Any small area of undefined shape may be called a patch, as in an area of floating pieces of ice, joining and overlapping one another. Patch can also refer to a collection of drift or bay ice where no single piece of ice is more than fifty yards across. A mountlike reef that is part of a larger complex is a patch reef. As a landscape ecology term, patch refers to a relatively uniform or concentrated area, such as a briar patch or weed patch or, agriculturally, a bean patch. A concentration of oil and gas wells is an oil patch. Patch cutting refers to the practice of clearing trees in an area in staggered blocks, the uncut blocks acting as a source of seeds for the clear-cut blocks, and the clearcuts providing fire protection for the uncut patches. In “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” Walt Whitman interprets the patch emotionally when he writes, “It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall.”

Arthur Sze