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THE LABIRINTIANA

Divided as it is into trunk, branches, and leaves, the Labirintiana labirintiana is, one of the few parallel plants to resemble a tree. The trunk and branches are covered with paramimetic bark, and to the untrained eye present nothing of interest but the vaporous layer that surrounds them. This layer is only a few millimeters thick and is scarcely visible at all in full daylight, though it can be discerned easily enough at dusk and dawn. It has been studied by Hermann Thalenblatt, who has found that it contains a small percentage of halomycilin in atrostatic suspension. This gas is harmless to human beings, but might initially have had some toxic effects, either destroying or discouraging the insects and small rodents that at one time threatened the bark of the plant. This halomycilin, which in itself is not visible to the naked eye, can in some circumstances increase the visibility of the aqueous vapor in which it is suspended, making it denser, more opaque, and more inclined to adhere to the objects which it surrounds. Thalenblatt has been able to establish that if the vapor layer is removed from the trunk and branches of L. labirintiana, these show no visible sign of change and even the degree of external humidity does not register any noteworthy variation.
L. labirintiana is not the only parallel plant which has vaporized parts. The Salense paludosis, for example, is completely enclosed in a pale violet-colored vapor, while certain Tubolara have a gas inside the tubola itself. This gas is similar in composition to halomycilin, but its toxic count is zero.
(pl. XIX) L. labirintiana is of scientific interest chiefly because of the particular morphology of the leaves and the ecological consequences that derive from it. This small tree seldom exceeds two meters in height, and takes its name from the characteristic design of the large, rather elongated hstaloform leaves. The structure of the veins is not symmetrical, as in the other Labirintiana, but is in the form of a maze. This odd feature, unique in either branch of botany, has precise ecological functions, and in parallel flora as a whole constitutes a rare case of morphological development quite distinct from the function of self-presentation. The maze possesses the quality almost of an external organ, even though in fact it is only a particular arrangement of the veins.
The studies carried out by Mastolitz seem to suggest that before parallelization the maze on the leaves of L. labirintiana acted to keep down the population of antaphid ants, a race of herbivorous ants of the late Erocene era. At that time the Labirintiana was distributed fairly widely in Central Africa, and these ants threatened to destroy not only this plant but all African plant life. The antaphid, now luckily extinct, had a practically insatiable appetite, and was capable of devouring vegetable matter at the rate of a hundred and twenty times its own body weight each day. If we add to this the fact that its fertility rate was among the highest ever recorded, it is not hard to understand how the plants were forced, by means of rapid adaptive mutations, to invent efficient defensive measures. The mutation that altered the leaves of Labirintiana could be said to have saved plant life in the dark continent at the eleventh hour.
The features that this plant developed were two in number: a scent which proved an irresistible attraction to the ants, luring them away from other and frailer species, and the maze itself, which in the course of a few centuries succeeded in completely reversing the birth-death ratio of these voracious and prolific insects.
The antaphid ant, which has survived in some parts of Africa in a few innocuous varieties which bear the strongest resemblance to normal ants (Prenolepis imparis), lived in vast communities with highly evolved social structures. The various functions required for survival (the building of enornous nests, procreation, nutrition, etc.) were carried on by clearly differentiated castes.

PL. XIX Leaf of Labirintiana labirintiana

The builder ants (Fig. 18c), larger than the others, but with a relatively small abdomen, built extraordinary "forts" up to fifteen meters high which were in fact nests with circular bases (Fig. 18d). Five or six of these prodigious structures would usually be grouped together. Inside these nests the tunnels and "halls" formed a topology of the greatest intricacy. In Mali there still exist several groups of these forts, now inhabited by wasps of the family Aligastorae. Because of the rounded rooftops which can be seen above the trees they are often mistaken for Dogon villages. Hard as stone, they have resisted the ravages of time. The builder ants, in fact, had a gland which secreted a gummy liquid, known as cementine, which on contact with the silicates of the earth produced a cement-like substance of great cohesion, practically indestructible.
The copulator ants (Fig. 18a) were similar to the builders, but were without even the most rudimentary organs of sight. However, they were equipped with sexual organs capable of an uninterrupted flow of spermatazoa. They lived in round chambers with slightly "vaulted" roofs in the "halls" of the nest, together with the queen ants (Fig. 18a), of which there could be as many as a thousand for each community. Continually stimulated and fertilized by the copulator ants, the queens alternated between copulation and the laying of eggs, which in the course of a single day could run into millions.
In proportion to the rest of their bodies the queens had an enormous abdomen which, like those of various termites, often reached a length of some thirty centimeters and a diameter of five centimeters,1 and frequently lay coiled around the walls of the "halls." When emptied of eggs, this enormous organ partly shrank, leaving a long tube capable of peristaltic movement which conducted the sperm of the copulators to the inside of the reproductive apparatus properly so called.
But the most interesting caste among the antaphids was surely the eater ants (Fig. 18b). They were equipped with incredibly strong mandibles capable of chewing the vegetable matter on which they fed at a speed unequaled anywhere in the animal kingdom. They had two digestive systems, one of which was normal, of modest size and complexity, for their own nutrition, while a second, lateral system had the function of transforming the original nutritive substances into others readily absorbed by the builders, copulators, and queens. The eater ants were particularly fond of the tender fat leaves of the Labirintiana so that the monstrous voracity and prodigious increase in population of these insects put the survival of the plant in serious jeopardy. This led to the ingenious and rather quick mutation of the veining on the huge leaves of the Labirintiana, which thus changed its normal bilateral symmetry to the form of a maze.

