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The carnivorous woman  a saga from Charles Darwin to Wheatbelt Western Australia (Part 2)

Science Friction

37:53 min | 3 months ago

The carnivorous woman a saga from Charles Darwin to Wheatbelt Western Australia (Part 2)

"This is an ABC podcast. They gleason and CREPE and climb and snap end. They feed off flesh. Flies Matz any culinary delight by intrepid? Natasha Mitchell back in the world's hotspot for carnivorous plants or Western Australia last week. Show sit sane. Well today. It's a tile full of twists and tendrils. Yes Trust Sarah. I can all over the world. I just bought another one. Sorry wearies Navan. I have devoted much time to a class of plants that seemed to have reversed regular order of nature and like avengers of Kingdom have turned upon animals incarcerating and finally killing them whether the plants are really hungry and entrapped the animals for food or whether it is only an example of the wanton destructiveness of nature. I leave the Rita to judge. Mary treat eighteen eighty five throughout history. The great botanical artists have often been women but many of them infect scientists to just without the endorsement of the botanical establishment which often shunned or ignored them. The pint brush deemed more appropriate tool for lady than a microscope. I guess botany has always being an interesting one because I suppose that the study of flowers and plants historically was maybe seen in a bit more of a suitable for for women feminine because of flowers and that sort of thing but still it it was still also quite male dominated. I guess in terms of the scholars in that field throughout history. Well one determined woman on a farm in way belt Western. Australia defied the odds and changed the world sore. Australia's incredible carnivorous plants and listened to artists so with Laura Skates botanical scientists doing her PhD on canvas plants. Right now I am taking you down. Bush trial in pursuit of her story. Oh is that it. Yup Oh cute so this is actually one of the climbing ones that I was just talking about so new sixty centimeters long and it's just spreading out of embankment. He and a lot more of them seem to have caught prey on this one. I think it might be dresser. A Men's Eli address or Krant though. Draw ceramic cram throw or the bridal rainbow with its little sunlight sticky leaves hence the name. Sanju it was a man English naturalist and Biologist Charles Darwin nonetheless who is a first credited with helping us understand that coniferous plants lived off flesh. His particularly interested in is a European species. Coatdress ERA TON. Two folio which he did a lot of his experiments on so he would put different things on the leaves like for example he would put a piece of sand orbit of gloss and not really see any reaction but if you put something like little piece of EG or some meat juices suddenly the plant would have reaction to that and the tentacles would start to wrap around so what he basically showed. Is that these plants are reacting to is that have not gene or protein in them so the plants. I almost instantaneously. They know not. That's a be the sand economy that cheese. I eight that yeah exactly so you know. They don't waste any energy wrapping around something. That's not going to be nutritious day instead. Wraparound when it's going to be something that will give them a good boost of nitrogen. I mean even in my PhD thesis. I go back to Dahlan's original studies and some of his original thoughts and ideas things that with testing to this day and so he really liked the groundwork for set the foundation full of Verse Plant Research But one American woman was on the case of carnivorous plants. Around the same time as Darwin. I will give you my observations on draw. Sarah would have escaped the notice of botanists and she struck up a correspondence with Darwin in a series of letters from eighteen. Seventy one four years before he got to publishing his influential on insect diverse plants. I had two or three species of plants growing window ornaments and soon saw the deal on the folio was a flytrap of considerable. Palo when it comes to reverse plants one of the best women that I kind of came across in my studies was Mary trait and I came across her because he in Child Allen's book insectivores plants. There was a little foot art that talked about what Mary Trait had done to contribute to that particular chapter and I thought wow. Who's Mrs Trait? I WANNA find out more about her de Madame. Your observations and experiments on the sexes of butterflies. Far the best as far as known to me which have ever been made said. There's a great letter. Where don thanks? Mary trait for some observations on dresser. I am glad to hear your observations. On Dresser will be published. The unlucky fly a common housefly. Would no sooner be caught by the sticky? Glands of it would've once commenced to fold about its victims. It folded from the apex to the stem of the lake. After the manner of its nation closer and closer it held the poor flying embrace until it ceased its struggles when it soon became partly absorbed by the plant. Professor Gray will give my observations on this planned in his new edition of how plants grow was most respectfully Mrs Mary. Treat New Jersey December. Twenty eight hundred seventy one. I have attended to this subject during several years and have almost manuscript enough to make a volume