In Which the Human Female Completely Forgets How to Botanist

Sigyn! Guess where we’re going today? Lick Creek Park! We haven’t been there for ages. There was the plague, the blocked trails, the rampant destruction from the construction of the water treatment line that runs through the park, etc., etc.–the human female hasn’t dared go out there for months and months, for fear she’ll have her heart broken again.

But since she’s supposed to lead a field trip out there in a few days, she figures she should go out and relearn the trails and make sure she can speak intelligibly about the plants.

And here we are! Hmm. The plantings around the Nature Center don’t look very good. I don’t think the budget stretches to as much maintenance as they might need. Hold on–where’d Sigyn go? She was right here.

Idunn’s little green apples! I turned my back for one minute and where do I find her? Dangling from a tree! (She’s such an eager little thing.)

Hold on–that is a river birch. By the Nature Center. “Nature” didn’t put that there, I can tell you that much. The staff must be giving it all the water on the planet to keep it happy up here in the uplands. Still, having one so agreeably handy to show the field trip participants will be convenient. Otherwise, the human female would have to drag her field trippers through some pretty thick bottomland to point one out. Good, find, my love!

Now here’s a bit of garden that is looking much more lively. It’s maintained by the local chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists, and it is just full of plants that hummingbirds and butterflies like.

In September, this place just fizzes with hummers, but it’s a bit late for them now.

(a bit later)

We’ve been wending our way down to the bottomland. The usual fall plants are out. The female yaupon hollies are all decked out with shiny fruit, and the deciduous holly is coloring up nicely as well.

Sigyn loves them now when the fruits are yellow. She’ll love them even more when they are bright red later on.

The shining sumac is already red.

Sigyn, my love, is the sun in your eyes? Here, try this other branch down here where you can dangle in the shade and still appreciate the fall color.

Sweet Sif on a Cracker! Where the human female usually stops with a group to talk about the native grasses in a little grassy open area, the City has mowed the grasses down and put in an ornate concrete bench and a stone path. In the nature park. It sticks out like two sore thumbs.

Not only that, we have reached what used to be Deer Run Trail, which ran along the old inflow line to the water treatment plant. Last time we were here, they had cleared it out to a width of forty meters and it was completely devastated. Nothing but mud and trenches. I’m sorry to say it doesn’t look much better now. The new line is in and the trenches filled, but it’s still all bare and open, hundreds of trees are missing and, even though the City promised to do remediation, that seems to have consisted of planting a few trees and calling it a day. And most of those trees are live oaks, which do not occur naturally in the park. I think the human female is having a little stroke, or at least a spittle-flecked nutty.

And oh, what now? The human female has stopped dead in her tracks because she has seen A Flower. Here in the wasteland, where it is all cocklebur and croton, she has spotted something with an actual showy bloom. It looks like an escaped zinnia. Something Asteraceous, anyway. Probably some weird waif brought in on construction equipment. The foliage isn’t something she recognizes either. It is definitely something that should not be here. Snap! One weed, broken off at the ground. She’ll take one of the flower heads and this glorious photo:

And no doubt she’ll be able to hit the books and figure it out in no time. Then she can be good and outraged about yet another foreign weed in the park.

In any case, it’s getting HOT out here and the trails are more or less where the human female left them, so it’s time to head home.

(later)

Ehehehehe!!! The human female has now spent hours trying to figure out what that white flower is! It is nothing she’s seen in the Park before. It’s not a zinnia, and it’s nothing cultivated that she recognizes. It’s not even anything she recognizes as being from Texas! Oh, frustrated botanist, let me gloat about just how badly you’ve messed up.

Did you get a good photo? No, you did not. I’ll put the photo here again so no one has to scroll.

Just look at that! It’s the botanical equivalent of a Loch Ness Monster photo. Worse than useless.

Did you look around and see if there were other plants of the same sort so you could get some idea of the variation? No? Pitiful!

You KNOW composites are tricky–you spent the better part of two years editing a manuscript on them! You know you can’t get anywhere without having the tiny fruits to look at. Did you collect any? No, you did not! That is the sort of mistake you used to chew your undergrads out for.

Did you get a GPS point of where you collected this interloper? No? What’s that stupid fancy phone for, then? Do you think you could find the spot again? Oh, wait, that’s right, you broke the only plant you saw off at the ground.

Everything wrong. Everything. You will never figure that plant out now. Retirement has turned your brain into tapioca pudding. I think it’s time to turn in your credentials and maybe even offer to send your M.S. diploma back to the University.

Even Sigyn is disappointed in you. Let that sink in.

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