Ensonglopedia of Plants

by John Hinton

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1.
Augustin de Candolle Was a systematic soul. He liked to keep his plants in order. By organising species By their most obvious features He worked out their relatedness. Well, sort ‘a. Our study of genetics Has replaced the theoretics Behind the designs of Monsieur de Candolle, But his work inspired Andrew Murray’s much admired Plant layout through which you’re about to take a stroll. Systematic, systematic, oh systematic Have you ever seen a panorama quite so cinematic? Have you ever smelt a garden quite so aromatic? Or heard of an endeavour quite so idiosynchratic As Augustin de Candolle’s Stab at filling all the holes In our knowledge of the way plants are related, Or as Andrew Murray’s bid To concoct the curvy grid Which in this botanic garden is located? But they’ve shuffled things about And they’ve chucked a few things out As a result of analysing DNA, They’ve also added lots Of basal monocots, Because we know much more about these plants today. Systematic, systematic, oh systematic Just because you’re scientific doesn’t mean you stay static And since parts of Murray’s layout have proved problematic This botanic garden’s opted to update his schematic Systematic, systematic, oh systematic Have you ever seen a panorama quite so cinematic? Have you ever smelt a garden quite so aromatic? Or heard of an endeavour quite so idiosynchratic As Augustin and Andrew’s systematic?
2.
We’re gonna cut a buttercup up. Why don’t you cut me up A buttercup, baby, And then show me round All the parts that you’ve found? Okay, now, first of all, It has five petals Which are kinda round And can bend up or down. They have a yellow hue Which has nothing to do With butter-admiration: It’s just the carotenoid pigmentation, But they give off UV Which is a signal to the bee To come on down Cos there’s some grub to be found. Yeah, we’re gonna cut a buttercup up. Ooh and then next to those Is where the stamens grow, And each of these contains Lots of ripe pollen grains, Which get stuck to bees, And beyond all these Is where the carpel sits, And that’s the flower’s female bits. Next down’s the nectary - The bee’s refectory, Which is accessible Just above the receptacle. Now listen up people: Take a look at the sepal Which contained the buttercup Before it opened up. Yeah, we’re gonna cut a buttercup up. And under all of them, We find a hollow stem Containing alkaloids Which it’s best to avoid, And which leads, of course, To some leaves off stalks, Which are the specialists In photosynthesis. Now let’s go further down, All the way underground, Where you’ll notice the roots, Which are totes in cahoots With the rest of the flower, Cos they allow it to devour All of the nutrients Which the soil presents. Come on and cut a buttercup up. Now that you’ve cut me up A buttercup, baby, I wonder if you’ll ever Put it back together? I think not. That flower’s shot.
3.
Next please! Can I help you? Yes please, I’d like some sausage and chips, And please could you also provide a nice selection of dips? I’ll have some ketchup of course, some horseradish, brown sauce. And lots of types of mustard. Ooh, I’m lickin’ my lips. Hot dang! I think loads Of pungent mustard must’a blasted to the back o’ my nose! Abort! Abort! It’s nowt a swig o’ water oughtn’t sort. No! That’s not enough! I need a proper dousing with a hose. What makes mustard so blasted intense? And why do we aspire to set fire to every sense? What chemistry unquestionably treats me so aggressively? It’s an emergency! I need to know the science. I’m glad you asked, cos I’m a bit of a buff When it comes to knowing facts about that sort of stuff. The mustard seed’s potency begins to activate When it’s crushed, releasing molecules of glucosinolate, Which, when they are broken, free an enzyme called myrosinase Which is meant to prevent any animals from having a graze. Add a bit of water and you get an oily kind of mixture Which, if you touch it, can make your skin tingle and blister. If you now leave this solution to sit for a bit, It eventually enters a state where you can actually eat it. Then you add an acid to halt the flavour’s further reduction, And that’s your basic introduction to the stages of mustard production. Hot dang! You know loads About what’s getting’ funky at the back of my nose. But I still don’t understand why people choose to ingest A thing that the plant has evolved as a defence against pests. I’m glad you asked, cos I have a bit of a theory About why we eat things that make us sneezy and teary. The nasty nasal shock we get would be worth the price If outweighed by the benefits of taking hits from the spice. And think about it: if those enzymes work as a defence, They’re also going to do some damage to our pathogens. We may have evolved a predilection for eating Foods which give the stuff that wants to make us ill a beating. This could explain the greater use of spices in hot regions: The French are keener on their Dijons than are the Norwegians. Historically, pre-fridges, meat would tend to get infested With microbes, the effects of which the kick from spice may have arrested. Hot dang! You’re a bit of a whizz. Now I know why I chose to send my senses into a tizz. Any chance of adding a dollop of mushy peas? That’s over by the Fabaceae. Next please!
4.
