Archive for the ‘mushrooms’ category

This one’s for the bird (stamp)!

23 July 2011

One of the problems of Indian Philately is that the “story” behind a postage stamp is quite opaque. The postal department does not oblige philatelists by reliable documentation and transparent procedures. I was writing an article on “Birds on Indian Stamps” for Aasheesh Pittie, editor of the Indian Birds and I found it difficult to find any information about bird stamps. I was constrained to publish the article, though I felt that I had inadequate information and could find no way of getting more. Those who missed reading the article and would like to peruse it may find it here.

Rather surprisingly, some people liked the article, despite it being just a set of dry facts and observations on them, and wrote to tell me so. Two of the responses were of very great interest to me.

The first email was from Mr Zafar Futehally, one of our doyens of bird-watching. He appreciated the article, saying that it enthused him so much that he wished he were young again so that he could start collecting bird stamps. That warmed the cockles of my heart.

A young Peter Jackson poses in front of the Khumbu icefall during the 1953 climbing season. (Image copyrighted by Peter Jackson)

The other email was from Mr Peter Jackson, a retired gentleman from England. Mr Jackson began his career as a reporter for Reuters and made his mark reporting for John Hunt‘s Everest Expedition which climbed Everest for the first time in 1953. He went on to become a good wildlife photographer and a dedicated conservationist. He is renowned for his work on wild cats.  I was quite flattered to receive an email of appreciation from him too.

Mr Jackson mentioned that one of the stamps that was shown in the article was based on his image. Mr Jackson referred to a definitive stamp of India, a 50 paise stamp issued in 1975 showing a flying bird in blue. The List of Stamps (1852-2007), published by the Department of Posts, describes it as “Flying Crane”. One of the leading bird stamp websites “birdtheme.org” lists the stamp as Demoiselle Crane (Grus virgo) – perhaps because a Demoiselle best seemed to fit the image. The finer details of the image on the stamp are indistinct, as the stamp is itself less than an inch in height or width.

A small postage stamp. almost square shwing a flying bird coming in to land with legs outstretced below, with denomination 50p, and the words "India" in English and the Hindi word "Bharat" in Devanagari script

1975 definitive stamp of denomination 50p

Mr Jackson pointed out that the image was his and it was taken in Bharatpur and was of the Intermediate Egret (Mesophoyx intermedia), not a Demoiselle Crane. He was kind enough to send me the original image which is displayed in this article. He had photographed it among the many birds nesting in Keoladeo Ghana way back in the 1960s when he lived in India.

Mr Peter Jackson's original image upon which the stamp is based. (Image copyrighted by Peter Jackson)

In his own words, he describes how the image found its way on the stamp :

“I was surprised when I found my photo on stamps. I couldn’t make out how the post got it. Sometime later one of my daughters was lunching with an artist friend. He said that I had sent him the photo for art work. He recommended it to the post and told them they could use it on a stamp if they got my permission. But they failed to contact me and just went ahead. Of course, I was pleased to see the photo on a stamp, but I never got any thanks from the post. It served for 10 years.”

Mr Jackson was unfortunate in that he got no gratitude from the Indian Post, but he was lucky in that the stamp his image adorned was a definitive and not a commemorative stamp.

Mr Jackson’s image on the definitive has adorned millions of letters, parcels and postcards for more than a decade, thereby giving his image exposure to an audience many times larger than ever possible by other means of the time.

We can only thank Mr. Jackson for taking the beautiful image so that it could find its way onto the postage stamp. It is important to know that this contribution on his part is very small compared to the sterling work he has done in his lifetime for Indian Wildlife. A close friend of Kailash Sankhala, he joined the World Wildlife Fund  (today Worldwide Fund for Nature) in 1970. When WWF raised over a million pounds internationally to save the tiger,   he was sent to India to help purchase the equipment paid for by WWF for the setting up of Project Tiger. Later, he became an independent writer on wildlife. Mr. Jackson was appointed as head of the defunct Cat Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission of the IUCN in 1983 and headed it for 17 years converting it into a close-knit team of over 200 cat scientists, including many Indians. He created the CatSG magazine about the activities of the Cat Specialist group in 1984 and edited it till he retired in 2000. He still contributes world cat news to the magazine.  During his time as chairman, Mr. Jackson travelled around the world to help support cats, including many visits to India.

Thank you Mr Jackson for your life work’s  in preserving India’s wildlife in general and our country’s big cats in particular.

In Wikipedia tradition, I present you with a barnstar, in this case, the Fauna barnstar!

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Do you know – Mushrooms?

11 October 2009

As a gesture of thanks to all the visitors  to the post “Mushrooms – by Sylvia Plath“, this ‘Do  You Know?’ has been placed.

Did you know that –

* the mental picture we have of a mushroom with cap, gills and stalk is typical only of the Agaricales, (an example being the store-bought White mushroom). The wide variety of shapes a mushroom can take can be understood from their names – polypores, puffballs, jelly fungi, coral fungi, bracket fungi, stinkhorns, and cup fungi.

Fungi such as this one is considered as a mushroom.

Polypore fungi such as this one are considered as mushrooms.

