"It was borne in on me, not for the first time, how the weeds of one country are the flowers of another. Recently in the tropics I had been shocked on seeing my host and hostess as they wandered round their garden tearing up green oddments as we should tear up groundsel, . . . saying, ‘That wretched thing! All over the place as usual!’ This was Gloriosa superba, which we have to grow carefully in heat if we want it at all."
- Mexia collected and preserved 150,000 plants, flowers, and leaves
- Her first trip yielded 500 specimens the same number that Darwin brought back on the Beagle.
- Mexia personally discovered 500 brand-new plant species.
- Her botanist peers were well aware of her staggering amount of work and expeditions. Specifically, Mexia enjoyed the thrill of working with botanist Alice Eastwood.
Yet, not even lung cancer could stop her from collecting plants. In 1938, she had returned to Mexico in search of new specimens. But her illness got the best of her, she was forced to cut her trip short and returned to the United States. She died at Berkeley on June 12th.
Mexia's estate was donated in part to the Redwood Preserve in California. A 40-acre grove, home to one of the tallest trees, was named in her honor.
Today, some 80 years after her death, scientists are still processing the plants she collected.
"I'm a great believer in plagiarizing. I think all gardeners are. There's no reason why one shouldn't plagiarize. Why not take someone else's good idea and adapted to one's site. This garden really represents that; it's just Ideas that were gleaned from other sources."
Unearthed Words: The Naming of Plants by Linda Leinen
The naming of plants? It really does matter.
It isn’t correct to think all are the same.
You may think at first I’m indulging in patter,
but I tell you — a plant must have four different names!First comes the name that tells us its genus —
Gaillardia, Solanum, Ilex or Phlox;Clematis and Salvia, Silphium, Quercus —the Latin is easy, not hard as a rock.There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
some for the cactus and some for the canes —
Monarda, Justicia, or even Lantanamake lovely and sensible Latinate names.And then, every plant needs a name more particular,
a name that’s specific and quite dignified —
else how could it keep all its stems perpendicular,
spread out its anthers, or blossom with pride?For namings of this sort, I ‘ll give you fair dozens:
lyrata, drummondii, frutescens, and more —crispus, limosa, luteola, texensis —those names help describe what we’re all looking for.Of course, there are names by which most people call plants,
like violet, hollyhock, iris, and thyme;
there’s nothing more common than sweet dandelions,
or peaches, or rhubarb for making our wine.But above and beyond, there’s one name left over,
and that is the Name that you never will guess;
the Name that no researcher ever discovers —
which the plant itself knows, but will not confess.When you notice a bloom in profound meditation,
its rays sweetly folded, or its leaves well-arrayed,
its mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
of the seed of a thought of a thought of its Name:
its sturdy and windblown,
sunkissed and shadowed,
deep and firm-rooted most singular Name.
A few words to describe this book: gorgeous. indispensable.
Pavord traces the history of plant taxonomy from the ancient Greeks to 17th-century British botanist John Ray.
I'm down with anything by Pavord - and you can get used copies of this excellent book on Amazon through the link around $3. That's downright criminal.
Today's Garden Chore
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
When I was researching Mexia, I learned that the concept of having plants named in her honor, gave her an immense satisfaction.
It was almost as if she was scrambling to leave a botanical legacy in order to ensure her place in history. As of today, 50 species have been named in her honor.
Like all plant explorers, Mexia had her war stories. The San Francisco Examiner had an article that featured Mexia and they memorably titled it "She Laughs at Jungle Perils".
Once Mexia had had accidentally eaten a poisonous berry. The indigenous people shared an ingenious remedy with her: "Sticking a chicken feather down her throat to coax the berries back up." Mexia traveled the entire length of the Amazon River. During one of her breaks from the jungle, she had even climbed Mount McKinley.
When she nearly died after falling from a cliff, her team attempted to make her feel better, by naming two flowers after her: The Maxianthus mexicanas and the Mamosa mexiae.
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"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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