Wednesday, August 27, 2008

100 Species

I got this idea from CG. How many people can list 100 species that are growing in the area where they live?

I'm sure I could, but I often get paid to list species, so I'm not typical. Mind you, I do remember a field trip when I was a new biology student in university, and my prof was wondering how I knew so many of the plants we were seeing. Well, I just always wanted to know, so I learned!

Anyway, I am curious now to see how many plants I can name just by picturing my surroundings and what is there - how far from home would I have to wander in my mind to reach 100?

1) quack grass (I'm starting in our yard)
2) dandelions
3) Kentucky bluegrass
4) clover - which one? It's a Trifolium species, a white one, but I'd have to look up the exact name
5) common plantain
6) annual sow thistle
7) perennial sow thistle
8) chickweed
9) wild buckwheat
10) lamb's-quarters
11) brome grass
12) red-root pigweed (and there's another kind of pigweed whose name I have forgotten)
13) garden atriplex
14) doorweed (sorry, I don't know which one it is)
15) purslane or wild portulaca
16) there's another grass that I pull out of the garden before it matures enough to positively identify without a great deal of unnecessary fuss - I think it's probably foxtail barley
17) green foxtail
18) creeping bellflower (this is one of the plants in the flowerbeds that came with the house, and I just learned its name because it's on the invasive plant species lists I'm working with - there are also some kind of lily, an iris, a daisy, and something with variegated foliage, and a very pretty thing that I did know the name of once but it escapes me now - maybe a columbine? I've just never taken much interest in the ornamentals)
19) lily-of-the-valley (I did know this ornamental somehow - maybe because it's poisonous)
20) Maltese cross (another ornamental that I know, because I came across the name and it intrigued me)
21) desert saltgrass
22) caragana
23) chokecherry
24) gooseberry
25) saskatoon
26) American elm
27) Manitoba maple
28) green ash
29) lilac
30) honeysuckle (though I'm not sure which one - those ornamentals again!)
31) peppers
32) tomatoes
33) onions, chives, and garlic - are some of these so closely related that they are counted as a single species? I don't remember
34) swiss chard, beets, and spinach - if I recall correctly, these are all close relatives too
35) parsley, parsnips, and carrots - another set of close relatives
36) lettuce
37) beans (wax and fava)
38) peas
39) lots of cucurbits - cucumbers, zucchinis, pumpkins, and spaghetti, acorn, and butternut squashes
40) potatoes (I'm out of my own yard now, across the street at Garth's brother's place, where we keep the other half of our garden)
41) dill
42) sweet corn
43) rutabagas
44) broccoli
45) raspberries
46) strawberries
47) spruce trees - I wonder exactly what kind?
48) ox-eye daisy
49) dame's-rocket - these last two are more ornamentals that I just learned because they are on the invasive species lists
50) Hmm - one more to hit 50 before I leave the two yards that we live in - there must be one more. Have I seen goat's-beard here? Or - yes! There is a cotoneaster bush, or there was, but they may have killed it when they ground the stump of the big elm in front of the house last month, but I'm going to count it.
51) blue grama grass (no, I haven't gone way out in the prairie yet; this is between the sidewalk and the street, just next door)
52) bastard toadflax (I hope I got that name right - it's another one I learned from the invasive species lists - this is growing wild at the edge of the pavement)
53) butterfly-weed or scarlet gaura - a farmer friend of mine found the scientific name titillating, but maybe I pronounced it wrong - go look it up if you're curious. (The PLANTS database is handy for that, and if I used it I could get all these names right, but I'm testing my mind here.)
54) weeping birch
55) poplars and/or cottonwoods - I don't know the horticultural species, but I know there are a bunch of them in various nearby yards, and I'll get to our native species later (if I don't hit 100 before I get out of town)
56) crabapple
57) rose (I do admire the white shrub roses in some yards nearby, so much so that I tried to root some cuttings last year, and just today I picked some of the dry hips to see if I would have more success with the seeds)
58) seaside arrowgrass (I'm away from the street now, wandering in my mind along the drainage ditch behind our yard)
59) cord grass (and I know there are two species here, and I know that one has awns and the other doesn't, and one of them is called alkali cord grass so maybe it's the one that grows in the saline ground along that ditch)
60) cattails (in the old brick ponds behind our yard)
61) wild licorice (just beyond the brick ponds)
62) kochia - I just remembered that one, it's in our yard too - and I thought I might like to work as a weed inspector! Ha! I'd have to clean up our own yard a bit first! But seriously, if I could work from the angle of helping people learn more about what's growing on their land, not just as the enforcer with the right to enter onto private property, I could enjoy that, and in some places I think the inspectors do work from that angle
63) oh, and I'm sure we must have some black medick in the garden too
64) and probably some yellow sweet-clover
65) alfalfa - now I'm beyond the railway, or I should say beyond the old railway grade, out looking over the hayfield towards the airstrip that some locals call the airport
66) willows - that's down beyond the airstrip, but there are some ornamental willows in town too - and don't ask me what kind of willows they are!
67) sedge - I'm sure I could find a sedge somewhere along the roadside where I walk south of town; for sure there must be some down by those willows - and again, don't ask me which sedge!
68) northern wheatgrass (okay, I gave up and went home in my mind to the farm five miles from town, where this challenge gets so much easier)
69) western wheatgrass
70) needle-and-thread grass
71) western porcupine grass
72) awned wheatgrass
73) western red lilies
74) smooth camas
75) wild blue flax
76) gaillardia or blanket-flower
77) black-eyed susan
78) prairie crocus
79) June grass
80) prairie cinquefoil
81) white cinquefoil
82) three-flowered avens
83) ground-plum
84) snowberry
85) silverberry or wolf willow
86) narrow-leaved meadowsweet
87) fringed loosestrife
88) pincherry
89) beaked hazelnut
90) high-bush cranberry (I want some hazelnut and high-bush cranberry bushes for the yard here)
91) paper birch
92) white poplar (told you I'd get to them) or trembling aspen
93) black or balsam poplar
94) Western Canada violet
95) poison ivy
96) stinging nettle
97) yellow avens
98) heart-leaved alexanders
99) alum root
100) Indian-pipe (a non-photosynthetic plant - I had to think of a distinctive one for my 100th)

