By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
For spring and summer color and ease of care, add red valerian plants (also known as Jupiter’s beard) to the full sun herb garden or flower bed. Botanically called Centranthus ruber, Jupiter’s beard adds tall and bushy color in the landscape and is ideal as an easy-care background border plant.
Ceranthus Jupiter’s Beard Plant
The Jupiter’s beard plant reaches 3 feet (0.9 m.) in height, often the same in width, and displays profuse panicles of fragrant red flowers. Colors of white and pink are found in some cultivars of the wild red valerian plants. Native to the Mediterranean, the Jupiter’s beard has successfully transitioned to many areas of the United States and attracts butterflies and the all-important pollinators to the area in which it is planted.
Leaves and roots of growing Jupiter’s beard are edible and may be enjoyed in salads. As with all edible plants, avoid eating chemically treated specimens.
Growing Jupiter’s Beard
Jupiter’s beard plant can be propagated from cuttings in summer and often re-seeds the same year. Seeds of Centranthus Jupiter’s beard planted in early spring will flower the same year, in spring to early summer.
This plant flourishes in many types of soil, including poor soil, as long as it is well draining. Red valerian plants also enjoy a sunny location in the garden but will tolerate some partial shade as well.
Care of Red Valerian Plants/Jupiter’s Beard
The care of red valerian is minimal, making it an enjoyable specimen in the garden. Part of its care includes thinning seedlings to a manageable level, depending on how many more of the Jupiter’s beard plant you want in the flower bed. Deadhead flowers of growing Jupiter’s beard before seeds form to decrease re-seeding.
Care of red valerian includes clipping the plant back by one-third in late summer. After this renewal pruning, it is not necessary to prune the Jupiter’s beard plant again until spring. Other care of red valerian includes watering when the soil is extremely dry, but when rainfall is average, additional water is usually not necessary.
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Jupiters Beard Plant Care - Tipps zum Anbau und Pflege für Red Valerian
Von Becca Badgett
(Co-Autor von Wie man einen EMERGENCY Garden anbaut)
Für Frühjahr und Sommer Farbe und Pflegeleichtigkeit, fügen Sie rote Baldrian Pflanzen (auch bekannt als Jupiter Bart) auf die volle Sonne Kräutergarten oder Blumenbeet. Botanischer Name Centranthus ruber, Jupiters Bart trägt eine hohe und buschige Farbe in der Landschaft und ist ideal als pflegeleichte Hintergrundrandpflanze.
THE SCENT OF INTRUDERS
Last month and perhaps occasionally since, your nose might have picked up a scent drifting towards you, particularly as evening drew near but also at other times. The aroma I speak of is one of those scents that is difficult to describe and that actually seems to change from time to time and also according to whether one is right beside it or farther away. Sometimes it seems musky and very pleasant while at other times is not so welcome.
The scent may have been from the blossoms of the Cherry Laurel ( Prunus laurocerus ), a dense thicket-forming shrub that grows to small tree size with a strong thick trunk covered in a smooth dark grey bark. It is neither a cherry variant nor a laurel (or bay), which its leaves supposedly resemble, these being thick and dark green but poisonous (containing cyanide). The blossoms, white flowers clustered on upright spikes, produce blackish fruit in the Autumn about the size of cherries which are also poisonous to humans. Originally from South-West Asia, it was introduced into Irish gardens as a shrub or hedge plant (uses to which it is still put) but it has “escaped” and established itself in the wild.
Cherry Laurel bush with flowering spikes in early stage
The Cherry Laurel has become very successful and a resultant problem for bio-diversity in Ireland. A quick perusal of the on-line references do not reveal the reason for its success it tends to be grouped alongside another invasive species, the Rhododendron, which deposits a chemical in the ground surrounding it, thereby preventing other plant species competing with it for light, moisture and nutrients. Like the Cherry Laurel, the Rhododendron is a plant species invasive to Ireland. Of course, since Ireland was almost entirely covered in ice 20,000 years ago, nearly all of the plant life now naturalised on our island had to have been invasive species originally — including trees, bushes, flowers, grasses, ferns …
Cherry Laurel flowering spikes at late stage
Invasive species are not always harmful to the existing balance (or to humans) but clearly they have to have some means of competing with the existing flora (plant life) or they would have been unable to establish themselves. They may have better protection against herbivorous animals (undoubtedly the Cherry Laurel has at least that), or against insect or snail attack, or even against fungi (such as the ‘blight’ that attacked the potato a number of times in Ireland in the 1840s). Or they may be able to occupy a niche not well exploited so far, as one of the Buddleja species has done (literally, one might say), growing out of thin gaps in stone or brick walls or on waste ground, its racemes of mauve or purple flowers attracting butterflies and other insects for pollination and later scattering its seeds on the wind.
