stop in little shops just in front of border,spending last lira to buy some specialities to bring home.Among them was Chinotto,a  drink so different from our lives at that time that it remained in my memories as a  reminiscence of summers when everything seemed so far away..From those times  many things have changed, but the taste of this drink remained the same-sweet and bitter, a bit sour like nothing we’ve tasted before.

Clicca qui per ingrandire la fotofrom:

Moja fotografijafrom:

Visiting Florence this march I remember by spring colors of Tuscan gardens, smooth flow of Arno river and wonderful smell of orange flowers in Botanical garden -Giardino dei semplici.They have a vast collection of citrus plants.  I’ve never imagined lemons  in shape of Buddha’s hand or in shape of a pear,that Jews have their own Citron, as  also Florence does ,but most intriguing of them all is Bizzaria , botanists needed three centuries to solve this chimera puzzle from Florence .And me? I’ve solved my chinotto puzzle in Florence:- among citrus trees!Citrus myrtifolia, the myrtle-leaved orange tree gives fruit which is used not only to flavor chinotto,but also many Italian amari !

Myrtle-leaved orange tree
Chinotto oranges growing on a tree
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Rutaceae
Genus: Citrus
Species: C. myrtifolia
Binomial name
Citrus myrtifoliafrom:

Moss sporophytes collecting water








 Botany gets a bit more complicated when we meet  bryophytes and cryptogams Something to start with could be: bryophytes are all cryptogams, but not vice-versa, some cryptogams are  not bryophytes. Yet beware  not to mess them all with cryptograms, although it seems that science may find some cryptograms (secret code) in genetic material of mosses, giving promise to new drugs development. Anyway,I was astonished seeing all those water pearls on our concrete wall moss looking as simple plain green carpet from far, but turning into a fine needlepoint when one comes close enough.It attracted me enough to spend some time observing tiny green hair.I can totally understand those guys from  british bryological society !

“Muscinae” from Ernst Haeckel‘s Kunstformen der Natur, 1904

The spore-bearing sporophytes(i.e. the diploid multicellular generation) are short-lived and dependent on the gametophyte for water supply and nutrition. ,mosses and other bryophytes have only a single set of chromosomes and so are haploid (i.e. each chromosome exists in a unique copy within the cell). There are periods in the moss life cycle when they do have a double set of paired chromosomes, but this happens only during the sporophyte stage.


A garden story with frog service and botanic garden poem

Image Taking a train ride for Stoke on Trent I was observing Potteries landscape running by, all green and smooth.It made me happy to recognize English countryside  just as sculptured in Wallace &Gromit our kids liked that much .Yet my thoughts at that moment  were: “If I survive this I shall reward myself  with one Wedgwood cup!”-sorry my friends in Stoke, but at that moment I couldn’t know that all the clay and coal from these green paysage helped writing a garden story I would listen with open mouth… 2012-10-28 08.50.41

I met a young man by the name of J. Wedgwood  who had planted a flower garden adjacent to his pottery.He also had his men wash their hands and faces and change their clothes after working in the clay.(attributed to John Wesley).

I was  happy indeed, when I found this sentence, visiting Wedgwood museum.There were so many potters there around, for centuries, but just one of them, Josiah Wedgwood, succeeded to become the one and only one.  How he did it?  The mentioned sentence explains it all.  I am not saying each gardener will become best potter ever. Yet to make porcelain that different from average, so beautiful, with fantastic patterns, one has to be a good observer,and one has to dare. Young Joshua dared to plant a garden behind his factory, there he could observe the beauty of nature, and to transpose it into porcelain.I state this shows nature is the best teacher keen observer  can have.





Garden themes Joshua Wedgwood revived in porcelain brought his name far away.

One of Wedgwood porcelain masterpieces-Frog service- was commissioned by Empress Catherine in 1773 .Incredible number of 952 pieces of the service were all painted with 1,244 realistic scenes with buildings ,gardens and landscapes from England.As the service was intended for the palace built on a frog marsh a green frog emblem was painted on each piece of the service.

Frog Service Dessert Plate View 947. A View taken near Mr Smith’s House at Battersea looking up The Thames. Designed & engraved by Boydell, 1752. (Possibly a duplicate that was not sent to Russia due to an imperfection).from:

Nature and gardens didn’t bring Joshua Wedgwood only to the queens of England and Russia, there arouse even more important friendship.In 1780 Wedgwood turned to Erasmus Darwin,English physician, natural philosopher, physiologist, inventor and poet, to help him running the business after Wedgwood business partner died.It is no surprise the two became close friends.Why? They both admired botany! While in Etruria Works  fantastic porcelain with scenery from nature, gardens, botany was produced Darwin worked for seven years on  Carolus Linnaeus  latin text coining many English botanic terms in use up to today.

Erasmus Darwin, from:

Erasmus Darwin was not only a scientist and inventor, he was also a poet.His two poems; The Economy of Vegetation and The Loves of the Plants,were published together as The Botanic Garden (1791).The book was an expensive one, but it became a best-seller  It was educating broader public, making botany interesting ,speaking about evolution in nature.

Title page from The Botanic Garden(1791), from:

But the story does not end yet! Joshuas daughter married Erasmus son.Their son was Charles Darwin, father of the evolution theory! Could you believe what arouse from the love of nature , gardens, botany?

Three quarter length portrait of seated boy smiling and looking at the viewer. He has straight mid brown hair, and wears dark clothes with a large frilly white collar. In his lap he holds a pot of flowering plants

The seven-year-old Charles Darwin in 1816.from:

This post was written as a guest post for The Beagle Project, a blog  about Charles Darwin journey ,so inspiring even today.



St Nicholas and Krampus from Salzburg

Tonight St Nicholas is bringing gifts to kids.The brave ones will get their plates filled with sweets and little gifts, the naughty ones are getting only a piece of charcoal, but all of them will get at least one Krampus, just for instance …….

I found this Krampus troop in Salzburg (I swear they are not from my plate ;-) ), and as they are so “botanical” they deserve to be published, don’t you think so?