Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Botanical cases

Life is and should be all about learning. Several query-exercises were set during the Lago Maggiore visit, and I set out here some research from a subset of these.

1. Capt Neil McEarcharn- the founder of Villa Taranto Gardens, who (naturally) did not work alone and whose chief factotums (aside from innominate Italiano labourers) were a Mr Crocker from Galloway and later Antonio Cappelletto, this latter (and his heirs) commemorated along with Capt. McEacharn in the memorial chapel, with its vivid and naturalistic floral stained glass windows. Capt. McEacharn appears to have been a lower son of landed Scottish aristocracy, bypassed through primogeniture. But either he or his retainers had extremely good botanical sensibilities.

2. Dahlias- Villa Taranto's garden is set out in a serpentine meander with ~200 hybrids in full blooming splendour in Sept. Their woody stems and leaf conformation have some affinity with chrysanthemums, but don't know if this is epiphenomenal or genuine consanguinity. According to wikipedia, "The great variety results from dahlias being octoploids (they have eight sets of homologous chromosomes, whereas most plants have only two)." Fantastico!

3. Pronunciation of plant names: Dahlias (named after a Swedish Mr Dahl) are often pronounced as Day-lia, as I believed to be correct before researching the etymology. But then Camellias (also prominent at Villa Taranto) are usually pronounced as Kam-eel-ia. Neither pronunciations can now be accepted (in my new nomenclature) except as vulgarisations.

4. Pollinators- Amongst the insects glorying in the Dahlias was a wierd fat-bodied type, about 2cm long, with a hugely long proboscis (as long as its body), a wing-beat so fast the wings couldn't be seen, and a hovering and darting habit as it moved between dahlia blooms. We swithered whether this could be a tiny hummingbird, but after research I now know it to be a hawkmoth (Sphingidae).

5. Dragonflies- The massive, iridescent, reptilian dragonflies patrolling the lily and lotus ponds were beautiful, mechanical and robotic. She was not, as imagined, attracted to our floral clothing, but looking for nymphae prey or patrolling her territory. After research, I believe our Anisoptera (possibly inspiration for DaVinci's helicopter engine) was a female Aeshnidae, most probably Aeshna cyanea or possibly imperator.