The Luftwaffe helped the spread of the plant in Britain s o common did this shrub become on waste ground after the Second World War that it earned the popular name of « Bombsite Plant ». The species in q uestion is Buddleja Davidii and according to The Online Atlas of British and Irish Flora , it was introduced into cultivation in the 1890s, quickly becoming very popular in gardens. By 1922 it was known to be naturalised in the wild in Merioneth and in Middlesex by 1927 it is shown as locally well established in S. England in the 1962 Atlas and “In recent decades it has spread rapidly throughout lowland Britain and, to a lesser extent, Ireland.” It is certainly ubiquitous in Dublin city and surrounds.
Buddleja Bush in bloom Buddleja davidii growing out of a wall
Buddleja (pronounced “budd-lee-ah) has about 100 species native to all continents except Europe and Australasia but a number of species and cross-breds are cultivated in European gardens, including the escapologist davidii. A lthough nearly all are shrubs gro w ing to at most 5m (16ft) tall, a few species qualify as trees, the largest reaching 30m (98ft). There are both evergreen and deciduous species, not that unusual among trees and shrubs, as appropriate in tropical and temperate regions respectively. Some of the South American species have evolved long red flowers to attract hummingbirds, rather than insects, as exclusive pollinators.
Peacock Butterfly on a Buddleja raceme
In Ireland, far from hummingbirds, davidii’s racemes of tiny purple or mauve flowers are a welcome sight as they flo wer in July , less so as the flowers, having done their work, die and turn brown (though repeated dead-heading can extend flo wering until September) . The flowers are scented but less so than those of the similar but not closely-related Common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) which, incidentally, is an aggressive coloniser in parts of Southern Europe and of the USA. The roots of davidii will do some damage to house walls and chimney stacks if allowed to become established, when pulling them out becomes impossible and the stump would need treating with an appropriate chemical. Checked early, it is easily controllable.
Another successful wall climber in Ireland is the Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber ), sometimes known as Jupiter’s Beard. Despite its common name, the flowers are often pink or even white and at times clumps of two or even all three colours may be seen growing alongside one another. This one likes the tops of walls rather than the sides and grows well on dry or stony soil too.
Its seeds are wind-driven too and from anecdotal evidence, it made particular use of the railway cuttings and lines to distribute itself throughout Ireland.
Red Valerian growing on top of a wall
Despite its name, it is not closely related to the true Valerian (Valeriana officinalis ), and no medicinal properties have been discovered in Centranthus . The leaves and the root may be eaten but there seems to be no great lobby recommending it as food. Its scent is rather rank to the human nose.
The three colour variations of Ceranthus Ruber growing closely together on rocky ground
How to Plant and Grow Jupiter's Beard
Plant Jupiter's Beard Seeds: Sow seed in cell packs or flats, press into soil and lightly cover. Kept at 65°F., germination is in 14-21 days Can direct sow into prepared seed beds, in groups of 3-4 seeds, spaced 1.5-2 ft. apart. Thin to the strongest plant.
Grow Jupiter's Beard: Sun, part sun, or light shade. Adaptable, easy care plants can be grown with drought tolerant plants or with plants which prefer moist soil. Growth is more upright and compact in sun. In shade flowers appear brighter and habit is more lax. Jupiter's Beard tolerates salt and wind it is an ideal perennial flower for coastal landscapes. Plants are rabbit and deer resistant, nearly pest free. Blooms attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and hummingbird hawk moths - and are excellent cut flowers.
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the expressed written consent of Swallowtail Garden Seeds.
THE SCREAM ON A DECEMBER NIGHT
A high-pitched but hoarse scream cuts through the night. Again and again it is heard, then is silent. A frightening sound, perhaps of a person being attacked …. But no, it is a vixen, a female red fox ( Vulpes vulpes ) . Why is she screaming? Is she in pain? Not exactly — she is inform ing dog-foxes in the area that she is ready to mate and where they can find her.