but have never yet found time to publish. I am very much obliged. You'RE COURTEOUS LEGEND AND REMAIN DIM Adam yours faithfully. Charles Darwin January five eighteen seventy two. And she also made a really significant contribution when it comes to you trickier as well which is another kind of kind of risk plant. We have in I and all over the world. They commonly known as the Bladder Waltz. And they've got a trap which is kind of like a little bladder with a trap Dole. What she figured out was basically how that trap actually works so there had been ideas before then these blood is might be kind of flotation devices for example and there are ideas that perhaps the insects got stuck in them by pushing their way into the trap but Mary trait spent many hours sitting on a microscope looking at these plants and looking at sex and found that yeah they actually touched a little trigger hair which caused the trump open and the suction force to pull them in. So I guess a me. It inspires me to look more into the history of the field that I'm in of kind of and to find out about all of these amazing women because I think there's a lot of amazing women who have made contributions like that and perhaps not as often acknowledged but it was only last year while at an exhibition of the acclaimed Perth Botanical artist. Filippini Kalinski. Who We heard from last show that Laura stumbled across the name of another carnivorous woman. This one much closer to home and I thought Oh my God how have I never heard about Rica? Erickson before lure ahead picked up the biography of Rica Erickson Fredrika Lucy Ericsson knee Sandilands born tenth of August nineteen hundred night in Boulder Western Australia. She Dodd back in two thousand and nine and evenly just found out about a but she wrote a book on carnivorous plants. In wwl United Sixty is I graduated high school in two thousand nine. Sorry and then just started a my sort of. Janney to become a botanist. After that say it's just yeah. I just love to learn more about her. So what about if I said? Let's go to the Westralian herbarium and check out some of the specimens. She denied it to Barium. I would love that. The herbarium is a vast library of specimens and seeds sampled from W. is incredible diversity of plants. And let's made a former head of the herbarium I because at one year old botanist Dr Naval margins path crossed Rica Erickson's when he was just a boy. I guess when I was a child. There's a Bush land not far from home and used to go and look at orchids and things like that are really fell in love with a an unseen insectivores plans and I was really fascinated by that. Here was a plant living near my backyard could catch insects and dissolve them and I found that not macabre but really interesting so I proceeded to grow these things when I was quite young around about eleven or twelve. What were those plants they call draw surro- and it so happens the Westralia. The South Western Australia is a real maker. Most of the drivers in the world is fairly worldwide genus on there so many in south Western Australia that it's really remarkable area. A real hot spot for these Sundays and so I had a chance of showing some of these. Some Pot. Plants at wildlife show was in the town hall and in those days knows this particular. One was organized by the famous Harry. Butler look at that bag. Aiding the plan. But that's wrong. Harry Butler the laconic naturalist dictating all cocky. He went on to host cult primetime. Abc TV series in the wild in the late. Nine Seventy S in fact that plant which grows here in this swampy country where the nitrogen is very low makes up its oxygen supply by actually aging bucks it catches them and sticky hairs them and so build up its supply but at the start of the nineteen fifties when Neville margin was a keyed showing his pot plants at the wildlife show Harry was involved in the Wi naturalists club. As was one person came up to me rather thin prim looking lady and I had a label on the plan to one of them. An put used the name draw. Surra return to folio because only had English botany books and that was an English plant and she said owner. That's not that she was very polite but very firm and she said no that's draws stolen if Fra and I said Oh and she told me she was Rica Erickson. She was preparing a book on. These things are nearly died but she was very polite. Very firm and author Hollandia of the wrong name on this terrible but I soon learned. I found her rather frightening but then I was probably shy. And she was just so knowledgeable and so well respected that. I guess I was just a bit intimidated but but she was very polite. Something was just around the corner financial merchant that would change the course of his life and in that exchange a lifelong friendship with triggered to Dorothy gala. Lovely to meet you. Thanks for having me what's Level. I'm Dorothy Ericsson Jeweler right Boston's and Enrique's storage. Which is probably why you're here and you're an historian as well. Well I think of mothers for two novice the wasn't born saying mummy and Daddy. I said why how win. Dorothy Erickson born nineteen thirty. Nine is an internationally renowned jewelry designer. We'd always been trained to look things. We'd been trained to search for wildflowers driving a car along a road. Mother would yell. Stop Three Hundred Meters Daddy. We hit the back and there was a little plant. We'd been trained to tell one bird from another one plant