Slow Botany

Well, I just love this little piece today by The Dabbler on Slow Botany.

As explained,

“Slow botany developed as a reaction against all those people who go galumphing about the countryside, across fields, through copses and spinneys and extensive forbidding woodland, or indeed through jungles teeming with exotica, and are forever shouting ‘Oh look! See the serried ranks of campion and bladderwort dotted among the bracken over yonder!’ …”

Yes, I have a tendency to do that, sometimes. Mainly in gardens, where I am more apt to know the plants by name. Mindful that “When we learn to call flowers by name, we take the first step toward a real intimacy with them.” (Mrs. William Starr Dana) So far, I don’t think “over yonder” has figured in my enthusiastic proclamations, but I may be conveniently forgetting.

On the other hand, the appeal of slow botany, “born of ignorance, indeed of an ignorance which can at times be fathomless,” is significant:

“Is it not far more rewarding to stumble about only dimly aware of the surrounding foliage, and then, if you see something arresting, to peer at it, agog, for hours upon hours, perhaps making a little pencil sketch of it on the back of your Nature Trail Map, and then, days or weeks later, to go to the library and consult a large and important illustrated reference guide to flora, trying your damnedest to match your memory and your pencil sketch with one of the umpteen pictures in the huge leatherbound volume, and thus to discover that what you looked at for so long with such interest and acuity was, for example, a marsh violet?”

This is me as well, more often in the woods, field, along a waterway, knowing I have seen that plant a hundred times, looked it up and identified it 10 times, and still cannot bring to mind its slippery name, either common or scientific.

So I take hundreds of photos on an outing, hoping to come back and once again identify (via Facebook group rather than large leatherbound volume) that elusive alder, aster, viburnum, or fungus. And the ferns … don’t get me started on the ferns.

But I do enjoy the moment of discovery, the peering and examining, as well as the attaching of a name to each flora, fauna, fern, and fungus over which I stumble.

Really, I have to agree with Elizabeth Lawrence, who captured perfectly the ambivalence of a desire both to identify and to maintain beginner’s-mind observation:

“I love being asked to identify plants, and I don’t know which gives me more pleasure: to know what they are or not to know what they are.”


(All the plants and fungi above are wondrously interesting and as yet unidentified by me.)

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