Fig. 18 Antaphid ants: (a) queen and copulator; (b) eater; (c) builder; (d) ant "forts"

In the center of the leaf there developed an "alluring" organ which gave off a sweetish odor designed to attract the ants and stimulate their already insatiable appetites.
The antaphids, who like all ants moved along routes generally dictated by environmental conditions, attempted frantically to reach the source of enticement. Running up and down the grooves between the veins they became increasingly neurotic as this apparently simple task came to seem impossible. Every leaf was black with ants thrusting each other aside, climbing over each other, and often killing each other in the grip of a collective frenzy. But what really saved the plants was the fact that the eater ants, in their useless race to gain the middle of the leaf, ate less and less. It thus happened that the builders, and even more the copulators and the queens, who depended on the eaters for all their nourishment, grew weaker little by little and lost the urge for reproduction. In the course of a few decades, mortality began to exceed the birth rate, and in a few centuries the antaphid was extinct. Mastolitz thinks that it was not long after this, and maybe on account of its dramatic victory in the fight for survival, with its competitive drive exhausted by the bitter struggle of evolution, that the plant stood still in time to join that parallel vegetable kingdom in which, with neither growth nor decay, it could maintain its ingenious morphological solutions intact.
In Mali, especially near the villages of Tieple and Foulan, it is not hard to find fossils of the leaves of L. labirintiana. Anyone who has traveled in that region will remember how the roads through the tropical forest of Dangma ere lined with Dogon boys selling what they call libi labiliu to the occasional passersby. Usually these are rough clay copies of a number of impressions taken a few years ago by Tassan and Molheim, and left behind when they went home. The Dogon tribe use the design of L. labirintiana for a game, which they call labi-labi. They trace the shape, much enlarged, on the sand, using a stick with a rounded point. Then they take turns in hitting balls of beetle dung along the grooves. The objective, of course, is to reach the middle with the least number of shots, although the players know perfectly well that to reach the middle is quite impossible. The game in fact has no winners or losers, but the Dogon play it for hours at a time, without ever quarreling.


1. Cf. Eugene N. Marais, LAnima della formica bianca (Adelphi, Milan, 1968).


THE ARTISIA

For those who have followed the history of the new botany with a certain degree of skepticism, the parallel plants which caused the most perplexity are without any doubt the Artisia. (pl. XX) This is understandable when we come to think that in the two botanies, normal and parallel, the Artisia occupy a very special position, ambiguous because they often seem unbotanical, even nonorganic, and very likely of human origin: this is their dominant feature. When Chabanceau first saw an Artisia he is said to have exclaimed: "Ah, enfin une fleur humaine!"
The ambiguous nature of the plant is reflected in its name, which was bestowed on it by the amateur philosopher and botanist Theo van Schamen. It is taken from the gilded inscription which adorns the portal of the Amsterdam Zoological Gardens: "Artis Natura Magistra" (Nature is the teacher of the Arts). Whoever it was who coined this phrase a century ago, when all educated men were still Latinophiles, could scarcely have foreseen that the Dutch would in turn use it to coin a nicmame, and call their zoo "Artis." However, it was in homage to this absurdity that van Schamen proposed the name Artisia to the Antwerp Conference. He said: "It is not yet clear whether, in its dichotomy of artifice/nature, the plant expresses the influence of nature on art, or that of art on nature."
We know, of course, that it does neither one nor the other, and that apart from its parallelism the Artisia belongs totally to nature. But how are we to explain the mastery of those obviously "artistic" forms that in certain specimens we feel must surely be artifacts, copied indeed from the decorative whirligigs of the eighteenth-century baroque?

PL. XX Artisia

This phenomenon has been described as "Nature imitating Art," and in the Art News section of the Aurore de Paris of January 17, 1973, there was a short article bearing this very title. It ran as follows:

Anyone who laments the new wave of abstract expressionism which seems to be sweeping through the galleries of Saint-Germain ought to take a look at the small exhibition now set up in the atrium of the Jardin des Plantes. It consists of a recently discovered group of extremely interesting parallel plants. Some specimens can be seen in bronze versions cast directly from the originals by the method known as plante perdue, invented by the Veronese foundryman Fausto Bonvicini, and which is simply a new version of the traditional cire perdue or lost wax method. Others are displayed with their roots enclosed in plastic cubes of the most crystalline transparency. Others again appear in a segment of their own natural habitat.
Professor Gismonde Pascain, who has been in charge of the parallel section of the Jardin for the last few months, told us that all the plants on show were of exceptional scientific interest. When we asked her which, in her opinion, was the most interesting of all, the young scientist, who was wearing a blue linen dress of decidedly Chinese cut, pointed without hesitation to a group of plants called "Artisia," and went on to explain their salient features. To tell the truth, these Artisia did not seem to be plants at all, except insofar as they had perfectly real and visible roots. They appeared rather to be worn fragments of baroque chandeliers or of eighteenth-century cornices or frames, picked up for a song, no doubt, at the flea market. Whatever the case may be, they certainly represent a somewhat disconcerting phenomenon which we, who know nothing of the true facts, must attribute to an insane impulse on the part of Nature to imitate Art.

