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Monday, 16 May 2011



Banksia cuneata (Quariading Banksia or Matchstick Banksia): photo by gnangarra, 28 September 2009

Banksia dallaneyi (Couch Honeypot), Kalamunda National Park, Western Australia: photo by SatuSuro, 13 September 2008

Banksia 'Yellow Wing', Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne, Victoria, Australia: photo by Melburnian, August 2008

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Banksia pulchella, Kings Park, Western Australia: photo by Cas Liber, 21 February 2007

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Banksia speciosa, Strybing Arboretum, San Francisco Botanical Gardens: photo by Eric Hunt, 24 December 2005

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Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) feasting on Banksia integrifolia var. integrifolia, Waverley, New South Wales: photo by Cas Liber, 4 November 2007

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The great south sea caterpillar, transform'd into a Bath butterfly, showing the metamorphosis of Sir Joseph Banks from a caterpillar to a butterfly upon his investiture with the Order of the Bath as a result of his South Sea expedition. Draped with the ribbon, and wearing the jewel, of Bath, he rises, chrysalis shaped, from the mudflats on butterfly wings emblazoned with sea creatures towards a radiant sun enclosing a crown: James Gillray (1757-1815), published by H. Humphrey, London, 4 July 1795 (Library of Congress)


Anonymous said...

Seeing such beauty at the end of a cold, gray, wet day when I've been wallowing in assorted dark thoughts is a great gift. When I first saw the title, I thought this must be a Banksy-related post, but I was amazed to see that it concerned Sir Joseph Banks' botanical discoveries. I first learned about Banks last fall in a completely different context. I was reading a fascinating book called The Road To Vindaloo, a history of the English love affair with Indian food, and a chapter described contributions by Dr. Joseph Kitchiner, a physician who wrote about optics, opera, sea songs and food. The author of "The Economy of the Eyes, and rules for using and Choosing and Using Spectacles, Opera Glasses and Telescopes", "The Cook's Oracle", "The Art of Invigorating Life By Food" and "The Housekeeper’s Ledger", Kitchiner published two pub snack recipes that were then popular in London taverns -- one for Anchovy Paste and one for Deviled Biscuits -- that he obtained from Mr. Henry Osborne of Soho Square, London, who was Sir Joseph Banks' cook. Banks' London house (later home to the Royal Zoological Society), like these gorgeous plants, is really something to behold.

TC said...


Banksia was actually not identified by Banks, but named in his honour, a few years after he'd been forcibly retired to an armchair as a result of being elected to august scientific office. So that while Cook sailed off again to the southern oceans, Banks had to stay at home in Soho Square.

Thus at the age of 35 his life of adventure ended, and one can feel the frustration of the sedentary state in his letters, as he chafes against this new condition of honorific inactivity.

Writing to Sir William Hamilton at Naples on December 4 1778 (this still four years before Banksia was named after him), Sir JB reported:

"they did me the honer however last Monday to Elect me unanimously President of the Royal Society in the room of Sir Jno Pringle who resigned the office finding I suppose Newtons Chair not so easy a one as his own Fire side Elbow

"that I envy you your situation within two miles of an erupting Volcano you will easily guess I read your letters with the Kind of Fidgetty anziety which continually upbraids me for not being in a similar situation I envy you I pity myself I blame myself & then begin to tumble over my Dried Plants in hopes to put such wishes out of my head which now I am tied by one leg to an arm chair I must with diligence suppress..."

(All the "sic" and "stet" qualifiers in that may be assumed... Typing that passage reminded me all over again what a singular fellow was Mr. Banks, whose private side rarely surfaced in public, but in those sentences, I do think we can almost "feel the pulse".)

ACravan said...

As I was reading through Banks' letter, I had exactly the same reaction you did. The old spellings (and particularly "Fidgetty anziety", a feeling I know well) are just wonderful. Curtis P.S. Reading this restored my day to "good start" mode. Trying to sign onto the LiveJournal service required me to answer three questions about Lady Gaga, which I really didn't want to do. The pub snacks recipes look terrific, by the way, and it was fascinating to learn how far the English love affair with curries extends. C.

TC said...

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, as we used to call her around the hood. That leopard skin drag she flaunts is almost as annoying as her fake name. Flattened and diced, a pub snack for the lion house, perhaps?

Certainly much less pretty than any variety of Banksia.