Unidentified mushroom growing on a decaying log in Calais, France

Unidentified filamentous mushroom growing on a decaying log in Calais, France

Woody bracket fungus - also considered a mushroom!

Ungulina marginata, a woody bracket fungus - also considered a mushroom!

Yellow Coral Mushroom

Yellow Coral Mushroom

* not all mushrooms are edible, the vast majority of these produce a vast array of toxins and allergens. You should only eat a commercially produced mushroom or a known edible mushroom reliably identified by an expert.

Shiitake - an edible Japanese mushroom whch was the subject of word play in an Austin Powells movie.

Shiitake - an edible Japanese mushroom whch was the subject of word play in an Austin Powells movie.

* many mushrooms produce secondary metabolites that render them toxic, mind-altering, or even bioluminescent.

Foxfire is the term for the bioluminescence created by a few species of fungi, such as 'Omphaltos nidiformes' that decay wood.

Foxfire is the term for the bioluminescence created by a few species of fungi, such as Ghost Mushroom 'Omphaltos nidiformes' that decay wood.

Panellus stipticus, a green bioluminescent bracket fungus.

Panellus stipticus, a green bioluminescent bracket fungus.

* the term ‘toad-stool’ was used in earlier times for poisonous mushrooms.

Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) is the quintessential mushroom of British folklore.

Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) is the quintessential toadstool of British folklore.

The Death-cap (amanita phalloides) contains amatoxins which are toxi to the liver. It resembles several common edible mushrooms and thus features in many accidental poisoning cases.

The Death-cap (Amanita phalloides) contains amatoxins which are toxic to the liver. It resembles several common edible mushrooms and thus features in many accidental poisoning cases.

* though mushrooms are commonly thought to have little nutritional value, many species have nutritional or medicinal value. Many mushrooms are high in fiber and provide vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, cobalamines, ascorbic acid. Mushrooms are also a source of some minerals, including selenium, potassium and phosphorus.

White or button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) ready for cooking. While common, they are just one of the many types of mushrooms cultivated and eaten.

White or button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) ready for cooking. While common, they are just one of the many types of mushrooms cultivated and eaten.

* some mushrooms, if exposed to UV light can become valuable sources of Vitamin D.

* poisonous mushrooms containing hallucinogenic substances are eaten by some people in order to get a ‘high’!

Dried psilocybe mushrooms contain hallucinogenic substances such as Psilocin and Psilobycin and were known to the Aztecs as 'divine mushrooms'. (Notice the characteristic blue bruising by the end of the stems.)

Dried psilocybe mushrooms contain hallucinogenic substances such as Psilocin and Psilobycin and were known to the Aztecs as 'divine mushrooms'. (Notice the characteristic blue bruising by the end of the stems.)

* oyster mushrooms, a widely eaten mushroom,  naturally contain the cholesterol drug lovastatin.

The Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) is the subject of many medical research initiatives.

The Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) is the subject of many medical research initiatives.

* that a large number of valuable drugs such as penicillin, lovastatin, ciclosporin, griseofulvin, cephalosporin, and ergometrine, have been isolated from the fungi kingdom.

Collection of medicinal mushrooms including Enoki, King Oyster mushrooms, and Shiitake.

Collection of medicinal mushrooms including Enoki, King Oyster mushrooms, and Shiitake.

* that in Tolkien‘s trilogy “The Lord of the Rings” the favourite food of hobbits is mushrooms.

A Hobbit - an image by Andre DeWitt

A Hobbit - an image by Andrew DeWitt

Credits –

* All mushrooms – Wikimedia Commons. Original filenames have not been changed for all the photos.

* A Hobbit – Andrew DeWitt, drew this picture at ehow.com to show us how to draw a hobbit! Used non commercially here under ‘fair use’.

Sylvia Plath’s ‘Mushrooms’

5 September 2009

Read this poem. Do pause to reflect first on the poet’s visualisation of mushrooms and then ponder as to what the poet is actually talking about.

Mushrooms

A backlit mushroom - Sylvia Platt's poem talks about seeing things in a new way - in this case, the rights of women after World War II.

Like Sylvia Platt's poem talks about seeing things in a new way, this photo of a backlit mushroom looks at the subject from a new angle and does exactly what Sylvia Plath intended this poem to do - hold a silent issue up to the light.

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Stamp_of_Moldova_364Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath was a very sensitive and complex poet and writer who explored through this poem a suppressed issue – the rights of women after World War II.

Credits

  • Back-lit mushroom Eric Meyer’s image is licensed under GFDL and Creative Commons SA 3.0 at Wikimedia Commons.
  • Sylvia Plath’s image -Copyrighted.  Used non-commercially here under fair use.
  • Moldovan stamp image – Public Domain. see here.

A SPECIAL THANK YOU!

A special thank you to all my visitors !  Many of you may have come here on a quest for Sylvia Plath or her famous poem rather than in quest of nature or my blog.  So many of you have come here that my blog’s visit rate and rankings have gone up.

I thank you all for that and have made a “Do you know – Mushrooms” here for your viewing pleasure as a gesture of thanks.

Please do look around. If you find a nice post and enjoy it, I will feel happy that I could repay you in some way for your gracious spending of your time here!