Gismonde Pascain, who has made a thorough study of the Artisia, has come to very different conclusions. These are derived from questions which at first sight seem to have more to do with philosophy than biology, and to reflect her connections with thinkers such as Gaston Bachelari and Roland Barthes before she took up the study of biology. She starts by observing that man in his totality is not just in nature but part of nature. And "totality," for Gismonde Pascain, includes the important element of his spirituality. "Everything that today is characteristic of man, including his spirituality," she writes, "is the evolutionary result of a series of chance mutations. But in the complex play of infinities these mutations should theoretically be repeuable, just as a royal straight flush at poker is theoretically possible at any moment."
Baldheim's theory that man, rather than being descended from a single source, as is generally held, might have come from a number of sources at various times, is known to be based on these premises. In his book. Many Adams,1 this ingenious American scientist puts forward a great number of interesting theories including the one developed by Gismonde Pascain, which he calls "partial evolution." He thinks that man is the present, transitory result of a series of mutations that in different combinations of order and time might have produced other, different autonomous organisms and living entities. In other words, Baldheim sees man as a mosaic, the elements (tesserae) of which might just as well have formed an infinite variety of other images. The theory stems in a sense from post-Darwinian notions of evolution, ideas which, oddly enough, are very ancient in origin. It was in fact Empedocles who stated the first rudimentary principles, using a number of curious images which vaguely recall the physiognomy of several of the lower organisms. "In the beginning," he writes, "there were eyes, and hair, and arms, and fingers. Later on these parts came together, though clumsily at first. Some creatures had eyes in their arms and ears on their hands, while their heads were attached to their legs. Such strange unnatural creatures could by no means survive, and it required an almost infinite number of combinations before the eventual birth of creatures capable of survival."
Baldheim's theories formed the springboard from which Gismonde Pascain made her extraordinary leap of the imagination. Why, she asks, should we rule out the possibility that spirituality might in whole or in part have evolved quite separately from the human shell in which it is housed? Maybe the songs of the birds, and even of the crickets, she says, are simply branches that spring by chance from the great evolutionary trunk that culminates in the music made by man. Nor is it impossible that the ritual dance of the funbirds and of many species of wader are not isolated things, characteristic of a particular species and incapable of further development, but transitory phases in the evolution of dance in general.
Passing from the animal kingdom to that of plants, Gismonde Pascain expresses the opinion that certain flowers, such as Aracnea ludens, show some surprising similarities to the decorative headdresses worn by the people of the Pagunian Islands, which lie to the east of the New Hebrides, proof perhaps that these plants represent a phase in the general artistic evolution which has reached its peak, for the moment, in the artistic products of man. Seen in this light, the analogies between the forms of nature and those which proceed from the creative impulses of humanity take on new meanings. The relationship of art to nature shoud "reflect the principle that art, as a manifestation of the spirituality of man, does not have an outward and objective relationship to nature but is, like man's body, an integral part of it."
From here it is only a short step to an explanation of the phenomenon of the Artisia, which until recently might well have seemed a disturbing coincidence. Gismonde Pascain assures us that the strange and alluring shapes of the Artisia are part and parcel of the general evolutionary process of form. They are, so to speak, a lateral development bound to the development of art by having a common matrix.
The Artisia on display at the Jardin des Plantes comprise more or less a third of all specimens which have so far come to light. The Botanical Biology Laboratory at Palos Verdes (California) has three splendid specimens in habitate. The Laboratorio delle Campora, where Bonvicini made his first casts by the plante perdue method, has three plants of the A. candelabra variety, complete with roots, as well as the famous group known as A. magistra, which was found in the Australian bush by the zoologist Manuel Smithers.
Smithers teaches comparative zoology at Brisbane University, and is also president of the Australian "Save the Kangaroo" Society. He has for some years been leading teams of students into the Australian bush and desert in an attempt to make a count of the few remaining King Kangaroos. It was during one of these expeditions that Smithers saw the now famous group of A. magistra in the shade of a eucalyptus tree. Although this extremely competent scientist had never seen an Artisia, and indeed was not particularly interested in parallel botany, he it once had an intuition that these were parallel plants, so he warned his students not to touch them. He photographed the group and calculated the exact position. He then sent all his information to his friend Amos Sarno, the most distinguished Australian botanist of the day, who not only confirmed that the plants were parallel but identified them without the least shadow of a doubt as A. magistra. A few weeks later Sarno arrived with the necessary tools and scientific equipment. He succeeded in solidifying the soil around the plants and was able to remove the entire group intact, together with half a square meter of earth.
In May 1974 Sarno went to Europe, and while in Italy he paid a visit to Professor Vanni at "le Campora." There he much admired the splendid bronze of a Solea fortius which Vanni had modeled in wax according to the description found in the diary of Amerigo Mannuccini, a kangaroo hunter who crossed South Australia from east to west at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Sarno knew that in Australia the Solea had been extinct for some time, and that all direct evidence of it there had been removed by European collectors. He therefore took advantage of his visit to suggest to Vanni that they might exchange the Solea and the group of Artisia magistra. Partly from a sense of guilt, and partly because he could not resist the temptation to own such an exceptional group of Artisia, Vanni accepted the offer. The plants were dispatched in the autumn of the same year, but in spite of all the loving care spent on packing, the group arrived in three pieces. One of the plants (A. m. 3), unluckily the finest of all, was badly damaged and needed very careful restoration. As the plants were so typically eighteenth-century in form, Vanni quite rightly decided to entrust the delicate task to Giovanna Accame, who has the reputation of being Florence's best restorer of late Renaissance and post-Renaissance works. The group now looks perfectly intact, and the restorer's hand is indiscernible.
The Artisia of the Laboratorio delle Campora group are fairly typical of all the rococo specimens yet found. Even the most flourishing specimens, if parallel plants can be said to flourish, are composed of two kinds of leaves which occur over and over again. Vanni calls them "involuted" and "devoluted." The involuted leaves curl in upon themselves in a gesture of introspection which might be felt to be the prelude to some partial rewinding. The devoluted leaves, on the other hand, curl in the opposite direction, opening out in a gesture of offering. All the leaves are one of three sizes, and there are no intermediate dimensions. This is typical of parallel plants, which are not subject to the laws of growth. What Vanni calls Artisia are in fact colonies of individual leaves, each one of which, in spite of "belonging" to a group, has an existence of its own and should be thought of as an Artisia. The leaves do not have roots in common, and in cases when they lean upon each other they do so without any functional significance of any kind. We are in fact concerned with an instance of what Gismonde Pascain calls "urban flora," an expression intended to stress the independence and at the same time the solitude of individuals within the group. Other examples of urban flora are the colonies of Protorbis minor. On the other hand, the tirils and the woodland tweezers are examples of grouping of the type which Gismonde Pascain calls "collective flora," because they have well-marked social needs and therefore a genuine relationship of interdependence.
A few months after the group of Artisia was delivered, Vanni received a long letter from Sarno. Struck by its amazing contents he had it mimeographed and distributed to several friends and colleagues. The letter consists of eleven typewritten pages, the most interesting part of which has to do with the hypothetical origin of the involuted and devoluted curls of the Artisia.

