Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Winter seed planting

For all of my life so far, I have been almost totally uninformed about how to distinguish grasses, sedges and rushes, or why one would want or need to. The "almost" is because I am aware that there are such different kinds of plants. I also know that the fields behind our  house are full of various plants and, in the Spring and Summer, can even identify some of them. This is now meteorological Winter, so I'm going to work on Winter wildflower identification and sneak in studying grasses, sedges and rushes as part of that. I really enjoy the spare, sparse, charcoal sketch quality of Winter fields and want to be able to talk about who lives there. I finally made some progress on getting straight perennials and annuals. In my own counter-logical way, I used to be convinced [incorrectly] that annuals returned every year. I now know that annuals create seeds every year and then die, kind of like Pacific salmon that only spawn once. Perennials keep coming back to life, kind of like Lazarus.

who's in this photo of Winter plants?
who's in this photo of Winter plants?
Photo by J. Harrington

There's an abundance of free, on-line resource material available. I'd suggest starting with the USA Phenology Network's Botany Primer, if you, like me, missed some of the fundamentals in science education. I passed high school honors courses in chemistry and physics (barely) but don't recall taking any botany or zoology. Seems like part of a nefarious Cartesian plot to me, designed to teach me how to manipulate the world without knowing enough about its inhabitants. Since neither you nor I can photosynthesize, we're dependent on plants for our existence (food and air). That's as good a reason as any I can think of to finally get acquainted with our benefactors. I'm sure by now you've figured out that the seeds we're planting are seeds of knowledge.

To return to the grasses and sedges question, here's a poem from the Hilton Pond Center to serve as a mnemonic that can help us all. (Click any line in the poem to go to its source and additional information about grasses etc.)

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