It was getting on for late o’clock When at the door of the castle there came a knock. Outside stood a girl with a rain-drenched frock, Who asked for a room, and was in for a shock. The guest bedroom was quite the sight, With mattresses piled to ceiling height. The girl, though nackered, and despite Such comfort, had a sleepless night. The following day she was forced to concede To her host she’d not slept, and that furthermore he might need To check ‘neath the mattresses, where she felt she’d Felt the presence of a single Fabaceae seed. Fabaceae, Fabaceae, That’s pea to the likes of you and me. She was sure she could sense That what gave her offence Was a seed of the family Fabaceae. Her host gave out a shrill “Whoopeee!” And he jumped up into the air and he slapped his knee, And he said, “You’re definitely the girl for me. Underneath those mattresses, I hid a pea. And cos you guessed what was in your bed, It shall be you who’s the lucky girl be the girl I will wed.” Her jaw hit the floor and her face turned red, Not from blushing but rage, and here’s what she said: “I didn’t come here to seek a groom, No, all I wanted was a room, And I think that it’s rich for you to assume That I’d fall for you cos of some random legume. What sort of basis is that for a match? What makes you think that I’d take you as a catch? What a ridiculous plan to hatch! Keep your peas to yourself and your vegetable patch.” Fabaceae, Fabaceae, That’s pea to the likes of you and me. She was sure she could sense That what gave her offence Was the seed of the family Fabaceae. The man replied, “In hindsight, yes, The plan I concocted seems strange, I must confess. I’d read somewhere that if you’d guess That it was a pea, then you’d be my princess. She said, “I thought we’d turned the page On such ridiculous ways to engage In romance. This is a sheer outrage Acting like that in a post-me-too age.” Then she stormed out the door with a look so stern That into her jilted suitor contempt did burn. But he tried it with the next girl who turned Up asking for a room, ‘cause some men never learn. Fabaceae, Fabaceae, That’s pea to the likes of you and me. She was sure she could sense That what gave her offence Was the seed of the family Fabaceae.
5.
Daisy, Daisy 03:36
C C7 F Dm7 C Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do: F C Am D7 G7 You look like a single flower, but how many flowers are you? F C F The hypothesis I would posit C Am F G7 Is that you’re a composite C G7 C G7 Whose flowerhead makes us misled C Am F G7 C ‘Cos your flowers are stuck tight as glue. And now here's a verse for all our South African cousins: ursinia daisies, where are you? This one's for you! C G7 C G7 Daisy, Daisy, won’t you please tell me why You have black spots that seem to attract the fly? Do they think you’re a lady And mate with you like crazy, Allowing you The time to strew Them with pollen before they say bye? C G7 C Em7 A7 All right, now this one’s for all you common-or-garden Bella perennis daisies! Here we go… D D7 G Em7 D Daisy, Daisy, are you a thing I can eat? G D Bm E7 A7 Could your petals serve as a sallady treat? G D G If I had to guess, my bet is D Bm G A7 That since you’re related to lettuce, D A7 D A7 You’re worth a bite…oh yes! I was right! D Bm G A7 D That’s really quite tangy and sweet! But don’t eat these ones, I entreat! D A7 D Eb7 D7 G G7 C Am7 G Daisy, Daisy, won’t you please give me a clue: C G Em You look like a single flower, A7 D7 But how many flowers are you? C G C They number at least forty, G E7 C D7 According to the horti- G D7 Culturalist G D7 Who checked that the gist G E7 C D7 G Of this song that I’ve written is true. G E7 C D7 G And with that I must bid you adieu!
6.
7.
Are you going to plant me some mints: Basil, sage, rosemary and thyme? If you thought I’d say ‘parsley’, then please take the hint That parsley doesn’t belong in this rhyme. What else could you plant if you plant me some mints? Hyssop, lavender, oregano! They look a bit like parsley if you really squint, But is parsley in the mint family? No! Parsley belongs to the family Apiaceae, Which has its own bed over there. But this bed’s reserved for the family Lamiaceae. In systematic gardening, such things are fair. What else could you legitimately plant in this bed? Marjoram, perilla, catnip, But not parsley, for parsley, as I’ve already said, Has a remoter relationship. Please take a look round this garden of mint: Basil, sage, rosemary and thyme. If the list includes parsley, then that’s a misprint, For mixing up the families is a systematics crime.
8.
Mm, yeah, check out my hips That’s where I keep my pips (I’m talkin’ bout my rosehips yo) I know you wanna get to grips (with my hippy hips that drive you trippy) But you better watch your tips (I’m talkin’ bout your fingertips yo) All throughout my life Ever since I was born I had the thorn. Ooh, yeah, mm, yeah, ooh I’m feelin’ tho-o-o-o-orny You wanna snuggle up to me You gotta tread carefully (I’m not even talkin’ figuratively) The juice in my nectary Is strictly reserved for the bee (You gotta be a bee to be near me) All throughout my life Ever since I was born I had the thorn. CHORUS: I'm thorny I'm thorny thorny thorny I’ll thorn ya If you dare to ignore me It won’t cost you much To look but don’t you touch I’ll prick ya if you pick me And of all the pricks, I’m the most prickly Last thing in the eve And first thing in the morn I have the thorn. CHORUS Ooh, yeah, mm, yeah, ooh I’m feelin’ tho-o-o-o-orny Nip that lust in the bud Before I draw some blood (I’m not even talkin’ figuratively) This is your final warning Or you’re in for a thorning CHORUS x2