For over two years I have been working with the entomologist Eugene Hopkins, following aline of inquiry into the curves of the Artisia leaves, and I must say our researches have led us to some fairly startling conclusions. If I did not mention this during my first visit to Italy, when I so much enjoyed your hospitality, it was because I was still waiting for a definitive reply from Hopkins about a part of his work that he was just finishing up at that time. I hope you will forgive me for my silence on that occasion, and now my dear friend it is a great pleasure to share with you the results of these two years of work. They might even contain the scientific explanation of phenomena previously considered totally mysterious, things I remember that we talked about with such enthusiasm in the magnificent and delightfully Tuscan courtyard of your laboratory.
We have concluded that the leaf-curls are nothing less than the work of a strange insect, so far unknown to entomologists, which Hopkins has christened Artisopteron, and which might be termed a zoological equivalent of parallel botany - a "parallel insect" in fact. A sensational discovery with unforeseeable consequences!
Artisopteron shows a slight resemblance to certain Coleoptera, but at the same time it cannot be classified along with any known genus or species of insect. Like the body of an insect, its body consists of head, thorax and abdomen, and it has six legs. But it completely lacks spiracles, those minute holes which normally form part of the breathing apparatus of insects. The wings, rigid like those of Coleoptera, are rudimentary and barely perceptible. Although slightly larger than a common ladybug, the insect is totally invisible to the naked eye.
On January 7, 1973, I decided to carry out a taumascopic examination of our Artisia, which then included the A. magistra now in your possession, and for this purpose I asked my colleague Hopkins (whose lab is next door to mine) if I could borrow his Somer instrument, the only one of its kind in Australia. On that occasion I found that at the base of the Artisia there were a number of small insects, clearly visible by the light of the Tauma-rays. I paid no particular attention, and it was only in the course of a second taumascopic examination three months later that I discovered that if I turned the machine on and off, the insects that could clearly be seen by the Tauma-rays were absolutely invisible without them. I was so amazed that I called Hopkins, and it was then that we started on our research. We are now in a position to give the gist of the first positive results, though we are only too aware that there is still a great deal of work to be done.
Artisopteron lives in the dwarf eucalyptus forests of the bush regions of Knopenland, in eastern central Australia. Attracted, it seems, by the sweetish smell of the trees, which is fairly pronounced in the leaves and secondary roots, Artisopteron forms groups of three or four individuals and lives underground among the roots of the eucalyptus as well as at the base of the Artisia. It moves extremely slowly, about two steps at a time, usually together with the other members of its group. It has no organs of sight, and as I mentioned earlier it has no real respiratory apparatus. Among the most disconcerting aspects of this creature is the total absence of reproductive organs. In point of fact, throughout the entire two years of our research we have been unable to identify any normal vital processes whatever. At first we were inclined to think that we were dealing with a form of hibernation, but eight seasons have now passed and in the individuals under study we have not observed even the minutest physical change. We now think that we are confronted with a physical condition which cannot be defined either as life or as death. In this respect Artisopteron is very similar to certain parallel plants, such as Artisia, which are motionless in time.
But the feature that has struck us most is a minute stinger at the bottom of the abdomen. In the light of the Tauma-rays this shows up with intense brightness, of a color that varies with the individual from cinnabar red to emerald green. We thought at first that this was a sexual differentiation, but further experiments revealed that there is a direct relationship between the color of the stinger and the shape of the leaf on which Artisopteron lives, in brief, we found that the insects with the red stingers live on Artisia with devoluted leaves, while those with green stingers live on the plants that have involuted leaves. The simplest hypothesis was naturally that the insect somehow punctured the leaves, thus causing the directional development of the curls, but in the course of two years of intense study we have been unable to discern any direct causal relationship beyond the simple fact of their presence on the leaves. We know from our experience in the field of parallel botany how powerful the effect of this presence could be, and we therefore came to think that the curl of the leaves was determined by the mere existence of either "red" or "green" Artisopteron on the plants. This naturally does not exclude the possibility that between insects and plants there might be a mutual attraction, a simple a posteriori selective relationship.
This is the point we have reached at the present moment, my dear Vanni, but we intend to continue working on the specimens of Artisia we have in our possession, which luckily are quite a few, as well as those still hidden in their original habitat in the shade of the dwarf eucalyptus.
We can hardly be surprised thu Vanni was shaken to the core by this letter. What is really astonishing is that no one before Sarno had ever seriously considered the possibility of a parallel fauna, even in the case of insects, which have such a close symbiotic relationship with plants. It is too early to make any forecasts, but we cannot help thinking that the latest news from the Antipodes justifies some expectations heavily loaded with suspense.

