Life in a Sealed Jar
Photo by Jeff Sheldon / Unsplash
World + People, Nature

Life in a Sealed Jar

A Brief History of Terrariums
Joanna Dobkowska
time 5 minutes

Fancy growing a forest on your windowsill? All you need is a jar, some moss, and a fern. It only needs watering once. After that, you need never water it again.

Imagine a plant that thrives despite not having been watered in years. And it’s not some type of succulent, designed by nature to survive in arid climates. It’s a water-loving species, and yet it cannot reach groundwater here, not with a single root. It lives in a sealed glass jar with no access to fresh air. Yet still, it remains alive. And healthy.

It’s usually accompanied by other moisture-loving plants, creating a fashionable home decor accessory: a bottle garden, or a forest in a jar. The name is


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Chirping, Whistling and Tootling
Illustration by Daniel Mróz. From the “Przekrój” archive (Issue 441 from 1953)
Nature, World + People

Chirping, Whistling and Tootling

The Joys of Recognizing Birdsong
Olga Drenda

Just as some human languages are becoming extinct, so too the songs of various birds are dying out as they’re supplanted by other birds that are more aggressive and better adapted to life in urban spaces. Meanwhile, although identifying those songs is a tricky, time-consuming art, it can also become a wonderful, lifelong passion.

Kroo-lik, kroo-lik (which to a Polish ear sounds like the word for ‘rabbit’) – that’s the mysterious noise I heard one night, coming from outside my window, clearly loud enough to rouse me from my dreams. I grabbed the pencil and paper I’ve taught myself to keep on the bedside table in case of the need to jot down a sudden idea. As soon as I got up the next morning, I started investigating on the internet. I found nothing to tell me which bird says kroo-lik, so I decided to change my approach and to focus on listening to recordings of bird calls. One of them confirmed that what I had heard was a female tawny owl. If I were superstitious, I’d have been worried (“When the tawny owl shrieks, the devils rejoice” – that’s a saying cited by an ethnographic reference book called Śmierć w obrzędach, zwyczajach i wierzeniach ludu polskiego [Death in Polish Folk Rituals, Customs and Beliefs], which adds that in Germany they call this actually rather charming bird Totenvogel, meaning ‘bird of the dead’). But instead I started wondering about the noises made by various birds and how to write them down, because the field guides I consulted said that Mrs Tawny Owl doesn’t cry kroo-lik, but kyoo-vit.

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