from another had enquiring minds. I can days sitting outside with the glass and the piece of cardboard watching a wasp coming in going timing it and catching it and we'd be sent out to catch any in six. That were flying around an mother would put them in a killing jar which was plaster of Paris with cyanide. Gas or something in the bottom. They killed the insects really smartly and then she would send them out to salt and Raymond who was into malicious in Queensland and he would name them now is named for me in a billion for me to nine for me and one nine for Daddy. Life was like that all will be off watching curlers or something over looking for booboo cal's or collecting sandalwood nuts and making things but we've always had great interest in the dresser. We used to make rating from the bulbs of some very big flat leafed one and then walking through the Bush in if the little sticky bits clinging to your legs as you walking through the books are but just got me so you would drawn into the world of kind of risk plant and her fascination them it wasn't just because main when she was doing the awkward but we were all during orchids and winning out of pocket money with pictures the Hukou shows and things like that so all of us drew but there was always the knowledge that we'd never be quite as good as mommy because who could drawings indefinitely much much better than month. So one's always striving to live up to mother but like her who was a prolific teacher artist Historian citizen. Dorothy ease scrape polymath as well a key writer an art historian and author including of the book a joy forever a history of Perth stunning Kings Park Botanical Garden. Beautiful Rose Yes. That one's mother's love your past pink very delicate. Dorothy remember life on the farm. Her parents built ball. God Two hours north of I see was a farmer's wife with all the responsibilities that go with that housework was done on Monday when the rest of the week. Two days was teaching the four bus until it was a school bus and then she had the rest of the time to be able to work and work with what she wanted to do more. She did and work was very much about plants at that time. Yes indeed it was. She got her passion from parts from my great grandmother on the Goldfields in boulder the wonderful flowers at the end up. Great Grandma's garden a great sense of freedom. A wide open landscape. You could see for miles. These is Rica Erickson herself in an interview held in the car of the State Library of Western Australia. And if when you went Bush. Of course a lot lot of trees have been cut down and affect that you could see so so free and easy and wonderful. She started painting wildflowers but when she was out one t school this it was a lady rode a motorbike. Don't mind the dry red earth and like the tawny colors of the dying vegetation the yellows silvery colors and the creamy colors through to the yellows. And the docks draw colors that you get when you see a whole lot of Bush that's just dried of it stirs me as much as the beautiful fresh colors of the Greens and others. Rica was drawing exhibiting art collecting carefully documenting the native plants around her and then she started writing books that really broke new ground and a friends mile. Scientists who were fellow members of the W. I. Naturalists Club Sore her scientific talent and advocated for her meanwhile when Budding Botanist Naval Martin Turn Fifteen and somehow he landed a job as herbarium assistant to one. Mr Charles Gardner. The government botanist head of the Western. Australian herbarium you were there ultimately to be child gardeners dog's body. Yes in a way. Though he was a very independent person he was. He was a Nice Jab. You've been tolerant of young people and probably women as well. Rica contributed an awful lot to the Western Australian herbarium. Lots and lots of space. Men's do you remember Rica Erickson being in touch with the herbarium when you were the two child Gardner the government botanist? Yes I do. I'm a she used to come in and consult things particularly when she was writing the book on the trigger plants West Australia and she would come in and just work through. The fault is very diligently very quiet and she didn't really want to cause waves but Michigan didn't people working on other things in his flora. So I think he probably gave her a little bit of the cold shoulder. Had Chief feel about that? Did she ever talk about that about not being upset about it? You don't really locked. Be Put down. He was the authority and he fought using interfering woman. Why do you think that he was threatened by her? If that's what it was. He wanted to do all the planting Western Australia himself. That of course he wouldn't live long enough to do the twelve thousand and Mukta west of West. They just didn't want to share. He wanted the all the glory for himself. But why do you think a woman lock you? Mom Rick Eriksson would pose a threat to him. She would help him in these codes. I really can't go into the mind of Charles Gardner but he certainly did not like. Mother made lot very difficult for her. In what ways? Well he wouldn't help with naming new plan to helping her if she needed to know what was a new plant or not but Charles Gardner deed. It seems except Rica's donations to the Western Australian herbarium as Laura and I are about to discover okay so we've arrived at the herbarium then he before. Yes I've been a few times in Undergrad and