Monday, June 16, 2008
Name That Plant
At Purlieu, I went back and forth between the forest and my stack of guide books. We made a last minute stop at the big library on our way out of town, which cost us a parking ticket. It was worth it. I got a stack of field guides. They were invaluable in helping me learn more about our land and its inhabitants. I was amazed how many times I had to recheck my theory on a plant I'd found before I could correctly identify it.
None of these are uncommon plants at all, and I think of myself as pretty well-versed in the local forest for a city girl. This just shows how out of touch I am with the world around me; I've been coming to this land since I was a kid, and never noticed these plants, which are abundant on our land, until this trip. I had no idea what they were.
Looking them up was a fun little puzzle to solve, counting petals and looking in different sections of the books, smelling and tasting parts of the plant until I had found out who it was.
It's fascinating, learning not only the name, but how each little one works, how it spreads, what people have used and enjoyed them for.
Gibbie got so used to me dropping to the ground in amazement that he would spontaneously do it too--"look at this!" he would say, "it's a cerota." Nodding seriously, "It makes water in it's leaves." I love that he does this. He's thinking about how we interpret nature, and joining right in. Soon enough knowledge and experiences with the plants will catch up with desire to participate. I'll bet to him a lot of what I say sounds just crazy, and often he can't see a thing that's being pointed out to him, like the wild turkeys out the car window, or the skunk he just missed when walking with Papa in the garden.
What I really love is that this little person of but three years has already learned so much. Many different plants he can identify in various seasons, though they look quite different, and he has a lot of favorite little flowers and leaves he can find to nibble on.
Or, pointing out into the forest, "Did you see that? It's a deercat. Right there, in that tree." He also spotted the rare leafcat. "It eats leaves."
Notes on the plants: the two photos of the pink and white ones are not of the same flowers. The flower in the first photo, seems to grow just one flower each, and the stems and low leaves are remarkably soft, covered in downy fur. The second photo features similar flowers, but as you can see, there is a small cluster of them, and a pair of leaves with parallel veins.
The top flowers, the white and purple ones, do very well if transplanted into a garden, where in the loose, fertile soil they grow to giant versions of their forest selves.
The fourth photo, with the white-veined leaves, the leaves are rather thick, almost leathery. The last picture the drying up berries, are growing on a short, pretty tree. These also grow in the city. I guess the birds don't like them much, since they still have lots of berries now in the spring. I have so much to learn!