The phenomenon of the curling of the Artisia leaves has other interesting facets, the most curious of which is without doubt the Kaori tattoos. The Kaoris must be considered the first real settlers or colonizers of the Australian continent. (pl. XXI) They landed there after the Chinese, between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, but unlike the navigators of the coasts of Asia they pushed on into the interior and established themselves permanently there. They came from the islands of Polynesia and brought with them the tradition of tattooing. In their novel environmental conditions, confronted with natural forms that were new to them, this tradition of theirs underwent profound modification. The highly elaborate tattooing of the Kaoris is in effect a marriage between extremely ancient Polynesian forms and Australian themes of more recent origin. That the Kaoris knew the Artisia and attributed magical powers to the plant can clearly be deduced from certain details of the tattoos and from the paintings on bark which have been meticulously documented by the Department of Anthropology of the University of Brisbane.
The general purpose of this tattooing is to integrate an individual within a social group. But it also signifies the symbolic conquest of the things represented. In the case of the Artisia it is now almost certain that to the Kaoris the plants represented the annulment of time, and hence eternal life. Thit centuries ago a primitive people was able, if only intuitively and with the attribution of supernatural meanings, to discern a phenomenon that is only now being timidly explored by Western science is indeed a most extraordinary fact.
In a letter to the Anthropological Society of Australia, Professor Anthony Campbell explained the magic significance that the Artisia have for the Kaori people and described the tattooing ceremony which takes place-and not by chance-in a hut built of eucalyptus boughs. The rite is presided over by the shaman of the tribe, but the act itself is performed by the astok, a kind of itinerant artist possessed of magic powers and a special skill in tattooing. At one time there were many of these astok traveling about in the Australian bush, but today it is a dying profession, kept fitfully alive by subsidies from the Department of Kaori Affairs.
The ceremony takes place once a year and involves the whole tribe. All the young who have reached the age of twelve in the course of the year are tattooed, regardless of sex. Only the face is tattooed at this stage, the rest of the body being done later.