9.
Mr Carrot 03:12
How do you do? C How do you do? I’m Mr Carrot, how do you do? C Meet my Papa Parsnip and my sister Celery too. Am Cousins Cumin and Coriander F Have gone for a wander But Aunt Aniseed is here indeed and she’d very much like to meet you. G G7 C How do you do? I’m Mr Carrot, what is your wish? Would you care for a nutritious dish? Well my family and I Can serve you a pie Which is vitamin-richer than a fish, and so good for you. I’m Mr Carrot, how do you do? C Oh, you’re feeling blue. What a to-do. We’ll send for Dr Dill And her husband, Nurse Chervil, And they’ll feed you some herbage and medical verbiage and cross fingers you’ll feel good as new. How do you do? I’m Mr Carrot, say, what’s your mission? Oh! You want to have night-time vision? Yes, they say that carrots might Make bright your night sight, And I’m sorry to be a bore but that old folklore simply is not true. I’m Mr Carrot, how do you do? C Oh, you want to know who Am Might spread such a lie, F And for that matter why? Well it was actually the Brits E Who, defending the Blitz, Developed radar Am To spot Nazis from afar, But so no-one suspected Dm That’s how they detected The enemy planes, Am They propagated claims That their gunners were dining E On carrots, refining F Their eyesight: a fib through and through. G G7 C How do you do? How do you do?
10.
The Bladerunners run the show. They’re everywhere you look, everywhere that you go. They cover a fifth of the Earth’s land surface. The blades are taking over – does that make you nervous? (Does that make you nervous? Does that make you nervous?) The Bladerunners are loved by man. We tear the jungle down to plant as much as we can. We blanket-cover gardens and parks and immerse Ourselves in a landscape that’s less biodiverse. (Does that make you nervous? Or are they of service? Do they have a purpose? Or are they just surplus?) The Bladerunners keep us fed. They make pasta and rice and sugar and bread. They’re the plant family on which we’re most reliant. We’re pretty much addicted to their presence in our diet. (Does that make you nervous? Does that make you nervous?) I’m feeling forlorn on account of the lawn. I wish for some wildflowers, but they’re all gone. I’m driven barmy by the barley and bamboozled by bamboo They’re fine for bread but I’m gonna need some veg for my stew! (The pasture’s getting nastier! We must diversify faster!) The Bladerunners are man’s best friend. Our survival is entwined, but how’s it gonna end? I’m getting more nervous with each day that passes: Will we fall flat on our a**** thanks to the grasses? (If the rye goes awry, What then can we buy? If the millet gets militant, What then will we try?) (The Bladerunners, the the the the the The Bladerunners run the show The Bladerunners, the the the the the The Bladerunners Does that make you nervous? Cos that is the purpose! So if that’s made you nervous, Then I’m glad to be of service!)
11.
Goddess of the Rainbow I invoke you Won’t you shine your rays of bright refracted light Upon our plight And help us mortal souls To chart our way to goals Beyond the toils and tribulations We encounter in our earthbound brick plantations. I wait patiently for you to cast your beam across the sky, And that is why I turn my back upon the Sun Once it’s begun To rain. Oh when I strain to cry your name Let not my supplication be in vain. Iiiiiiiris! Iiiiiiiris! The Norsemen thought You were a sort Of bridge from mortal lands To Asgard Guarded by the loyal Heimdall. Myanmar’s Kariang people thought you were a child-devouring demon. Aboriginal Australians tell stories in their Dreaming Of the giant Rainbow Serpent who created the whole Universe. Indigenous Hawaiians called you Kaikamahine Anuenue, the rainbow maiden. Hindus know you as the bow of Indra. Irish legends told in times of old of pots of gold at rainbow’s end Which drove rapacious men in search of riches round the bend. In Buddhism, you represent ascent towards Enlightenment. The Cherokee see you a great coat-hem sported by the Sun In Chinese folklore you’re two star-crossed lovers reunited when rainbows are sighted. But to me And all who still adhere to Greek mythology You have one name A name I now proclaim Unto the heavens. Iiiiiiiris! Iiiiiiiris! Please grace us with your face, Erase all trace of pain with your embrace And lead us onwards to your irridescent place. Iiiiiiiris! Iiiiiiiris! Though old gods die when we neglect them And deficiently respect them There are ways to resurrect them If we keep their names alive. As the scourge of time devours Other gods, you’ll keep your powers If we propagate your flowers You’ll survive.

about

These eleven songs were commissioned by Cambridge University Botanic Garden to commemorate the launch of their Rising Path, and the redesign of their historic systematics beds.

credits

released November 7, 2018

Words and music by John Hinton
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Simon Plent at Atticadia Sound
Instruments and vocals: John Hinton, except accordion on track 4 and interjections on track 5: Jo Eagle
Many thanks to Juliet Day, Flis Plent
No plants were harmed during the making of this album..

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