But this is December and, according to Internet site after site dealing with foxes in Britain and in Ireland, she is at least a month early 1 . Perhaps she is a rare exception, this vixen in the Drumcondra area but it seem s to me more likely that the sites have it wrong: either urban foxes breed earlier or the breeding pattern of foxes is changing. Actually, a combination of both is likely.
A vixen breed ing in January would give birth to her cubs just over 50 days later , when in rural areas the earth is warming up in the Spring and when lambs are born, hares are boxing, eggs are being laid, greens are growing and being eaten by rabbits – in other words, food is becoming available for the vixen. Obviously vixens breeding in February or March will have yet more food available in April or May but may also find greater competition, in food and for a mate .
Say this rural vixen conceived on 1 st January, then she would give birth on or around 2 2 nd February. She will need feeding just before that and probably up to 24 th March , a task falling to the dog fox and to unmated young females who may be part of the community. The cubs need the warmth of the mother’s body for up to three weeks after birth and she cannot leave the den . One month after giving birth the mother vixen may go hunting while the “aunts” look after the cubs, who are now venturing out of the den or “earth” (but staying very close to it).
The food brought to the young is carried inside the hunters’ bellies and regurgitated for the young to consume along with the ir mother’s milk which they will suckle until six weeks of age. After weaning, the cubs will eat solid food but cannot yet hunt for it themselves until perhaps mid-late Summer and, if males, will leave to establish their own territories in the Autumn. 2 Males become sexually mature at one year of age.
A vixen breeding in December in an Irish rural area might have difficulty receiving enough sustenance in January or even early February, especially in decades past when winters were usually harder. However, with changing seasonal weather patterns tending to warmer winters – and in urban areas where a lot of food tends to be available for scavenging all year round – these problems are substantially reduced and so breeding in December should present little difficulties. So the thinking goes among the vixens in Drumcondra, anyway and, I suspect, in many other Irish and British urban areas.
The male or ‘dog’ fox can be heard sometimes too in a staccato bark, normally three (but occasionally four) rapid barks: bak, bak, bak!
THE URBAN FOX
The urban fox is a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland 3 , as far as we know, although in Bristol, for example, they have been recorded since the 1930s. Up to fairly recently, a number of experts maintained that the fox populations of city and countryside had little contact with one another. But in January 2014 “it was reported that “Fleet”, a relatively tame urban fox tracked as part of a wider study by the University of Brighton in partnership with the BBC’s Winterwatch , had travelled 195 miles in 21 days from his neighbourhood in Hove, at the western edge of East Sussex, across rural countryside as far as Rye, at the eastern edge of the county. He was still continuing his journey when the GPS collar stopped transmitting, due to suspected water damage.” 4
And the Country Foxes
Decades before I heard of this I often fancifully imagine d a conversation between a fox, now settled in the “big city”, and his country relations when he returned on a visit. After the initial customary welcoming, sniffing, licking etc are over, the conversation might go like this:
“ So, Darkie, tell us, what is life like in the big city?”
“ Ah, it was scary at first, with cars and buses and lorries going all day. You wouldn’t believe the noise.”
( S ympathetic whine from the audience).
“ But I’m used to it now, Redthree, I have to say. And the food! You could not imagine!”
“ Lovely, Whitepatch, absolutely delicious.”
(Sounds of salivating all around).
“ Chicken, beef, lamb, fish, potatoes, bread, rice, vegetables, fruit – just left out there to be eaten!”
“ Ah, you’re havin’ us on, Darkie. We might be “Culchies” but we’re not stupid! You expect us to believe the humans feed you like they do their dogs, do you?”
“ No, of course not, Greymuzzle. Well, actually a few do leave out food on purpose for us but no, this is mostly food that humans are throwing away. We find it in plastic bags and metal containers.”
“ They do and huge amounts of it too. Then big lorries come and take away what we have not eaten ourselves.”
“ Where do they take it?”
“ I am not sure. I’ve never troubled to find out because, to be honest, I have all the food I need nearby.”
(Silence while country foxes imagine a huge mountain of food somewhere).
“ Er …. Darkie, s o you never hunt now?”
“ Oh, yes, some – the city rats and mice eat the discarded food too and they grow plump and big. Yes, I catch and eat them too.”
“ Well now, what about all the humans?”
“ What about them, Lighteyes? They don’t bother us.”
“ Don’t the humans have guns in the city?”
“ Some of them do, Lighteyes. But they don’t shoot foxes with them.”
“ Really? What do they shoot with their guns then?”
