Odds and Ends

Where’s the detail?

Why so limited?

There are a lot (a really really lot) more that you could say about these plants. I could describe their flowers, fruit, reproductive cycles, even chromosome count among a million more details. I intentionally try to distill the information available on the plants I identify to things that are persistent, observable, easy to understand, local, and relevant.

Persistent – If leaves are present on the plant for more of the year than flowers, then I’ll see if I can find a way to use the leaves for ID.

Observable – that is, things we can see in the field. I can’t count a chromosome, or see the shape of a spore in the field, so that’s not useful to me.

Easy to understand – I read the keys. I really do. And when I read them, I often have to Google every 5th word, because we don’t use the term ‘pruinose’ in everyday language. And even when I know what it means, I can’t tell you the difference between ‘pruinose’ and ‘glaucous’ is (and the interweb can’t either – at least not at first glance). So, if I use botanical language, I try to define my terms in-situ so that you don’t need Google to understand. (And I only use it if there’s not a short way of getting the point across without it.) I know that it make me less precise – sorry!

Local – It’s not in my scope to tell the difference between 1,000 species in a genus. But if only 8 of them are present in California, and 4 of those are rare, then I can get my head around a mini key of the 4 you’re most likely to encounter.

Relevant – Ok, I often miss this one because I nerd out, but my goal is to be able to limit my IDs to the highest relevant taxon. What’s relevant to me? I look at uses (edibility and bushcraft) and status (native, non-native, invasive). If I am going to forage or use a plant for crafting, I’ll do my best to harvest ethically. Among other things, this means choosing invasive species first, non-natives next, and natives last – and only if the population size is healthy.

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