Human Flower Project
Friday, May 14, 2010
Afghan Poppies: Blight and Blame
A fungal outbreak is expected to kill at least a third of this year’s crop of opium poppies in Afghanistan. Fingers are pointing and prices are on the rise.
A child harvests opium poppies in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan under guard of Marines, April 2010
Photo: Asmaa Waguih for Reuters
News outlets on several continents this week have been reporting a massive blight in Afghanistan’s poppies, the problem so widespread it may kill a third or more of this year’s crop. These Afghan plants are the source for 75% of the world’s heroin—and 95% of the heroin in Europe.
The New York Times reported that the poppy killoff is due to a “mysterious disease”; other sources have confirmed it’s a fungal infection, thus far unspecified.
We’d thought of Papaver somnaferum as an especially hardy plant, but now learn that it’s prone to all kinds of problems: bacterial, viral, nutritional, and seed-borne. This excellent site out of India describes many poppy ailments, two common fungal diseases first: Downy mildew “appears annually on the crop from seedling stage to maturity in opium poppy growing areas of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan,” and Powdery mildew, (Erysiphae Polygon), “caused severe damage to opium crop in Rajasthan in 1972.”
Sunday, May 09, 2010
With his Cambridge garden in bloom, John Levett still wanders back to London—something about having to take it ALL in, more than once.
May outing in South London, with mound of tulips
Photo: John Levett
By John Levett
In my small flat I have a utility room. Like all utility rooms it’s the place where everything goes when there’s no longer room for everything. Like all utility rooms it gets a periodic clear-out when everything is cleared-out and then replaced in different order, looks tidier and gives the glow of a well-done job. I’ve just finished the ‘clear and replace’ for this decade including the ‘I-never-knew that-I’d-still-got-that’ interlude that often takes up half a morning, mulling over contents of a stack of magazines along with the pauses for the accompanying remembrances & reminiscences.
Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities is an old friend during these sessions. It’s been read but it still hangs around in the part of my brain that says: “Now read it again properly.”
“But I read it from cover to cover,” I protest. “But you weren’t paying attention all the time. Were you, you scurvy oik?” I give in. No I wasn’t.
I get stuck (or stick myself) with these books — doorstops that challenge the reading mountaineer. Not for me Skidelsky’s abbreviated one-volume life of Keynes. I’m an original three-volume dude. Bertrand Russell? Two volumes please. War and Peace? “Do you have it in the original Russian? Preferably in a gothic typeface.” No kidding. I can recall buying a clutch of Dostoyevsky in the late ‘60s and picking up a Penguin Teach Yourself Russian at the same time.
It came from the learning-reading stage. The great thing about learning to read was that my next book was always bigger than the last—instant gratification; instant prizes! By the time I’d arrived at Wyss’s The Swiss Family Robinson (unabridged) by age eight or nine, I felt I was now First Division quality. I can’t remember whether I understood it all, but my mother’s ambition (who else’s?) and now mine (socialization in action) ruled—Big Time Reading. The multi-volume encyclopaedia rampart was breached next. I’m still a sucker for the thud of the seriously big volume.
Next came museums. We never went anywhere without seeking out one. It never mattered what size. A cubby-hole somewhere in a village on the Kent coast or the Gothic scrape of South Kensington: all the same to me. Get some!
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
In Two Springs at Once
Where is transplendancy more likely to occur, the late-April garden in Louisville or the New Orleans Jazzfest?
Peony ‘Tiny’ blooming in Louisville, KY
Photo: Allen Bush
By Allen Bush
I’ve lived in England and the mountains of North Carolina, but they can’t top Kentucky in April and May. There may be a more beautiful spring spot in the world, but you’ll need to prove it. White blooms of the native service berry in the bare deciduous forest of early April were proof that our long, gray Ohio Valley winter was coming to an end. Virginia blue bells soon covered the lowlands along rivers and creeks; red buds and dogwoods were fast on the heels, coloring-up the woodlands just before they turned dark green.
So I don’t like to leave home in spring. But there are always exceptions. And there is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. New Orleans has an inescapable soul, thick as invisible clouds of Kentucky spring pollen. And if a soft shell crab po-boy sandwich doesn’t do it for you, then I promise you, the music will. Dance and be moved.
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