“Streptopus amplexifolius.” Check.
“Apocynum androsaemifolium.” Check.
“Vaccinium angustifolium.” Check.
“We’ve got Aralia racemosa!”
“Really?” Check. “This is advanced bioblitzing.”
Plant people really do speak another language, binomial Latin, though they can be cajoled into common names, when commoners tag along. In early July, two botanists led a half-mile excursion for three students, one teaching assistant, one photographer, and two hangers on, along an old railroad grade that made a straight, dry path through a Cheboygan County swamp. Despite the commoners, the botanists inventoried 107 species of plants in 95 minutes. This group was part of an attempt to record every living species – trees, insects, mammals, lichen, everything – on Biological Station land: a bioblitz. In a nod to the size of the task, Station scientists gave themselves three times the traditional 24 hours, and that still didn’t allow them to come anywhere close to a complete record. Some species hide too well, others didn’t have specialists around to identify them, but they made a good start.
Midway along the railroad grade, one botanist pulled down a twig of betula alleghaniensis (erm, yellow birch), and scraped at its bark with his knife.
“Smell this,” he said, holding it out.
“Methyl salicylate,” said an organic chemist, one of the hangers on. He looked up at the group. “Wintergreen oil,” he clarified, giving its common name, and then pointed.
“Hey, there’s a daisy.”
It turned out to be of indeterminate species. Chrysanthemum spp.
By Alan J. Hogg, Jr.