other events and things Hello John. This is lower skates patch. Botany student at University with an Australian Kings Park. Name's Dr John Eastman the curator of the witness train barium which is part of the Department of Biodiversity Conservation Attractions here in witness tryout gorgeous building we are here to discover some of the specimens that Rica Erickson contributed to the hip barium collection hundreds of them. Yes yes so. It didn't take long to find some Barium. I like to think of almost like the plant museum. So where the state's official plant collection we've got eight hundred thousand district. I've eight hundred thousand plant specimens we curate. The is we've got specimens that hundreds of years old in space means a very very susceptible to attacks by bucks arranging a quarantine area. Now okay stays now. Okay the Gardner volt well. He used to be the. The government botanist throw named nine for prominent botanist. Ooh So walking into coolest size here. Volt number four column Number Nineteen Stack number four shelf number six the dresser. Ac strangely enough. The first one we open is one of rakers specimens address. Gigantea said what we've got here is it was collected on the twentieth of September. Nineteen sixty three so she would have taken that record does Dresser Gigantea on wet flats and the location is West Nostra wist of Boll got forty kilometers north of to Jay and northeast of Perth. And she knew about the whole tax process as well so a lot of these things you know you provide the information so since they just serves to give you an a concept of web within gross and I'm thinking about whether or not this area that she collected it in is still natural bushland or not would be really interesting to look back at those sort of things because I know there's been a lot of locations where there were a dresser will be blessed or other kind of plans the herbarium collections my many years ago and now they're being is Diana. Yeah I would have done is record. What the habitats. Like if you can record what soils like. These is a bitch. Tyson is and then of course the the dight and and and details the exact location of where it is if you are you know. You've got this historic. Daddy got historical dots on the maps. And you want to see Sidley. If if things aren't where they used to be you can go and visit them one of the other groups here in the in this building the. Witless tryin. Sates Santa where they are attempting to conserve species by clicking seeds. So yes so this. This information hit provides the backbone for a lot of those conservation activities to John. Thank you so much. That's been such a trait not to show the herbarium of people. She knew what she was doing. It's hard to say that she was untrained. Isn't it even though she might not have had a formal course in botany? She picked up so many things from so many people director the herbarium in Melbourne. At the time help to know. Also archaeologists like Robin Nicholas Nichols who lived in eastern Australia with whom she corresponded and they would have helped her interpret things and get things right. Scientifically A no-doubt. She read as much as she could had. Charles Gardner See Rick. His contributions did he take her botanical interest. Seriously what your reflections from the time? No I don't think he did. Look I think he resolve the mold? That was engendered. In Britain in the eighteen hundreds by people like John Lindley he was famous professor of Botany from England. Who REALLY DEFEND MINORITIES? Botany as with the scientific vs of Botany. And I. I have a feeling Charles Gardner like so many other people at the time just had that feeling that women couldn't really do the scientific part the best doing the teaching and also art and just general plant collecting bringing up children teaching children Dorothy Ericsson. His daughter has been unearthing. What is a rich history of botanical women in Western Australia? Many of their names lost in time of the eighteen eighties. It was becoming acceptable for women to be artists and being able to sell it things because prior to that women were allowed to paint night lady Margaret Forest. But you weren't allowed to sell. It really wasn't done. It proved your husband. Couldn't support unit. Brought Shame on him if you let themselves if anything more than pin money when we had all these women come in with art training in the eighteen ninety s with the goldfields we have absolute flowering of botanical. They showed in the Paris Exhibition of nine thousand nine hundred GaAs Ghanaian hundred to Colombian in one thousand nine hundred and four. The British nine thousand nine hundred eight and so on and Western Australia would send blocks of wildflower paintings to be in the pavilion. So women were allowed to be artist. Wildflower artists not quite potential artists. And most certainly not botanical scientists. The one who began more research. Was Emily Pillow who was in the Nineteen Twenty S? She lived alongside Kings Park not far actually from ninety forests both painted and wrote and she was a journalist. Actually think but she was. The one was her books. Mummy had I think she probably modeled herself on Emily Pillow? I really like the fact that a lot of women are being ignored. If Deng things in the history's been written by name four men one of the real problems I guess was that. At the time of Lindley there was the sexual system of classification by based on male