Sunday, September 6, 2015

Do we need a field guide to field guides?

Yesterday's posting was updated this morning to change the "red oak" identification to northern pin oak. I was troubled by the "sharpness" of the actual leaves compared to the field guide photos of red oak leaves, so I spent more time looking through the USDA-FS field guide and then I reviewed our copy of Welby Smith's Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota, which complicated matters by noting that in central Minnesota, hybrids of northern red and pin oaks are relatively common (so the newly identified pin oak may actually be a hybrid). It wasn't until I looked through Minnesota DNR's Key plants appearing in the Field Guides to Native Plant Communities: Forests & Woodlands that I found these key pieces of information: "Northern pin oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis), Acorn usually striped." ; and "Northern red oak (Quercus rubra), Acorn usually not striped." The I looked at some other photos from yesterday (it's been pouring buckets off and on this morning so I didn't step into the rain to look at the actual acorns) and saw striped acorns. The light bulb went on. If I were a field guide editor (lord help us all) I'd want to make key distinctions between or among similar species more common and much more prominent. I'm also wondering why nature thinks the world needs more than 600 species of oak trees.

northern pin oak striped acorns
northern pin oak striped acorns
Photo by J. Harrington


A Change of Wind

By Katia Kapovich 

On the eighth day he coined the word “alone”
and saw that it was as good as everything else.
A yellow school bus rattled down the lane,
a wind blew in a drainpipe, strong, mellifluous.

I brought two empty crates to the parking lot,
watched neighbors with briefcases and car keys.
At noon a mailman passed by where I sat
invisible, like a tree among trees.

Why, why, I asked. I wanted to know why,
but only scared a squirrel that dropped his acorn
when my voice broke silence unexpectedly—
a white noise in a wireless telephone.

My club soda went flat in the bottle. With a spit
of rain, a wind blew again from the lake.
I raised my index finger and touched it,
pleading, give me a break, give me a break.


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