Saturday Quiz – The Poetry of Plants

Some frosty fennel

Special thanks to my friend A this week for the loan of her book ‘Flora Poetica’, edited by Sarah Maguire. Let me know when you want it back šŸ™‚

Dear Readers, I feel that we are lacking poetry in our lives, so now is the moment to see if you can identify what plant each of these poems is going on about. Bonus points for the author! And if you have a favourite plant poem, let me know. No extra points, but it’s nice to share….

As usual, answers in the comments by 5 p.m. UK time on Thursday 14th January please if you want to be marked. The answers will appear on Friday 15th.

Match the plants to the poems: so, if you think poem 1 is about autumn crocuses, your answer is 1) A). As usual, I will hide the answers that appear in the comments when I see them, but if you don’t want to be influenced by speedy people, write your answers down first.


The plants are:

A) Autumn crocus

B) Daisy

C) Daffodil

D) Saguaro (Gian) Cactus

E) Cuckoo-pint/Lords and Ladies

F) Gorse/Whin

G) Yarrow

H) Ivy

I) Thistle

J) Himalayan Balsam

  1. Continuous as the stars that shine
    And twinkle on the milky way,
    They stretched in never ending line
    Along the margin of the bay:
    Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
    Tossing their heads in sprightly dance‘.

2. A brown matchstick held up in the wind,Ā 
The bract-leaf cupped around it like a palm

March had not extinguished it: there it lurked,
sly as something done behind the sheds,

slithering from its half-unrolled umbrella
as we snipped pussy-willow in the lanes.Ā 

3.But bloom of ruins, thou art dear to me,
When, far from danger’s way, thy gloomy pride
Wreathes picturesque around some ancient tree
That bows his branches by some fountain-side:
Then sweet it is from summer suns to be,
With thy green darkness overshadowing me.Ā 

4. Orchid-lipped, loose-jointed, purplish, indolent flowers
with a ripe smell of peaches, like a girl’s breath through lipstick,Ā 
delicate and coarse in the weedlap of late summer rivers,
dishevelled, weak-stemmed, common as brambles….Ā 

5. I had no idea the elf owl
Crept into you in the secret
Of night.

I have torn myself out of many bitter places
In America that seemedĀ 
Tall and green-rooted in mid-noon.
I wish I were the spare shadow of the roadrunner, I wish I were
The honest lover of the diamondbackĀ 
And the tear the tarantula weeps.

I had no idea you were so tallĀ 
And blond in moonlight.Ā 

6. Anomalous bright blossomĀ 
in late afternoon shadow

Mercury-pale stemsĀ 
surging out of the dark
earth: Halloween candles.

Mauve flowers with amber
yellow pollen-swollen anthers.

Each clump is borderedĀ 
by a halo of rottingĀ 
petals like votive objects
around a damaged IkonĀ 
or a martyr’s statue.

7. Dweller in pastoral spots, life gladly learns
That nature never mars her aim to please;
Thy dark leaves, like to clumps of little ferns,
Imbue my walk with feelings such as these;
O’ertopt with swarms of flowers that charms the sight,
Some blushing into pink and others white,
On meadow banks, roadsides, and on the leas
Of rough, neglected pastures, I delight
More even than in gardens thus to stray
Amid such scenes and mark thy hardy blooms
Peering into autumn’s mellowing day;
The mower’s scythe swept summer blooms away
Where thou, defying dreariness, wilt come
Bidding the loneliest russet paths be gay.

8. Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flow’r
Thou’s met me in an evil hour;
For I maun crush amang the stoure
They slender stem:
To spare thee now is past my pow’r
Thou bonie gem.Ā 

9. Against the rubber tongues of cows and the hoeing hands of men
xxxxxxx spike the summer air
Or crackle open under a blue-black pressure.

Each one a revengeful burstĀ 
Of resurrection, a grasped fistfulĀ 
Of splintered weapons and Icelandic frost thrust up

From the underground stain of a decayed Viking.
They are like pale hair and the gutturals of dialects.Ā 
Every one manages a plume of blood.

Then they grow grey, like men.
Mown down, it is a feud. Their sons appear,
Stiff with weapons, fighting back over the same ground.Ā 

10. All year round the xxxxx
Can show a blossom or two
But it’s in full bloom now.
As if the small yolk stain

From all the birds’ eggs in
All the nests of the spring
Were spiked and hung
Everywhere on bushes to ripen.

Hills oxidise gold.
Above the smoulder of green shoot
And dross of dead thorns underfoot
The blossoms scald.

Put a match underĀ 
xxxxx, they go up of a sudden.
They make no flame in the sunĀ 
But a fierce heat tremor

Yet incineration like thatĀ 
Only takes the thorn.Ā 
The tough sticks don’t burn,
Remain like bone, charred horn.

Gilt, jaggy, springy, frilled
This stunted, dry richness
Persists on hills, near stone ditches,
Over flintbed and battlefield.Ā 

11 thoughts on “Saturday Quiz – The Poetry of Plants

  1. Fran & Bobby Freelove

    1, C, William Wordsworth
    2, E
    3, H, John Clare
    4, J, Anne Stevenson
    5, D, James Wright
    6, A,
    7, G
    8, B, Robert Burns
    9, I, Ted Hughes
    10, F

    We’ve given it our best shot but sorry don’t know all the poets.

  2. Anne

    1C = William Wordsworth
    2E = Blake Morrison
    3H = John Clare
    4J = Anne Stevenson
    5D = James Wright
    6A = Ruth Fainlight
    7G = John Clare
    8B = Robert Burns
    9I = Ted Hughes
    10F = Seamus Heaney
    This one is up my alley and reading through these poems – some new to me – has been a pleasure!

  3. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    This is DEFINITELY not my subject, but I thought I’d ‘have a go’ and answer before I forget (again)… 1C, 2E, 3H, 4J, 5D, 6A, 7G, 8I, 9F, 10B (If I get 5 right I’ll be surprised!) šŸ¤žšŸ¤ž

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      I have, Mal, but I must find a way to let people know so that they don’t end up doing the whole thing again :-(. Just about to ‘unapprove’ your second one šŸ™‚

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      :-). Not sure if this is the best way of dealing with it or not! Maybe I should comment on the post to let the person know and then hide it šŸ™‚


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