Here is an excerpt from the book, What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses, by Daniel Chamovitz:
“We are utterly dependent on plants. We wake up in houses made of wood from the forests of Maine, pour a cup of coffee brewed from coffee beans grown in Brazil, throw on a T-shirt made of Egyptian cotton, print out a report on paper, and drive our kids to school in cars with tires made of rubber that was grown in Africa and fueled by gasoline derived from cycads that died millions of years ago. Chemicals extracted from plants reduce fever (think of aspirin) and treat cancer (Taxol). Wheat sparked the end of one age and the dawn of another, and the humble potato led to mass migrations. And plants continue to inspire and amaze us: the mighty sequoias are the largest singular, independent organisms on earth, algae are some of the smallest, and roses definitely make anyone smile.”
passion flower (Passiflora spp.)
“May is American Wetlands Month! No matter where you live, chances are there’s a wetland nearby that provides important environmental benefits to your community. Wetlands support diverse fish and wildlife species, filter pollutants from rain water runoff, help recharge groundwater supplies, prevent flooding and enhance property values.”
Wetlands are ecosystems that are characterized by their vegetation (aquatic plants), their soils (formed during anaerobic conditions caused by being flooded or saturated with standing water), and, of course, their state of being largely saturated with water either seasonally or permanently. Examples of natural wetlands include bogs, fens, marshes, and swamps. Wetlands can also be constructed by humans for the purpose of collecting storm water runoff from urban areas in an effort to reduce the risk of flooding and avoid overwhelming municipal sewer systems during large rainstorms.
Wetlands are the most threatened type of ecosystem on earth, and we are losing them at a steady clip. Major threats to wetlands include land development, pollution (agricultural and otherwise), and the introduction of invasive species. Considering the benefits we receive from having wetlands around, it is imperative that we protect them. Earth Gauge offers some suggestions on how to do so.
Speaking of wetlands, one of my favorite wetland plant species is marsh marigold (Caltha palustris). It is in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and is common in wetlands throughout the Northern Hemisphere. I became familiar with this plant when I was volunteering at a wetland in Edwardsville, IL. Perhaps you’ve seen it growing in a wetland near you.
marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) photo credit: wikimedia commons
This past weekend I ventured into the Boise National Forest. I was on the hunt for morels (or at least a good morel hunting spot). I chose a specific section of the Boise National Forest because a forest fire had occurred there the previous summer. Morel hunting is typically quite good in forests that have burned the previous year, and morel hunters, being well aware of this phenomenon, are found chomping at the bit, anxious to enter a recently burned site and collect their bounty.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find any morels on this trip. I was a little too early, which I was assuming might be the case as I was heading out there, but I was just excited to go and check things out. Hopefully I will get a chance to go again within the next few weeks, and perhaps I’ll have better luck.
The trip was not a complete disappointment though. What started out as a mushroom hunt quickly turned into a wildflower walk as I was overwhelmed by the abundance and diversity of wildflowers that blanketed the mountainsides. Below is a small sampling of the plants that I saw on my trip into the woods.
Balsamorhiza sagittata – arrowleaf balsamroot
Castilleja covilleana – rocky mountain paintbrush
Lomatium dissectum – fernleaf biscuitroot
Paeonia brownii – brown’s peony
Viola purpurea – yellow mountain violet