parts. And maybe there are some delicacies there as well that men thought best left up to. Maine's realm people have said that even that system of lineas was a strange one it was based on Malpass will naturally because it's a very simple thing to say the number of statements which is a very important issue with the classification system. But there was a connotation there with probably not delicate stuff for women to be dabbling in but Rica. When more than that she had more of the scientific aspects the fine detail that you don't see a normal flour during that is beyond the piddles. She got down to the statements and got down to the Female parts of the flower the ovary CETERA was drawn accurately. So you had a greater chance of making certain the jagged identify it regularly with Rica's drawings at work in your mind had scientific merit. Absolutely Rica was an amateur botanist. She didn't have a science degree but as it turns out. I gather that Charles Gardner didn't actually have official science degree either. There is true that's true. There was one of his problems really. I think he felt very guilty. About this. And Charles Gardner. I think did have that chip on his shoulder and he didn't want any untrained woman interfering with his scientific business. That was none of our business and she shouldn't be doing it. Sh and he was really really nasty and he tried to make sure she didn't do any more work so she had to send the orchids off. Jim willison Melbourne had the name and they was even cross so when she published. But he's a really fascinating extract ion within the State Library of Western Australia collection of Rica. Speaking about Charles Gardner Holo at I wanted to keep me out of the area that he was studying when he found that I had published the orchids and looked at it critically. I don't know it didn't ever tell me that. And then he knew. I was going onto trigger plants and Sundays. I met him by accident. Barium in Melbourne. When visit that I was making. They were is going through the material and he realized PEPs out just wasn't a silly little woman looking at plants for fun and beauty. I really was trying to study them properly and he offered me. They material offered me help so I think if you break the ice with mobile set that time he was on the point to retiring. I must've felt his position wasn't endangered in any way he wasn't being jealous. Perhaps he was just softening up with the years because lives right and fight to his plant said I could say material. He had eleven you. I already had most of it and also into time may with music and found last amish when he was interested in a very wide fails events patron that every other person living on. Not that been most cooperative. It's like sharing a wonderful drain. One of her earliest quotes was. I could run as fast as any man. I could jump as high as a man. I could do anything any. She always thought she was good as any man. And that was that and we were brought up the same way. So there's impossible to keep mother down. She's not strong or pushy forceful but she was very resilient and gentle. But persistent and prolific Rica's bibliography goes for pages in not in fifty one her book. Orchids of the West came out then in nineteen fifty eight her book trigger plants and not in sixty eight plants of pry in Australia which her daughter. Dorothy helped research. There were many people Westminster Who are up stunned. By the appearance of these three books you mentioned. They appear to in relatively quick succession so she achieved an enormous amount and she had a lot of scientific status through that from various people who have powerful people in Western Australia but as well as over east. It put South Western Australian floor on the map but ricky guarded considerable international recognition to Laura. He we are at the State Library of W. A. Rick Ericsson has vast cobb here at the library so off requested some items for us to have three plans of prey. Okay Oh wow. Inside Ave most visit original watercolors and drawings for Rica's influential book plants of pray and then we discover late his back and forth between her and scientists all over the world Japan Europe America and more. Now look at these show in calculus professor of Botany in California. They rights again. Thanks for your comments and many. Thanks for the inspirational qualities. If you work in science we all have to build on the past and it was a pleasure to build on your fine book right so I mean He. You've got evidence of international scientists drawing on Rica's contribution Rica's work can books. She knew that if you took a child into the Bushra excursion school children into the Bush knew showed the mother trigger plants and showed them how operates you can have them cooked and so knowledge could expand and I think that's what Rica did. She was the first made. Botany more reachable by the people that sell the people who need to know like to know about what's going on in the environment. There are a few lovely twists to this tile. Eleven year old. Never at who recommit way back at that wildlife show went onto not school eventually to Cambridge University to do his PhD and later became head of the Western Australian herbarium himself the role. He Bena boy assistant to back in the nineteen fifties Charles Gardeners role and Naval Enrica went onto co author with others a book flowers and plants of Western Australia at multiple editions from nine hundred. Seventy