The only time I studied botany was a few months in the eighth grade. Then, three fourths through the year there was a revolution, the president was ousted, and that was the end of that school year. The next year my parents moved back to the United States and in adjusting the Argentine school curriculum to the “norteamericano” one, there were several subjects that got a bit truncated, and biology was one of them. By by the time I was settled into the tenth grade, the semester spent on Botany was over! Somehow ninth grade got past over altogether.
Was it my total ignorance of botany or my fascination with the Cherokee Indians in Nantahala with their vast knowledge and interest in native plants that made me focus on their characteristics and uses rather than their botanical properties? I was intrigued by the stories the plants seemed to tell more than anything else.
As I followed the course of their brief and recurrent lives noticing their unique features I really did not take any of them apart, but saw them as a whole, as one would a new playmate your child brought home. The roots intrigued me, and I did notice the shape and arrangement of leaves, but little else. Our native plants were to be enjoyed, protected, and propagated. My arrival in Nantahala coincided with my empty nest years and the plants seemed to take the place of absent children and their pals.
The botanical description of the plants in books as I struggled to identify some of them simply frustrated me. Too technical!!! But little by little I began to pay attention to the terms and thumb to the back of the books to the glossary to get a layman’s explanation of what the botanists were trying to say.
It goes without saying that I enjoy discovering, following, propagating native plants of the area, but that interest is not without some frustration. Botanical terms which were key to understanding the difference between one plant and another were simply over my head. Another thing that drove me crazy as I struggled to identify plants was the one and only illustration of the plant in flower. If I wanted to transplant a plant and bring it into a safe bed, I would have liked to have known what the plant looked like as it emerged in the spring. I would have liked to have known what the seeds looked like, what the root system was like, and, would it transplant well???
So, in creating this blog about the native plants in my little corner of Western North Carolina, I am addressing people like me, folks who enjoy and appreciate the native flora but do not necessarily have the background to get too technical. Rather than parroting botanical descriptions, or skipping them altogether, I would like to add “a bit o’ botany” to my presentation and include them, but always trying to explain what they mean.
If there is a definition of a botanical term in a blog, it will be included in the “bit o’botany” drop down category.