“ Other humans, Lighteyes, just other humans.”
(Noises of amazement and disbelief)
THE INNER CITY FOX
The Internet sites all agree that foxes are more likely in suburbia than in the inner city but I think they ignore some important features of the inner city wh ich foxes can frequent in relative safety and around which they are likely to find sufficient food: railroad lines and their banks, canal and river banks, parks, allotments, cemeteries and derelict sites. One can’t get much closer to Dublin’s inner city than Parnell Square, yet I have seen foxes in a laneway off there and also squeezing through the railings to enter the Garden of Remembrance. They have been photographed near the Irish Parliament, the Dáil (though some people might say that’s less surprising with the number of scavengers nearby : – ). I’d be surprised if they are not to be found along the banks of the Dodder, the Liffey, the Tolka and both canals, also along the railway lines and in Glasnevin and other cemeteries.
Fox in Leinster House (Irish Parliament building) car park in the winter of 2013 (Source: Sasko Lazarov via Photocall Ireland, reproduced in Journal.ie)
According to one Internet site 5 , the urban fox population in Dublin may be growing too big for its own health, as the ready availability of food allows unhealthy individuals to exist, diseased and covered in mange infestation (mites that denude patches of fur). I would need to explore this argument before I could accept it.
I am familiar with the overpopulation argument in the case of grazing animals or rodents, where too many individuals consume the available resources and the whole population suffers – a fate usually occurring when natural predators are not present to thin out the weaker individuals and thereby unconsciously preserve the general population in a healthier state.
But how would this work with regard to Dublin foxes? It seems unlikely that the food available is being reduced yet and if and when it is, one presumes healthier foxes will outcompete their sicker species members. Also, sick and undernourished foxes are less likely to come into oestrous and should they do so and conceive, to be able to raise their young. It seems to me most likely that what is occurring is that foxes that would normally have been winnowed out in the struggle of survival are now able to sustain themselves, which might be distressing to see but which will not necessarily have any effect on the healthy population. 6 And will healthy individuals necessarily succumb to mange infection from infested individuals? And if they do now, might they not in time learn to chase infected individuals away?
Theories of overpopulation and scare stories about foxes attacking babies, cats and so on seem prompted by the intention to cull foxes, as Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, proposed. Johnson seems unwilling to learn from history, as “there was a large and expensive effort to reduce the number of urban foxes across the UK in the 1970s, but the population subsequently bounced right back.” 7 The average litter now may be four cubs but vixens have been known to bear up to a dozen and with a low population-to-high-food-sources ratio, are likely to bear a greater number of cubs. A nd a recent National Health Service survey in the UK indicated that nearly 60% of all stings and bites admitted to emergency rooms were inflicted by dogs 8 but anyone suggesting a cull of urban dogs would probably find a gathering bearing pitchfork s and burning torches outside their home .
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, was proposing a cull of London foxes (source photo: Internet)
There have been claims that foxes kill and eat lambs, cats, other domestic pets and poultry. Most experts have concluded that if indeed a fox killed a lamb, such incidents are very rare. A ewe is capable of protecting a lamb from a fox, an animal not much larger than a cat. However, foxes have been found to eat the afterbirths of lambs and would of course eat a stillborn lamb or one that died soon after birth, after which its mother would leave and the opportunist would move in such incidents may have convinced some people in rural areas that the fox was the cause of the lamb’s death.
The Foxwatch study program in Bristol city filmed a number of confrontations between urban foxes and cats and found that in all cases, it was the fox that backed down. This makes sense, for a predator does not usually take on another predator of similar size except in defence of its young, its own life or, at times, its kill.
Yes of course foxes will kill poultry if they can get at them and are often accused in such situations of going on a killing spree. Foxes do kill and gather more food than they need at times and, like many other animals, hide it for recovery later, marking the spot with their scent . But when a fox breaks into a poultry pen and kills its inhabitants, it usually has to leave with what it can carry and will not be permitted to return for the rest. The answer for humans is to build secure pens into which to bring the poultry at night – and that applies also to rabbits kept as pets or for the table, etc. — or keep a dog outside, unleashed.
