January 25, 2016 by Andrew W M Smith
When Robert Burns satirically eulogised a flea in a ladies bonnet, he intended it as a play upon the juxtaposition of wealth and disgust, setting the piece in the pews of a church. Years after Burns wrote the poem in 1785, another louse was to have a much wider ranging effect on the wealth of Europe. The pest Phylloxera Vastatrix travelled across from America to wreak havoc in an unprepared Europe, whose unresistant vines were a playground for the voracious parasite from 1863 onwards. Phylloxera was no looker, and Burns can certainly be cited in condemnation of the “ugly creepin blastit wonner”.
Image source: Cartoon from Punch, 6 September, 1890 (Public Domain)
Exactly how the pest made its way across the Atlantic is a subject of some debate. Some blame the amateur plant trade, with British collectors having run a successful trade in the collection of rare plants since at least…
View original post 779 more words