three Rica also went on to become a noted social historian compiling the important dictionary of Western. Australians amongst other books. Do you think that your mother would've done? Botanical Science studied it officially Donna degree if she'd had the opportunity certainly nearest yes. Yes you would have made. Her books became. She was so thrilled when her books became textbooks for university studies in Botany is. That was not the chance for women to go to university. Not For her. She had brothers or sisters t needed to go out and work. There wasn't the money just to live in Perth and study university. I'm sure she'd have adored to be innocence. She was a scientist. It sounds to me do you think is she was us. They call them citizen scientists and she was a scientific citizen. Well let's put it this way. I never knew women were second class citizens until I got married because I've grown up in family where everything was equal Maury. My brother had dole's we all had McConnell so know that we almost supposed to be second class not do things which put me one generation ahead which is why I've done a lot of things. Goals are women. My Age didn't do because they were indoctrinated to be housewives in one thousand nine hundred eight. The government had a big seminar in camera on Women in science in Australia. They chose three times from western. Strata this Mommy Shirley de la the nuclear physicist and the nurse Educator Head of Kibera Edward Memorial Hospital so pleased to sleep so she was being acknowledged as a proper Pucca scientist given that she'd kind of operated incredibly prolifically scientific community officially at least even though she had a tendrils into the scientific community. What did the doctorate main that? Kind much lighter in her life. I think possibly didn't mean quite as much as when they first made her books university texts. That really really was very thrilling for her. But then of course Steve Hopper got into botany through reading. Mothers books is that so hopper became head of kings part botanical gardens and Gardens in London and it also local. Wabc boy head handed for q before his ability to attract money. But yes no he. He told me himself he called into it. Because of his interest was all stop and he'd picked up one of her books probably early on well. Compulsory studied botany away but she was very chapped. Getting the doctorate mice. We'll see those yes. The isn't today's early. Ah because she started drawing again in here I didn't she after she had cataract operation. She could see liberated a Beautiful Auburn. Ninety six hundred seats that original on their yet that Rica return to painting in her eighties joining the botanical artists group. The bags and cheekily dubbed her. The old bag climbed artist Philip. Nick Linski groups driving force and who we heard from last week was the superb bag botanical artworks gives so much information about the biology and sometimes as well about the ecology of these plants. I mean to do a botanical illustration requests sorry much observation and understanding of how the plant actually fits together and how it works. The contributions that women have made through botanical ought to understanding of their ecology and biology is just incredible. You know they're not just beautiful images there actually scientifically so valuable. And that's the sad thing. I think that back. In those days often women went really considered to be out of Bay. These great scientific thinkers or contributors. When in reality they were well you're taking the baton and walking through those holes yourself and Becoming a botanist I. It's really nice to be out of look back now and learn more about the history of all these women who contributed to botany here in I all throughout the world and to know that yeah myself in so many other colleagues and friends that I have are all say you know walking that poppin and making contributions. Well Thank Heavens has changed completely. I think most of the botanist to their prison. Habaryimana the women. The productivity is incredible at that place but also the people who are doing art but there are so many amazing women today who are doing incredible research on plants and all sorts of other plans. And I mean I've felt so lucky when I got to meet some other women doing diverse plant science when I being to conferences. And things like that. It's just it's just awesome to say and even now like. I flew a bunch of women on twitter who are also diverse. Plant scientists and. It's really cool seeing what they're doing. Yeah it's a long way from Rica's Day. Botany in the twitter sphere. Ricky Erickson died in two thousand nine at age one hundred and I loved meeting her through vast archive at the State Library of Western Australia through her daughter. Dr Dorothy Ericsson. Dr Neville March and Filippini Linski Dr John Huston and especially thanks to Laura Skates. Who is almost a doctor of botany talked to me on twitter at Natasha Mitchell? All via the science fiction website. He's to the wonderful world of plants a lavish by you've been listening to an ABC podcast. Discover more great. Abc. Podcasts live radio and exclusives on the ABC Listen Up.

Rica Western Australia Botany Australia Charles Gardner Dr Dorothy Ericsson Dorothy Erickson Laura Skates scientist Bush State Library of Western Austr Mary Trait Charles Darwin Rica Erickson ABC Western Australian herbarium Rica Sarah Natasha Mitchell John Lindley