A Merry Christmas

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Click on the image to view full size.

Somerset is fast becoming an inland sea. So with no snow forecast, just more rain and with mud everywhere, I’ve been driven indoors and have had to resort to found objects to pass the time. It has however given me the opportunity to experiment with focus stacking. For those that have not encountered this before (including me until a couple of weeks ago) it is a digital image processing technique which combines multiple images taken at different focus distances to give a resulting image with a greater depth of field than any of the individual source images. Which, in theory, makes it perfect for close-up and macro photography. The problem with it of course is getting your subject to co-operate and stay absolutely still for several minutes; which is why I offer up the humble Teasel, very prickly but absolutely static.

There are about 15 species of Teasel, Teazel or Teazle in the genus Dipsacus. All 15 are tall herbaceous biennial plants growing to 1–2.5 metres tall and are native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa.

The genus name is derived from the greek word for thirst, dipsa, and refers to the cup-like formation made where sessile leaves merge at the stem. (When I’ve finished wrapping presents and making mince pies I may have time to photograph the inside of a teasel head.) According to several sources the hollow cup-like formation allows rain water to collect and this may perform the function of preventing sap-sucking insects such as aphids from climbing the stem. I have no idea how this might work and can find no information that might explain it.

The cultivar Fuller’s Teasel was once widely used in textile processing, providing a natural comb for cleaning, aligning and raising the nap on fabrics, particularly wool. It has stouter, recurved spines on the seed heads, making it ideal for the job. The dried flower heads were attached to spindles, wheels, or cylinders, sometimes called teasel frames, to raise the nap on fabrics; to tease the fibres. Some people who weave wool still prefer to use teasels for raising the nap, claiming that the results are better; in particular, if a teasel meets serious resistance in the fabric, it will break, whereas a metal tool would rip the cloth.

We plan to grow them in the garden next year; partly for their beauty, but mainly because they are an excellent source of summer nectar and pollen for insects and autumn seeds for birds.

Well that’s it until some time after the Queen’s Speech. I hope everyone has a wonderful time and I do hope it stops raining soon.

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