PL. XXI Kaori tattoos

The astok begins his work by taking a charred eucalyptus twig and drawing two Artisia leaves, one on each cheek. Around these he then adds the intricate designs which follow the form of the face and accentuate its individual character. Most of the lines are abstract, but they may also be symlolic. Sometimes two tiny Artisia, one involuted and the other devoluted, are represented on the sides of the nose. While the astok is at work the elders of the tribe all squat round the circular wall of the hut, which is about eight meters in diameter and festooned for the occasion with thousands of bright-colored threads of wool hanging from the vaulted roof. The men sing a monotonous rhythmic chant, which is in fact the invocation "Atnas-poka-nama poi" (Great mother of the long night), while outside groups of young people told hands and dance around the hut to the same rhythm. Every nov and then they brandish eucalyptus boughs and shout "Poka." When the drawing on the face is finished, the old men leave the hut and the astok begins to execute the tattoo itself. This is a painful process, and as the designs are so extremely intricate it can last for the whole day. At one time the skin was punctured with the thorns of Solicarnia pendulifloris, but in the early days of British rule the astok began to use ordinary sewing needles, manufactured in Birmingham and obtained from English travelers in exchange for the kangaroo skins then much in fashion in Europe.
As I mentioned above, Artisia also appear occasionally in bark paintings, which have recently acquired some fame with the growing interest in primitive art. One such painting on exhibit in Paris at the Musee de l'Homme clearly represents a large A. major, devoluted in form, between the two figures of a kangaroo and a hunter.
In a short essay recently published in the Annales of the Musee de l'Homme, Gismonde Pascain points out that to the Kaoris the two forms (involuted and devoluted) represent the inner and outer parts of man, that is, body and soul. When they are represented together, as in the facial tattoos, they stand for this dichotomy. In the paintings, however, there is nearly always only one Artisia. In the particular case of the painting in the Musee de l'Homme, she says, the form is devoluted, expressing more concern for the body than for the soul. Involuted form, occur seldom in Kaori iconography, according to this leading French biologist, a fact which bears witness to the sense of realism and excellent mental health of the natives of Australia.

Fig. 19 (a) Artisia Arpii and (b) a collage by Jean Arp

Fig. 20 (a) Artsia Calderii and (b) a pendant by Alexander Calter

In dealing with the Artisia we have often had occasion to mention their typically eighteenth-century forms. It is perhaps only to be expected that a period so rich in all kinds of representation of flowers should furnish us with easy comparisons. But we ought to bear in mind that a number of specimens were known before the eighteenth century, even if their parallel nature was not then suspected, and also that many Artisia reflect the styles of other epochs. We need only mention the so-called "Carolingian" Artisia, which bears so great a resemblance to the magnificent bronze plaques of the doors of San Zeno at Verona; this plant is now in the little museum at Casteldardo, where it was found over a century ago at the foot of the age-old eucalyptus whose massive dignity still dominates the tiny public gardens of this pretty little town. And to turn to more recent art, we should not forget Artisia Arpii, which owes its name to the amazing similarity of shape between it and certain collages and pieces of sculpture by the dada artist Jean Arp (Fig. 19), and Artisia Calderii, whose motifs irresistibly recall those in the work of the late American sculptor Alexander Calder (Fig. 20). Indeed Jean Alembert, art critic for Les Jours, has gone so far as to write that the day will come when a single display of parallel botany will embrace the whole complex panorama of Western art from its beginnings down to our own days.


1. Arthur Baldheim, Many Adams (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1957).


THE GERMINANTS

Rather than being plants; the germinants are a combination of heterogeneous elements of which the really parallel part is perhaps only minor. They have no proper botanical gestalt, and lack that overall plantness that is one of the most obvious features of the other parallel plants.
The name germinant was coined by Jacques Inselheim of Strasbourg University. During a trip to Italy he was considerably struck by a number of plants which he saw at the Institute Venturi in Cadriano, near Bologna, and as soon as he returned to France he wrote an article for the Gazette de Strasbourg in which he described his encounter with this unusual flora. As they had only just been discovered at that time they had not been given a name, and thus in a moment of weakness and enthusiasm, certainly questionable from the strictly scientific point of view, he called them "germinants." How are we to interpret this name? Is the word transitive or intransitive? Are we concerned with "that which germinates" or "that which is germinated"? When asked about it at last year's Baden Baden Conference, Inselheim explained that the ambiguity of the name was the result of an absolutely intentional choice, and that he was only too glad to take full responsibility for it. If it is true, he said, that the term germinant refers to something which germinates buds, it could equally well refer to buds which germinate. He was struck by the similarity between a verb that, absurdly enough, can be transitive or intransitive, and a plant that appears to be generated as an organ by another plant, but which in reality is entirely separate and complete in itself. 'The germinant," he said, "is beyond doubt the most ambiguous of plants. And it is only right and proper that it should have the most ambiguous of names."

