Monday, September 26, 2011

Jamaica Bay's wildflowers


Now, about that little field guide I bought at the information center at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge yesterday and which I just opened it to start ID'ing some flowers.

There is no botanical Latin. Just common names, and just one common name per plant.

Sssssssssssteam. What a let down.

OK, I bought it in haste, and perhaps I should have read the title properly: Peterson First Guides: Wildflowers, by Roger Tory Peterson and Margaret McKenny. "First"...

But c'mon. You go to the trouble of producing a book with good illustrations and useful annotations, and all you give is a common name? That is awful. You're killing me, here. So now I see it is for "beginner naturalists"...But don't they deserve to know, too, that common names, while filled with whimsy and lovely for their own narrative value, are entirely fallible and not particularly useful?

Bother. This was going to be the flower post. It will have to wait.

Fortunately it only cost $5. But the anti-climax...


On a positive note, these wildflowers at the information center are what inspired me to whip the book off the nearest shelf. These were very impressive, simply because they were there. And, in retrospect, because the labels listed botanical as well as common names. Thank you. And putting them in found glass bottles is a nice touch...

Online, I'd had a brief exchange on the Gateway National Recreation Area's Facebook page with their administrator/s who had posted an image of some flowers being prepared for display. I had also asked whether there might be an online plant list available. No, said the administrator, but that's a great idea, we'll work on it! At the reception desk yesterday, I noticed a ranger's ears prick up when he heard me asking about the flower table. Turns out he is Lincoln Hallowell,  a ranger who flits between various parks in the area. In person he confessed that he had not realized just how many plants would be involved: over 1,000.  Well, start week by week, I suggested, and in a year's time you'll have them all.

The only plant list I have found so far is this one. Maybe they will find it helpful. I am still surprised that lists of flora are not standard issue in parks.

Anyway, I love this table. I would love it even more if they moved it to the highly visible, bright and airy main reception area, rather than keeping it in their conference room, where no one may find it. It is a wonderful resource.

Photograph: Johan Schumacher (image cropped for this blog, not original cropping)

Also in that room is an exhibition of photographs of birds, all taken in the Refuge, in all weathers, and which made the hard-to-impress Frenchie drool. The photographer is Johan Schumacher. There is an unforgettable image of a snowy owl, and snow geese. In the falling snow. (The rather cluttered and funky website in the link is not a good reflection of how beautiful the images in the exhibition are - see it if you can, in person.)

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you on the botanical names. While I seldom know them without looking them up, it seems a waste to not include them. other people may have better memories than I, or even better, develop an interest in learning them earlier.

    Seems like teaching is what parks are all about...

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