Today I learned how botanists used to say "hello" to each other.
In the 1800s and 1900s, a common way for botanists to introduce themselves, often from the other side of the world, was to send each other plant specimens as the foundation for developing a relationship.
When it comes to friendship, plants are icebreakers, communicators, and binding ties all rolled into one.
There are many delightful anniversaries today.
Today is National Zucchini Bread Day.
Zucchini was discovered in the Americas. Explorers brought it back to Europe, where, in Italy, it was called "zucchino."
#OTD On this day in 1958, President Truman planted a sugar maple in New York in honor of Arbor Day.
#OTD On this day in 1981, The Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) was founded at Texas Women’s University.
#OTD On this day in 2007, Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota held its second Linnaeus Symposium.
The event, titled “Linnaeus @ 300,” honored the 300th anniversary of the birth of Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist for whom the Gustavus arboretum is named.
#OTD On this day in 1852, botanist Marcus Jones was born.
His mom loved plants, and every day, she sent Marcus to gather fresh flowers to display on the family's mantle. This daily chore was the beginning of his passion for botany.
He won national recognition for his work as a prominent botanist of the American West, and in 1923, he sold his personal herbarium for $25,000 - an impressive amount at the time. To this day, his collection represents the largest archive of plants from Utah.
Jones died in 1934 in San Bernardino, California. At the age of 81, he was returning from a plant collecting trip at Lake Arrowhead when his car was hit by another driver. As seatbelts wouldn't be invented for another 25 years, Jones was ejected from his vehicle and died from a skull fracture.
Jones columbine, Aquilegia jonesii (ii = "ee-eye") is named for him. It is rare and, like most columbines, does not transplant well. Jonesii plants and seeds are sold by select nurseries.
#OTD On this day in 1912, author, and botanist, Julia Francis McHugh Morton, was born.
A Fellow of the Linnean Society, Julia Morton was a popular expert and lecturer on plants. She was revered, especially for her knowledge of plant medicine and toxicity. Known as the poison-plant lady, Morton worked to educate the public through letters and phone calls, lectures, and articles - even creating posters designed for hospital emergency rooms.
Among the many ER calls, she received was one from a doctor in Scotland. A patient back from a Jamaican holiday was gravely ill. Morton deduced that a noxious castor bean from a souvenir necklace had been ingested.
Over the years, Morton has been the subject of many newspaper articles. Clever headlines showcase Morton's expertise, "She gets to the root of problems" and "She leaves no leaf unturned."
In 1988, the Miami News published an article about Morton's help with a murder case of a teenage girl.
The girl's car was found in the Dadeland Mall parking lot after the girl had disappeared. Police brought Morton a half-Inch blade of grass that was stuck to the door handle of the car, and some pieces of leaves that were wedged inside the door. Morton Identified the grass as Giant Burma Reed. Then, she spread the leaves out in the water and determined that they were the undeveloped leaflets of Spanish Needles.
Morton's conclusion was that somewhere a short distance from the Dadeland Mall (perhaps off Galloway Road near a nursery in a tall patch of Burma Reed), police might find the body of the girl. And, she predicted that there were two killers. Morton correctly assumed that one had wet hands and had left Burma Reed on the driver's door, while the other had closed the passenger door so quickly that it caught the Spanish Needles in the frame.
The next morning, policemen found an area that matched Morton's description and solved their case.
It was Julia Morton who said,
"Plants are always up to something. So I don't take a vacation. I operate on solar energy. I can only stay indoors a certain length of time."
Like Marcus E. Jones, Julia Morton died from injuries sustained in a car accident in 1996. She was 84.
#OTD On this day in 1949, botanical illustrator Alice R. Tangerini was born.
Tangerini was hired as a staff illustrator for the Department of Botany at the by American botanist Lyman Bradford Smith in 1972.
As of March 9, 2017, Tangerini remains the only botanical illustrator ever hired by the Smithsonian.
In 2005, Tangerini lost sight in her right eye due to an injury and a subsequent surgery. She has received the "Distinguished Service Award" from Guild of Natural Science Illustrators and the "Excellence in Scientific Botanical Art" award from the American Society of Botanical Artists.
It's National Poem in Your Pocket Day. Today you can share the joy that poems bring by carrying one in your pocket and sharing it throughout the day with others.
Here's a brief one from Agnes Falconer called Windflowers.
(Windflowers is the common name for anemones)
"So frail are we, pale are we,
Mist-thin, ghost-white —
Hark o'er us, spring's chorus
Trills all life's delight!
And no leaf stirs in all the wood
Yet see! our blossoms quiver!
Dance these not in thy solitude —
Williams follows the expeditions of over a dozen explorers who "botanized" the Rocky Mountains. These intrepid explores felt Western Flora was special and unique. The title of the book comes from a quote by botanist Edwin James who said in 1820 as he emerged above timberline in Colorado to come upon "a region of astonishing beauty."
Today's Garden Chore
Today’s garden chore is a great indoors project; replace the montage of labels in your garden by making new ones to give your garden a unified and cleaned-up look.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
If you're a lover of daffodils, you will get a kick out of this story. Today is the birthday of Reverend George Herbert Engleheart. Back in 1889, Engleheart began breeding daffodils - some 700 varieties in his lifetime. Fans of ‘Beersheba,’ ‘Lucifer,’ or ‘White Lady,’ owe a debt of gratitude to Reverend Engleheart. Engleheart spent every spare minute breeding and his parishioners would often find a note tacked to the church door saying,
“No service today, working with daffodils.”
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