Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Attention to Detail

One of the many "truisms" attributed to the late great New York Yankee catcher is "You can see a lot if you look."  I'm thinking of designing a naturalist's T-shirt with that statement imprinted.  It certainly applied to my walk around the Feather River College nature trail and campus yesterday.  In yesterday's post, I mentioned that the lawn had been mowed, and, if I hadn't looked carefully at my feet, I might have missed the many  tiny white flowers blooming that the lawnmowers missed.  To the casual observer, they all look alike.  Note the top two photos here.  Not only different species, but different families! 
As usual, numbers help.  To paraphrase Charles Darwin, knowledge of mathematics endows a person with something like a sixth sense.  The flowers in the top photo each have ten petals (or five thoroughly split ones) and the flowers in the second photo have four split petals.  Click on each photo for a closer look. The top photo is of Chickweed, Stellaria media, in the pink family, Caryophyllaceae.  The second photo is of Spring Whitlow Grass, Draba verna, in the mustard family, Brassicaceae.  Both of these plants are non-native, but I don't know that they do any harm.  I suppose if your one of those people who thinks a lawn should consist only of grass, then any "alien" plants are harmful by definition.  It makes biological sense to ban lawns, but that's another story.  The last photo is of the leaves of Pine Violet, Viola lobata.  We have several species of yellow violets (oxymoron?) in the Sierra, and a botanist or naturalist will always look at the leaves, and also the back sides of the blossoms.  Otherwise, the different species of yellow violets may all look alike. 

No comments:

Post a Comment