And there are many more. But CG's list is much more impressive, because you can tell that she knows a lot more than just the names - she knows which ones to eat and which ones to use for healing and more.

And if you find all this overwhelming, there is a book I want you to meet. (I wish I had known about this book back when I knew mostly just the showy wildflowers that I had taught myself from the pictures in our field guides at home, and I was sent out with a few floras - floras are plant books with detailed botanical descriptions and sometimes no pictures at all - to see what I could find growing on proposed oil well sites, in case something rare was there.) Thomas J. Elpel's Botany in a Day gives you patterns to look for, just a few patterns to learn so that you will know the major plant families of the North American interior plains. That means you can jump to the right part of the flora or field guide right away, instead of struggling through a botanical key or flipping through the pictures. And you will have hooks to hang your knowledge on as you meet new plants, instead of just an endless parade of names and images to remember. And most importantly of all, if you learn from Mr. Elpel's book, you will be learning plant uses as you go, because he includes information about the properties shared by plants in each family.

And CG - thanks for getting me blogging again, if only for today. Tomorrow I will be back out in the farmland of southeast Saskatchewan, listing plants for pay, and reinforcing my conviction that I'd rather grow plants to eat and not need the pay so much . . .


Anonymous said...

That's impressive. I really doubt I could come up with anything close, even with a guide next to me. Although obviously we have fewer species, and in order to approach 100 I'd have to know different species of grasses and sedges.

Seeing Indian Pipe on your list reminded me of the first time I saw it on a camping trip to Madge Lake. I was convinced that I had discovered a new species that no one in the world had ever laid eyes on before.

arcolaura said...

I seem to recall a very similar thought (though it may have been just that no one in the world knew the plant was on our land) when I first found Indian Pipe in the thick bush on the north slope of the farm. I suspect I wasn't the first to know about it, though.

I bet you could name a lot more varieties of snow than I can!

rob said...

A lot of good keywords in that post. You'll probably get 10 readers a day from that post in Google search alone!