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Showing posts from July, 2009

A Sabatia Induced Rant

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In Richard Manning’s book “Grassland”, he wrote the following:

I once heard a story of a man who had perfect recall, so he could never carry on a conversation. He had to live in isolation because the merest stimulus, the merest sentence from outside his own head would recall everything. All the information in his head would come tumbling forth in a great rush, and he would be crushed by the pain of seeing.
I imagine that must be what it is like sometimes to be a botanist. I have been afield with many of them, and they are different, almost invariably quiet, distant. Undeniably, they see something different from what I see, as if the knowledge of the plants lifts a veil. The whole of it is there in the plants to be read, the full soul of a place, its life and the abuses of its life, the creation’s intentions and the manifest violation of those intentions. Botanists are our shamans.


While this is clearly a romantic notion, there is some truth to it. Most botanists I know often reminisce ab…

Argyrochosma dealbata

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While running transects across the grassy ledges and shelves of Hercules Glades Wilderness in Taney County Missouri, I paused to wipe the accumulation of sweat and juniper needles from my brow. As my heart rate approached conditionally normal, given the heat, my eyes focused on a tiny patch of bluish vegetation clinging to the otherwise salt and pepper fa├žade of the sun and lichen aged limestone rock; the jutting and ever dissolving bones of the Ozarks. I leaned in.

Puzzled, I looked around the ledge and discovered eight more small clumps of this little fern. I am accustomed to seen Cheilanthes feei on such rocks in such habitat, but this was strikingly different. In fact, Chelanthes feei was growing on the same ledge some 24 inches away and made for apt comparison. Hot blood squeezed through my brain and I was surprised when the name Notholaena dealbata surfaced; a fern I had only seen on glades along the Blue River in Kansas City. A quick cruise through several cold blooded refer…

Silphium asteriscus

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I truly enjoy the genus Silphium. It has an exciting yet strangely cohesive range of morphological variation. From humble colonies of S. integrifolium to the stoic and lofty stems of S. laciniatum, from the cool, rough texture of S. terebinthinaceum to the dense flocculence of S. mohrii (see below), they never fail to please.

Here is a veiny crowd pleaser; the leaf of Silphium compositum from northern Alabama.

In the Ozarks Highlands of Missouri, I annually anticipate the lemony blooms of S. asteriscus that begin dazzling the understory of our acid upland woodlands soon after the summer solstice.

Silphium asteriscus (Starry Rosinweed, if you must) occurs throughout the southern United States in acidic woodlands. When young, it produces a basal rosette of ovate to lanceolate leaves. When it bolts to flower, the leaves are alternate along the stem, as opposed to S. integrifolium which is opposite leaved (and which never produces a basal rosette).

In spite of the dramatic range in morph…