PL. XXII The Cadriano germinants

Inselheim saw two of these plants at Cadriano. The first resembles a large squash standing raised on about twenty scraggly and irregular roots of the type known as ambulans. From the rough skin of the cucumbra (generating bud) there sprout a dozen arrogant buds, which are shiny and perfect: the germinants. In the other specimen the buds (also a group of twelve) spring from an aquatic rhizome about forty centimeters long which has been successfully enclosed in a block of polyephymerol. (pl. XXII)
Following his visit to Cadriano, Inselheim bought a single germi-nant from an amateur botanist in Bologna. This sprouts from what appears to be a bit of volcanic rock about the size of a clenched fist. So far it has not been identified. In any case, Inselheim presented it to his alma mater, the University of Padua, in memory of his old teacher Professor Alfonso delle Serie.
The two groups of germinants in Cadriano are almost identical, even if the different elements from which they appear to grow display them in very different contexts. The better known of them, which scholars refer to as the "Cucumbra" germinants, has aroused endless problems and disputes wherever it has been the object of study. The special report prepared by the Faculty of Botany in Bologna is in fact in clean contest to the opinions held at the Cadriano Center. The latter are based on a premise that seems to us scientifically correct, that in parallel botany there are no organic connections between the various parts of a plant. When these parts display an apparently arbitrary relationship, as in the case of the "cucumbra" germinants, then the only reasonable method of study is to take the parts separately, without prejudgments, and explain their coexistence as best we can.
Following this structuralist procedure the Institute has arrived at these conclusions. The twelve germinants are certainly and unequivocally parallel. Irrefutable proofs are furnished by the continuity of their internal substance, their morphological inalterability, their tendency to turn to dust on contact with foreign bodies, and the strange behavior of their image when recorded on film.
The mother cucumbra, as Inselheim calls it, does not on the other hand seem to have the qualities that would enable us to call it parallel. The fact that the plant was discovered in the neighborhood of Ferrara, near the Certosa di Pomona, in a thick hedge surrounding a field full of summer squash, justifies us in entertaining reasonable doubts. Furthermore, experiments using minipolarization have shown that the cucumbra reacts to external agents exactly like any normal fruit. In theory it would allow itself to be cut into slices and at high temperatures its substance would undergo considerable alteration. It was these considerations in the first place that induced Professor Giancarlo Venturi, the founding father of the institute, to judge the mother cucumbra to be an anomaly belonging to normal botany.
For the scientists of the University of Bologna, however, the germinants were originally real buds that sprang from the cucumbra and have now entered a condition of parallel stasis. The fact that the cucumbra looks like a zucchini and the circumstances of its discovery are considered to be pure coincidence. They point out that probes into the interior of the fruit carried out by the Anten-Abrams method have not revealed the presence of seeds or even the least variation in the density of the material. What appears to us as the skin from which the germinants emerge by breaking violently through it, is nothing other than the external limit of the interior substance. The germinants are firmly attached to it, so much so as to seem of the very same substance. The surface irregularities such as protuberances and longitudinal scratches are, according to the Bologna botanical team, of paramimetic character.
Professor Mario Federici, who drew up the report, taking into account all combinations in which the germinants figure as a single and distinct parallel entity, tends to minimize the importance of the buds in favor of the matrix, and he speaks of the "germinating cucumbra" and the "germinating rhizome." He describes even the "ambulant" roots of the cucubra as a parallel phenomenon, although he recognizes that certain features recall the petrified plants in the Chuhihu Valley.
Venturi, on the other hand, is of the opinion that the roots belong to normal botany and in the case of the cucumbra are no more than a fortuitous circumstance. He says that originally the cucumbra lay on the ground like an ordinary zucchini. Underground roots were attracted by the damp which was to be found in its shadow, and converged upon it. Then by a slow process of penetrating antiastasis they ended by raising the cucumbra, detaching themselves from their original root system and transforming themselves into the ambulant type by a series of later mutations.
The two theories are equally divergent as regards the aquatic germinants, and although there are two elements rather than three, the reasons for attributing them to one botany or the other remain the same. For Venturi the underwater rhizome is just a rhizome capirens in the process of parallelization, while for Federici it is part of a single parallel entity. Where the two scientists agree entirely is over the attribution and hymothesic description of the buds. Both admire the high level of ambiguity of the plants, and wonder whether it is a case of a sudden stoppage of development at the moment of parallelization or of a precise gestaltic intention. This question was discussed at great length at the Baden Baden Conference, and the majority of the scientists present favored the second view. The buds, rather like the seeds of Giraluna, would appear to represent what in human terms would be called an "idea." They are the programmed and definitive form of a meaning, a "design" by nature, we may say. This coexistence of a content, a narrative, with the simple phenomenon of self-presentation, is possible only in parallel botany. The resulting ambiguity is due to the apparent incompatibility of time, without which an idea cannot exist, with non-time, which is the conditio site qua non of the plants found on the other side of the hedge. The germinants, with their seemingly vital impulse which presupposes a history and suggests a future, are pointed aggressively at the sun, like missiles programmed to strike at and explode the last (or the first) mystery of living matter. But their inert matterlessness, their immobility outside of time and their being only illusorily set in space-these qualities exclude them from having any part in the growth and development of the biosphere. Theirs is an existentiality of dreams, in which form and meaning are a single materialized fiction, suspended between the light of our perception and the darkness of their own being.
Inselheim holds the view that the germinants are an Italian plant, and he supports this theory with a great deal of paleontological, geological, meteorological, and toponomical data. It is true that the only germinants yet discovered have been found in Italy. After the three specimens already mentioned, other plants have been seen or obtained from the Gargano, from Castellina in Chianti and from Rocca di Faggio. The Natural History Museum of Verona has two specimens of the cucumbra type recently acquired from a small farmer in Caselle. There is every reason to believe that the germinants are not only a specifically Italian plant, but that of all parallel plants they might well be the most numerous and easily accessible. But unfortunately Italy is the only country which still has no laws to govern and protect parallel plants, and no provisions whatever to encourage research. As they are not plants in the usual sense and as it is difficult to define their nature and substance in legally acceptable terms, their continued existence is seriously threatened by the vandalism of weekend vacationers, as well as by the selfishness and ignorance of amateurs and speculators.
In the meanwhile. Colonel Di Bonino of the Forestry Police refuses to accept responsibility for things that do not form a part of the vegetable kingdom. Under-Secretary De Francisci, who is responsible for ecology within the Institute per lo Sviluppo Economico (I.S.E.), was appealed to by the University of Bologna, but replied in extremely vague terms and did his best to make the problem appear ridiculous. Senator Giuseppe Montaldin, president of the Committee for the Defense of the Products of the Soil, recognizes the scientific importance of the germinants but denies that they can be called products of the soil, while Giovanni Amara of the National Scientific Research Institute (I.N.R.S.), in a memo to Minister Fratelli which on the whole was sympathetic and reasonable, lists his reasons for being unable to intervene, including shortage of funds, lack of qualified personnel, and, above all, the troubles which would accrue to the institute if it concerned itself with a problem which could not be explained clearly and simply to the politicians who control its activities.