Scare stories and unscientific suggestions to one side, wild animal populations living alongside humans frequently do need management. All species of bats are protected in Ireland and Britain and should you find them in your attic you are not permitted to remove them but must instead notify the appropriate authorities. Some people have suggested that the red fox should be granted protected species status but it is difficult to see the rationale for this, since it is on the species of “least concern” list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Pigeons receive no protection and, though often fed by people who consider them cute or pretty, do have a negative effect on our urban environment and, in the case of seagulls, who are protected, may be responsible for the disappearance of the many species of ducks that once were common in Stephens’ Green. Rats and mice are not deliberately fed or considered cute by most people (though I have kept both myself and found the individuals tame and harmless and, in the case of rats, quite intelligent) and humanity wages war upon them with traps and poison.
Do urban foxes require management? Zoologist Dave Wall 9 , who has studied Dublin’s urban foxes for some years, thinks not. In his opinion, the fox population in Dublin has remained constant since the 1980s. According to statistics regularly quoted but never referenced that I can find, Dublin fox families occupy on average 1.04 Km ². 10 Given a rough and probably low estimate of six individuals per fox family (a mated pair and two unmated females and two cubs) and a Dublin City area of 115 km² would give us a fox population of 663 in the city. That might seem a lot, until one hears that London holds an estimate d 10,000.
Given statistics of that sort, and information that the average litter is of four cubs, one may wonder why most urban dwellers see them but rarely and also why urban foxes are not a massively growing population. The re are a number of controlling influences, ranging from the need to establish territory and fight to hold it, which may cost in injuries or even death , to deaths by traffic, the most common cause of fox death according to Internet sites (although how often do we see a dead fox on the road?). A common non-captive life-span of from two to four years and a fertility “window” of only three days for a vixen would be population-controlling factors and yet the allegedly stable population is puzzling, to me at least.
The rural fox tends to inhabit, widening when necessary, burrows already excavated by rabbits and badgers. In urban areas, the fox may have to excavate its own – under buildings and sheds and into railroad banks, for example – but will also use and expand other holes and gaps .
Many urban human dwellers, probably most, never see urban foxes, although they are becoming increasingly visible. They are active mostly at dusk and shortly before dawn and are mostly likely to be seen by people who rise very early for work, or who work at night or who are returning from late night socialising on foot, by bicycle or on foot.
In the Lewisham area of South-East London where I lived for some decades, I regularly saw them on the roads while cycling home from a late music session or a friend’s house. Lewisham would be considered midway between being city and suburban in nature and contained parks, cemeteries, allotments, streams or rivers and railway lines, houses with gardens but also high-rise blocks of local authority housing and very busy roads. I once passed about three yards near to an adult fox on the housing estate I lived on for awhile between Grove Park and Eltham (also in SE London). On my allotment in Catford, if I worked until dusk (which I did often enough when I managed to find the time), they would come out and play and dig for food less than ten yards away from me. And I frequently found trainers (running shoes) and balls they had taken from outside local houses and gardens, discarded on my allotment.
A number of theories have been forwarded for the penetration of urban areas by the fox, including the shameful wiping out of rabbit populations by state-inflicted plagues of myxomatosis but the real reasons are probably the same as those of the pigeon, rat and mouse – availability of food and home provided by humans and the adaptability of the species themselves.
THE MOST WIDESPREAD CARNIVORE ON EARTH
Indeed, the red fox has proved an adaptable animal – much like ourselves. She is an omnivore, as are we and can take her prey from animals as large as a goose to those as small as beetles or earthworms, also frequently eating wild fruit, especially in the Autumn . Studies i n the former Soviet Union found that up to 300 animal and a few dozen plant species were known to be consumed by her 11 . Mice and rats are frequently on her menu and her ancestors are thought to have developed as specialist rodent hunter s in Eurasia five million years ago but her kind is now the most widespread carnivore on Earth, with 46 recognised subspecies .
The fox has binocular vision which is particularly effective at night, excellent hearing over distance, including the ability to detect the squeaking of mice at about 100 metres (330 ft) and capable of locating sounds to within one degree at 700–3,000 Hz, though less accurately at higher frequencies 12 , compensated for by an ability to hear at very low frequencies, including a rustle in grass or leaves and the burrowing of rodents underground. It has evolved many tactics for hunting, including tracking, ambush, stalking, leaping, pouncing and digging.
The fox can also run at a speed of 42 km/ hour, climb some trees, leap high and swim well. Considering the latter, its absence from many islands near to mainlands may come as a surprise but I think that is easy to explain through eradication by human agency.
