Chlorophilia: from the Greek khlōros, meaning green, and philia, meaning loving; thus, loving all things green and growing.
Now, that sounds straightforward enough and many of us would willingly admit to having chlorophilia but a word of caution. I’ve just been reading on the Wiki Knowledge Dump blog (the place where rejected Wikipedia articles often get resurrected) that the word (which does not appear in standard dictionaries) was ‘invented’ in 2004 to describe a physical or sexual attraction to plants. Tree-huggers, take note!
Leafmines and their miners are a subject I started to look at last summer but I quickly discovered that, in order to identify the miner, you had to know the plant they were mining, so I needed to improve my botanical knowledge before I could go much further. That effort has begun, and is ongoing, so I will start to look again at the miners in the coming months.
Firstly though, in case you don’t know, leafmines are made by the larvae of various insects. The mines are their homes and their larders – as well as providing them with some degree of protection from predators, the larvae eat the tissue of the leaves they live within, thus creating their mines. The larvae can be the immature stages of various species of flies, sawflies or moths, and, apparently, some beetles also mine leaves.
If you look at a mine, you will often see a tiny hole at one end, which means the creature that made it has left the premises, to pupate or to being life as an adult. Sometimes, you can still see the larva within, and you can often also see the pooh (known as frass) it has left behind as it eats and tunnels.
The shapes of the mines can vary considerably, from long meandering or straight lines to roundish blotches, and these shapes, plus the placement of the mine within the leaf (some occupy just the upper or lower surface, some go right through) and the identity of the plant, are the main ways to determine which creature has made the mine.
**p.s. Since posting this, I’ve been told what I thought was a leaf mine on ivy (the photo on the right in the middle) is actually caused by a fungus, possibly Phoma hedericola, the most common leaf spot of ivy. I can see these leafmines are going to be even more tricky than I anticipated!
My local fungus group has a new challenge going for the month of January, to find a ‘living fossil fungus’. Sounds weird? Well, the ‘living fossil’ is the Ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba), a tree that’s been around since the time of the dinosaurs (read more about this beautiful tree on my sconzani blog here), and the fungus is Bartheletia paradoxa, a basidiomycete that only grows on Ginkgo leaves and has characteristics that are unique amongst basidiomycetes (for the science geeks out there, here’s a link to an expert article).
The fungus was not formally recognised until 1932 and was first found in Britain, on the leaves of a Ginkgo at Kew Gardens, in 2008. There are still very few official records for it but, as members of our fungus group are now discovering, it seems to be on almost every Ginkgo tree we can find.
As you can see from the photos, the fungus looks like black spots on the fallen leaves. Of course, autumn is long gone and the winter winds that have been roaring across Britain this past week have blown away a lot of fallen leaf litter but it’s still worth looking look around any Ginkgo trees you know of in your local parks. I found these leaves on Wednesday around the magnificent Ginkgo avenue in Bute Park, behind Cardiff Castle, and I have another couple of places to go looking in the next few days. So, do see if you can find yourself a ‘living fossil fungus’ as well.
Here’s a word that’s not in the Oxford Dictionary because it’s now considered obsolete but, as Oxford University Press has a habit of somewhat arbitrarily removing words from its dictionaries (since 2007 it was deleted words like ‘buttercup’ and acorn’ from its Junior Dictionary) and replacing them with modern lingo (like ‘cut-and-paste’ and ‘analogue’), I’m doing my bit to revive words before they’re forgotten.
Psithurism, then, is a noun used to describe the sound of rustling leaves. It is, apparently, an adaptation of the Ancient Greek ψιθύρισµα (psithurisma) or ψιθυρισµός (psithurismos), which are derived from ψιθυρίζω (psithurizō, meaning ‘I whisper’) and from ψίθυρος (psithuros, meaning ‘whispering’ or ‘slanderous’). Can you hear them rustling? And, here’s a little test: what’s the word for leaves like these that wither but stay attached to the stem?
There is so much to love about autumn: it’s as if Nature is an award-winning play, and all the trees are her actors. She’s coming to the end of another successful season, it’s the last grand finale, the players are dressed in magnificent richly coloured costumes ready to take their final bows before a rapturous audience amidst great critical acclaim … and then the curtain comes down for another year.