THE STRANGLERS

Between the two groups of plants which comprise parallel botany as we know it today there is a mysterious no-man's-land in which vegetable organisms, now extinct, once lived out an anomalous existence.
The plants are exceptional in form, behavior, and orthogenesis, and cannot be placed anywhere in the existing classification of parallel botany. They have for this reason been the object of special study by botanists, paleobotanists, psychologists, and even poets.
One genus in particular, the so-called "stranglers," exemplifies all the features of that small group of plants which scientists have christened the "phab" group (from alpha beta.). (pl. XXIII) The existence of the group was discovered a few years ago by a team of paleontologists led by Professor Ahmed Primshattia of the University of Baroda. While working in the hills near the Jain temple of Mount Abu they came across some fossils of hitherto unknown plants. It seems that they were examples of a type of tiril, about thirty centimeters high, that must have been quite common to the north of the Indian subcontinent for some millennia at the end of the Orthoplantain era. Fossils that came to light in 1971 in the Shetford coal seam, and were assigned to a much more recent period, show surprising morphological analogies with the Indian specimens. Primshattia himself agrees with the English paleobotanists Smithen and McCook that they are "strangler tirils."
These scientists have put forward some original and convincing hypotheses regarding the life of these plants, which must have been endowed with abnormal vital urges. Smithen and McCook hold the view that in order to limit their distribution nature provided them with a curious mechanism of ecological control, without which in the course of two or three million years they would have covered whole continents at the expense of all other forms of life. According to these experts this consisted in a quite exceptional self-destructive aggressiveness developed during the flaringean phase of growth, which the tirils expressed by slowly and gradually winding themselves round nearby plants, even those of their own species. The extinction of one species by reciprocal strangulation-the process which botanists call eronecria-must have taken place in the course of a few millennia, but before total destruction some specimens must, by mutation, have generated a new species also genetically equipped with the suicidal instinct. And so on and so forth. The last survivor of the long series of stranglers was probably Tirillus maculatus, which was far less aggressive than its ancestors must have been. Even today this tiril, destined to outlive all the other stranglers, covers vast areas of the Alaskan tundra, where it is a favorite food of the herds of dwarf caribou that sweep down into the peninsula every spring.
With regard to the stranglers, Von Harne recently published a sensational article in the Archives of Parabotany. His theory is that in the history of parallel botany there have been numerous other plants which have disappeared from the face of the earth, only to reappear at some distant time and place, slightly modified in form and behavior. He formulates the theory of a vegetal metempsychosis due to which the processes of life and death remain suspended in the impressions of capillary roots "burned" by time into petrified veins, clays, and crystals; and that these transmit generating energies by means of an imperceptible, age-old osmosis. The genes, freed at last from their long subterranean slumber, pass on the ancient existential programs to new plants.
Von Harne pays particular attention to the stranglers, tracing a long history "which like a distant archipelago appears to float in time." The "soul" of these plants seems to be the agent responsible for the infinitely slow violence which is their main feature, and according to Von Harne this survives in species such as the common ivy, thus revealing unsuspected links between the two botanies.

PL. XXIII Strangler tirils


CONTENTS

PART ONE: INTRODUCTION 1
General Introduction 3
Origins 20
Morphology 35

PART TWO: THE PLANTS 57
The Tirillus 59
Tirillus oniricus 62
Tirillus mimeticus 64
Tirillus parasiticus 67
Tirillus odoratus 68
Tirillus silvador 70
The Woodland Tweezers 73
The Tubolara 78
The Camporana 80
The Protorbis 86

The Labirintiana 95
The Artisia 100
The Germinants 112
The Stranglers 117

The Giraluna 119
Giraluna gigas 134
Giraluna minor 1 43
The Solea 145
The Sigurya 162

PART THREE: EPILOGUE 171
The Gift of Thaumas 173
Notes 178

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