Monday, April 20, 2009

A Flower by Any Other Name Could Be As Pretty

While enjoying Carolyn H's blog "Roundtop Ruminations," I noticed she was calling Hepatica by another name: Spring Beauty.  Apparently, where she lives in the mountains of Pennsylvania, that's the name Hepatica goes by.  Well, Hepatica certainly is a beauty, and it comes up really early in the Spring.   But the plant I know of as Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) looks quite different, and Carolyn asked me to post a photo of it, so here it is:

I took this photo in my daughter's lawn, downstate in Westchester County. (I've never found it in Saratoga County.  Yet.)  She promised me she would beg the lawn service folks not to spread weed killer in the area where it grows.   I begged her to beg the lawn service folks to not spread weed killer anywhere.  Dear people, we have got to stop  putting that crap on our lawns.  If it's on the lawn, it's in our kids and our pets and all wild critters that need our green spaces to live.  Just mow your broad-leaf weeds, folks, and your lawn will look just fine.  And your kids won't come down with leukemia so often.  I saw a statistic once, quoted by a pediatrician in a letter to The New York Times, that in neighborhoods where ChemLawn and other such firms are regular visitors, the incidence of childhood leukemia was increased by 650%.  Yikes!   And I believe it.  When I worked as a Hospice nursing assistant, I visited suburban neighborhoods where the stench of lawn chemicals daily filled the air, and every other house, it seemed, held folks with cancers of every kind.

Anyway, how could anyone think of Spring Beauty as a weed and not want it in their lawn?  Or Hepatica, for that matter?  (Although Hepatica probably wouldn't grow in places where people obsess about raking leaves.)


NatureGirl said...

If you want a real eye-opener on the value of the little things that live in the soil, there is a great essay in the book "The New York Times Science Book on Insects" (or some such title - I've been reading it at work and don't have it here with me). The essay is about the life teaming in the soil, and really shows how every thing is connected and the value each infinitessimal being possesses, about which 99.99% of humans have no clue. If it weren't for these hidden "systems" our whole planet would fall apart. More people need to know about them and appreciate them. If they did, we'd have much less pollution and many fewer people moaning about the steps we "ecofreaks" take to try and protect what little "nature" remains.

Woodswalker said...

Amen! Amen! Thanks for the reference, Nature Girl.

A case in point: In one of my Hospice patients' homes, little brown ants were walking across the floor (we'd had a week straight of solid rain, which tends to send ants looking for dry ground). My patient's husband emptied TWO cans of Raid around their apartment. My God! I said (trying to hold my breath), those ants are just passing through, can't you just leave them alone? We need them, you know, to aerate the soil and all. The guy thought I was some kind of weirdo. I pointed out that Raid could poison him, too (TWO CANS!!), but he just brushed off my concern. Despite the fact that his wife was dying of cancer.

catharus said...

Hmmm...that's the thing about common names; you can call anything, anythig you want to -- sure leaves us set up for miscommuncations. But I haven't yet determined to learn all the scientific names, either. I have a friend, a retired professional botanist, and that's all he knows -- the scientific names--and is often very uncertain of the common names.

Woodswalker said...

Hi, catharus,
The great thing about scientific names, is that there's only one plant with that name: no confusion (except among the scientists who change the names from time to time). Also, if you know your Latin (which I don't, at least not much), the name usually means something, E.g.: rotundifolia means round leaved; trilobum means the leaves have three lobes. Etc. I try to remember both, but it's hard. I also love the poetry or whimsy of some of the common names.