Mammal Monday

This squirrel was first spotted with a mouth full of leaves. It was lining this arboreal snug.

The big leafy bundles in trees, sometimes mistaken for bird’s nests, are summer squirrel nests. (Actually, none of our birds build nests of leaves.) In winter, squirrels want something more substantial: a tree hole, an attic…. A squirrel nest is called a drey or dray, which the OED tracks back to E17 but throws up its hands when it comes to etymology: “[Origin unkn.]”

A Philosophical Botany

In Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany Matthew Hall’s argument doesn’t strike me as provocative, but for others grounded in anthropocentrism, zoocentrism, Cartesian dualities, and very out-of-date biological understanding, it may.

“Plants and humans share a basic, ontological reality as perceptive, aware, autonomous, self-governed, and intelligent beings,” he writes.

As fellow eukaryotes, plants and animals (and fungi) all share nucleated cells as our foundational organizational structure. Even more fundamentally: there would not be life on earth as we know it without plants expelling oxygen as waste. They are the primary converters of solar energy into life, without which we would not exist. Eating plants, or eating the things that eat plants, we are completely dependent on plants. Yet we certainly do not give plants the respect and care we should. Quite the opposite, in fact. The thingness of plants makes them easy to dismiss, uproot, poison, pave-over, manipulate, and above all, disregard.

Hall discusses the roots of the lordly disregard of plants in Western thought (the Judeo-Christian-Aristotlian nexus); alternatives in other worldly traditions (Hindu, Jain, Buddhist); and older approaches (animist, pagan, Indigenous). Then, detailing recent discoveries of kinds of sentience and mentality in plants, he’s off to the races. A blurb on the back makes the inevitable allusion to Peter Singer’s groundbreaking Animal Liberation. So what about plant liberation?

Hall counsels a restorative approach. A combination of restorative justice and ecological restoration? Profound food for thought.

This blog is not predominantly a plant blog. I just don’t know enough to handle the plants. So may I suggest In Defense of Plants as an excellent corrective?

Blue Dragonfly

Detail of a cyanotype ca. 1910 by Bertha Jacques (1863-1941), on exhibit at NYPL. Photographed through glass, so a poor reproduction of the blue.


Looking up at another weeping form.Looking at the spear-like buds packed with spring.

Hammer and Tongs

In the depths of a Callery pear tree, whose fruit was simultaneously being ravaged by Monk Parakeets, this determined Red-breasted Nuthatch hammered away at nuts ferreted out of a neighboring arborvitae. From food tree to anvil tree, over and over again.While Green-Wood has been awash in White-breasted Nuthatches, a few Red-breasted have been present as well. You just have to ferret them out like a seed in a cone.

Raptor Wednesday

Plump silhouette, tail pumping up and down? Get some optics on that bird!And oh, those colors! A male American Kestrel. Note the tell-tale whitewash of a ready perch, no doubt used by any number of birds.Any height in a habitat is a perch for small falcons on the lookout for prey. Green-Wood is rather rich in obelisks, which is not atypical for a cemetery founded in the 1840s. The American nineteenth century had a mania for ancient Egypt. Obelisks, the Association for Gravestone Studies tells us, were considered classical, uplifting, tasteful, impressive for a small space, and cheaper than other elaborate sculptural elements.

Trees for Tuesday

I like the way this tuliptree bifurcates and bifurcates again.

Stripped of their greenery, the deciduous trees are especially beautifully revealed in winter.


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