Wild West Yorkshire, Tuesday 16 November 2010
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THIS CONE of the Australian shrub Banksia has been turned and hollowed as a decorative pomander. It's perforated by the holes in which the seeds formed.
Banksia is named after Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), botanist on Cook's voyage to Australia (1768-1771). Banks took two of his dogs with him but you'd hardly know from his meticulous journal of the voyage. The smaller dog, Lady, who slept on a stool in his cabin doesn't get a mention until just a week or two before HM Bark Endeavour finally returned to England. Banks and the man who shared the cabin heard Lady yelp briefly in the middle of the night but as she stopped immediately they thought nothing of it. The next morning they found her lying dead on the stool. She'd showed no sign of illness previously.
It wasn't just dogs; we don't hear much about man he shared the cabin with either until he died, again almost at the end of the voyage, in what appears to have been an outbreak of plague on the ship. Banks survived and went on to promote the exploration of Africa at the Royal Geographical Society and develop Kew Gardens as a centre for scientific research.
Today he even has a brand of cassava crisps named after him in New Zealand.
There are three species of Banksia in Australia and its nearest relatives are the Proteas, evergreen shrubs from South Africa. The widespread distribution of this plant family is probably due to drifting continents; Africa and Australia were once parts of the southern supercontinent Gondwanaland, which also included South America, India and Antarctica. The Southern Beech, Nothofagus sp., is also thought to have originated in Gondwanaland. It's native to all the southern continents except Antarctica and, although it doesn' t occur in India, there are species in New Guinea and New Caledonia.
Richard Bell, illustrator
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