Friday, August 26, 2011

Recommended reading: Oaxaca Journal by Oliver Sacks

In pursuit of ferns, Sacks and friends travel to Oaxaca, Mexico -- a hot spot for pteridophytes, with at least 690 species.  His journal is entertaining and thought-provoking.  Sacks describes the ferns and the fern-seekers themselves, an interesting bunch as one would expect.  He speculates about the societies of the Zapotecs and Aztecs, and the important plants:  corn and beans, tobacco, cacao, and plant-derived hallucinogens that may explain some rock art (Sacks the neurologist hints at the possibility of escaping the confines of our mental constructs).  Fern-lovers, pre-Colombian Indians and Sacks himself are the the subjects of his continuing exploration of life -- looking for "the relationships and activities, the practices and skills, the beliefs and goals, the ideas and dreams, that make for a full human life."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

the lovely Joe-Pye Weed

Weeks of mapping and classifying vegetation are making me nuts.  Not that the plant association of concern is uncooperative, the Black Hills Montane Grassland is the most distinctive and consistent association I have dealt with -- same species in the same habitat, day after day after day.  But we can’t leave it at that, we have to make it challenging, so we’re assessing the ecological integrity of each stand.  how many invasives, exotics, increasers ... A, B, C or D?  will this stand be here forever or is its future severely compromised?  how can we know?????!!!!  Seeking relief for my scrambled mind I turn to ...
Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum)
It’s not a mental construct but an actual plant, and a beautiful one at that.
The pollinators love it!  must be full of tasty nectar.
I like it too.
The first time I saw Joe Pye in a wet meadow in the high Black Hills,
I was impressed as much by the leaves as the flower heads.
 So who was Joe Pye?  I asked Dave -- friend, colleague and number-one information source on South Dakota plants.  He didn’t know, so I turned to source number two, the Web.  The common explanation is that Joe Pye was an Indian healer in New England.  Some accounts say he used eupatorium to treat a range of conditions, while others describe him as a specialist at treating typhoid fever.  One version suggests corruption of the Indian word for typhoid:  “jopi”.  There probably are others, but I stopped after Google page 3.

Thanks Joe-Pye Weed so nice to meet up with you after weeks of pursuing Castles in the Air.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

geeks in the field

It's impossible to blog from the field, not during peak field frenzy anyway.  But have a look at these geeks ... we make an effort to have fun, even when conditions aren't so good.