The red fox is to be found everywhere in Europe (where she is thought to have reached 400,000 years ago) and in North America, Canada, China, Japan and Indochina. Sadly, in the mid-19 th Century her species was introduced to Australia by European settlers ( at first for sport and later p erhaps to control the rabbit, also introduced there by Europeans), where a population of 7 .2 million red foxes now is wreaking damage among rarer indigenous wildlife and is considered responsible for the extinction of a number of species . It is classified as the most harmful invasive species in Australia and eradication and population control measures are adopted against it there, as are a lso against feral domestic cats and dogs, also imported by Europeans.
The dingo is regarded as a controlling agent on red fox population growth in Australia though not total ly effective due to the fox’s habit of burrowing this is interesting for a number of reasons: firstly, the dingo (Canis lupus dingo) is itself a wild dog most likely imported from Asia by Aborigine settlers somewhere between 4,500 and 10,000 years ago and secondly, the red fox in Ireland and Britain does not tend to excavate its own burrows but rather to enlarge existing ones and then generally only for mating and rearing cubs . The Red Fox is currently absent from Iceland, Greenland, South America and sub-Saharan Africa.
The fox has been hunted by humans primarily for its fur, especially in winter when it is thicker and from foxes in the far north its silkiness is considered very valuable .
Reynard ( one of the names traditionally given to the fox ) has also been hunted for sport, usually by the aristocracy or country gentry, on horseback with hounds, an activity which gave rise to one of Oscar Wilde’s many memorable phrases: “ The English country gentleman galloping after a fox – the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible.” Of course, it was not on ly the English who did this but also the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy (from which Wilde’s father himself came) and the upwardly-climbing Irish who aped them, ag sodar i ndiaidh na nuaisle. 13 There have been numerous attempts to get fox-hunting banned and direct action such as protests and sabotage of hunts but it is still legal in Ireland and in Britain, though substantially reduced from a century ago.
Gamekeepers have also hunted the fox in order to keep it from killing ground-nesting birds such as wild pheasants, grouse and partridge, so that the landowner and his friends could shoot these birds down later 14 . Finally, the farmer has taken his toll, sending specially-bred dogs such as cairn terriers down earths to kill a hiding fox and in particular the cubs. The farmer wishes to protect his poultry but avoid the cost of building secure pens and so hu nts foxes down he could let his dogs roam his poultry area which would keep foxes away but dogs do often go chasing sheep too, which will also represent a loss to the farmer, either because the sheep are his or because his neighbours will claim compensation from him.
AN MAIDRÍN RUA and tradition
In Ireland, the fox was known as Sionnach, Madagh Rua (“red dog”) or Maidrín Rua (“little red dog”) and has given its name to a number of places, eg Cnoc an tSionnaigh ( Fox Hill, Co. Mayo another as a street name in Co. Laois) Oileán an tSionnaigh ( Fox Island, Co. Galway ) Carraig an tSionnaigh ( Foxrock, Co. Dublin ) possibly Léim an Mhadaigh , ( Limavady, Co. Derry ) and Lag an Mhadaigh ( Legamaddy, Co. Down ) possibly Ráth Sionnaigh (Rashenny, Co. Donegal), etc. 15
Fox is also a family name and the Irish language version of it is Mac an tSionnaigh (literally “Fox’s son”). The Maidrín Rua or Sionnach features in a number of songs in Irish and in English and here is one from the Irish language tradition of song but in a non-traditional choral arrangement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bJyqbPxTwU.
Widely represented in folklore from China to Ireland, the fox is also mentioned in the Old Testament Bible and in Greek stories such as the fables of Aesop as well as among the Indigenous people of the Northern Americas. He is never stupid but his intelligence or cunning is also often portrayed as devious, tricky and even malicious. On the other hand, let us not forget that the anti-feudal Mexican hero created by USA writer Johnston McCulley (February 2, 1883 – November 23, 1958), who fights for the downtrodden and indigenous people and mocks the Mexican aristocracy and large landowners, always escaping them, used the nom-de-guerre of “El Zorro”, the fox .
There is a sexual connection too in the representation for the fox : for example in English a “foxy lady” is one with a high level of sexual attraction and in Castillian (Spanish) a “zorra” (vixen) is a pejorative term for a woman trading in sexual favours or “of low morals” 16 . Have we come around in a circle to where we began, to the vixen’s scream? I think so, but loaded now with a patriarchal outlook . Men can openly want and enjoy sex, of course, that is natural – but a woman? Surely not … or, if she does, she must be bad!