Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tracking down a mystery plant #phenology

Thanks to some wonderfully helpful suggestions from one of our regular readers, the mystery plant we Tweeted about the other day is being identified. With a suggestion to "Try Geum canadense in the MN Wildflowers site online." I had enough of a clue to check online and in my home references for White Avens. Prairie Plants of the University of Wisconsin Arboretum has a note that White Avens flower in May-June, which fits with our lack of flowers, and the picture looks like the shape of the plant in our photo. Weeds and Wildflowers in Winter tells us that it "grows in woods, up to two and a half feet tall." Northland Wildflowers includes both Yellow and Purple Avens, of which only the former look at all like of specimen's photo. What's Doin' the Blooming' raises the possibility that what we photographed is a Large-leaved Avens, Geum macrophyllum. So I'm convinced we've taken a photo of a plant in the Geum genus, Rosacea (Rose) Family, not Purple nor Prairie Smoke. It's probably White Avens but I'd want to see the flowers to be sure. Large-leaved has (have?) yellow flowers. Thanks to Molly R, for the help and for reading our posts.

White Avens, Geum canadense? (probably)
Photo by J. Harrington

The North Country that we visited last week is, I fear, too easily taken for granted. If someone "sees" board-feet instead of trees, neither the forest nor the trees are being seen. From my East Coast background, it would be like believing that all the grains of sand and all the beaches and all the bays and all the water around Cape Cod are the same. I can say from experience, that's not true. Just as it isn't true that a "tourist economy" is the only way to make a living on the Cape. Cape Cod has something like 1,000 kettle ponds and a number of salt marsh ponds and depends on a groundwater aquifer for water supply, all of which is being put at risk because of increasing water pollution from untreated, or inadequately treated, wastewater. Minnesota's North Country faces similar challenges, as do our agricultural and trout-fishing regions in southern Minnesota. At least some of Minnesota's politicians seem to need a reminder of the value of clean, potable water. So did some local Massachusetts politicians and Federal regulators when they were sued for not enforcing the Clean Water Act. That East Coast suit isn't very different from what's happening just downstream from Minnesota, in Des Moines. Maybe it's time to clean up our act as well as our water. Growing numbers of us are getting tired of suffering from and cleaning up someone else's mess. I was dismayed at the number of lakes "Up North" that already are affected by aquatic invasive species and inhabited by mercury-laden fish. Looking clean isn't the same as being clean. Here's a motto I propose for Minnesota's Water Ethic: "THINK DOWNSTREAM!"

guardian tree watching over a North Country lake
guardian tree(?) watching over a North Country lake
Photo by J. Harrington

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver


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