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Erika Watson
is In Wild Air


Plant Defence

Plant defence is totally rad.

Mechanical defence is pretty easy to follow - waxy layers on the plant reduce water loss, but they also block entry from pathogenic fungi and bacteria. The other types of defences are secondary metabolites, either pre-existing as a deterrent such as with Constitutive Defence (think pungent mints, eucalypts etc.) or induced after an attack as in the case of Induced Systemic Response (ISR) which makes the plant unattractive to consume (by insects, herbivores, or pathogens). ISR can build the defence compound in the plant, protecting it from future attack or signal to different parts of the plant to become resistant to attack. They can even produce chemicals that attract predators to the pathogen!

Generally speaking, there are a great variety of compounds that are divided into 3 main groups -
  • terpenes - a good example is pyrethrum in chrysanthemum flowers, used in organic farming as an insecticide)
  • phenolics - an interesting note about these is that some are released from the roots into the soil deterring other plants from growing there to compete with it (commonly seen with pine trees), this is known as allelopathy
  • and finally nitrogen-containing compounds such as alkaloids have a strong effect on vertebrate animals. Well known ones include morphine, codeine, nicotine, and cocaine.
More information about plant defence can be found in geeky textbooks, such as my favourite - Plant Physiology, by Taiz & Zeiger (Chapter 13).


Aunt Beryl

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

A classic.

Both Great Aunt Beryl and my own mum would say this to me, along with others such as - "He who hesitates is lost" or (to contradict that) "Only devils go where angels do not dare to tread".

My Great Aunt grew up with 11 other siblings in a small hessian and tin house during the depression. She lost many brothers in the war and worked on a factory line until she retired. Despite her humble beginnings she owned 2 small houses. With my Great Grandmother she helped raise both my mum and her sister, and over the years delivered many lessons that I never really understood the importance of until later in life. This one in particular I try to hold onto as a reminder to give out what you wish to receive. Often people are caught up with treating people the way they are treated, a reaction rather than an action, which I guess removes accountability and can validate resentment. An eye for an eye. I find that I need to regularly remind myself that if I treat other people and the environment the way that I want to be treated, then I will feel I can live a more fair life, even if I know that life isn’t fair. Sometimes this is really hard, because sweet retribution is, well, sweet.


The Scent of The Bush

A simple idea, yet I’m finding it very difficult to explain. Go for a walk in the bush. Close your eyes and breathe in the atmosphere.

After rain it is clean, oxygenated and fresh; the blossoms are smacked and fragrant; the earth smells sweet, and dustless. Blurring droplets off Banskia onto soggy moss.

On hot dry days, it is like an oil burner out of water. A hot candle licks the bottom of the bowl, the fumes burn off and fill “the room” like a distant reminder moisture. It is astringent and familiar and lasting. It is almost sharp, getting you in the eyes as flowers and cones crack like glass. The smell rings in your ears like cicada rain.

Both are varieties of pretty good honey.


A Flock, A Swarm, A Host

“A Flock, A Swarm, A Host. A compendium of creatures” By Mark Doty & Darren Waterson.

Delicious and haunting inky silhouettes of animals accompanies an exploration of the animal kingdom in all its curiosity. I bought this book at a gallery in Edinburgh some years ago, which was showing an exhibition on the history of witches, and how they have been depicted in art. In the Middle Ages (the height of witchcraft)
bestiaries were very popular, with written and illustrated depictions of real and mystical animals that were often accompanied by a moral lesson. A Flock, A Swarm, A Host is like a modern interpretation of that medieval tradition.



Or rather, our vision of colour - which is really the reflection of light off an object. Our visible spectrum only makes up a small part of the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Different objects absorb different wavelengths of light and what we see are those left not absorbed but reflected. In a way, the perceived colour of that object is precisely the colour it isn’t. This blows my mind and the exact reason I wanted to share it here.

Rods and cones in our retinas are responsible for all of this. Rods (about 120 million in each eye) distinguish light from dark and perceive movement, while cones (about 6 million in each eye) are centralised in the macula and are most responsive to colour. Most people have 3 types of cones tuned to wavelengths 400nm, 530nm, and 560nm; two thirds of the cone-cells are sensitive to longer wavelengths so we tend to see more warm colours (yellows, reds, oranges) than the cooler colours on the spectrum.

I own a great book called “The Secret Lives of Colour” by Kassia St Clair, which goes into the history of humans discovering and categorising colour. There are many other great books on the psychology of colour, such as “The Art of Colour” by Johannes Itten which describes the subjective feelings and objective colour principles for art. I highly recommend looking into the electromagnetic spectrum, which covers everything from gamma rays to infrared to radio waves. Plants, animals, and insects all interpret the visible spectrum in a variety of ways for a different purposes, such as photosynthesis. I love the way that Matthew Inman interprets this phenomena in his Mantis Shrimp comic strip.



Freedom (Feat. Kendrick Lamar) — Beyoncé

A range of music has influenced me over my life, but at the present moment this song makes me feel strong and empowered. I pump it pretty loud in the car whilst on delivery (taking veggies to Sydney restaurants) when there isn’t anything on the radio. The song contains a recording of Hattie White (Jay-Z’s mother) speaking to a crowd at her 90th birthday, and she says “I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade”.

Thinking back there are a few other artists that have done this for me at different times, ladies like Tracy Chapman, Annie Lennox, Joan as Police Woman, and The Cranberries. The song The Ballard of Lucy Jordan by Marianne Faithfull is an important one to me. This music plays on my sensibility as a woman — how I want to live, who I want to be, and how I want to be treated.