“C” is for “Cardamine”—And Also for “Chaos”, Part II: So Many UFOs (Unidentifiable Flowering Objects)

I was having so much fun watching the gradual unhinging of the human female as she tries to make sense of the local Cardamine that I decided to carry the mischief over for another day.

Today’s goal is to see that she has the absolute worst specimens to deal with.

Ehehehehe! Let’s see how she does with this:

Great Frigga’s Corset, that’s an ugly specimen! Did someone just grab something out of the compost heap and plop it on the paper? I had to look at the label twice to make sure it hadn’t been collected by my oafish “brother” Thor. I thought only he was capable of such an utter lack of finesse! Is it even actually Cardamine? The world may never know!

Another disaster of a collection!

It’s part of a group of most atypical Cardamine specimens. They all have simple (as opposed to compound or divided) leaves, and most seem to hail from Ottine Swamp, formerly a squishy place in Gonzales County and now a part of Palmetto State Park. Note that Gonzales County is part of the area to be covered by the BBBB, so she HAS to figure out what these are!

And look! Whatever it is, there is more of it.

There are several possibilities. A. These are depauperate (poor) individuals of a native usually-compound-leaved species such as C. pensylvanica. B. These are a species not recorded for Texas. They do key to C. longii in the big Flora of North America book.

This one is a dead ringer for C. longii:

But what would a species of “Tidal marshes, mud flats, tidal shores of rivers, shallow water, swampy areas, shady rocky crevices covered at high tide; 0-10 m; Fla., Maine, Md., Mass., N.J., N.Y., N.C., S.C., Va.” be doing in a dampish part of Texas? Or could it be another cryptic Asian species introduced some time in the last century?

T. J. Crovello didn’t know what it was in 1975 and no one knows now.

There is another possibility. This could be a species undescribed and new to science. It wouldn’t be the first one the human female has tripped over by accident. Proving something is new is a long, complex process, and I’d like nothing better than to watch the human female crawling all over wet bits of Central Texas trying to find a small mustard with teeny white flowers among the millions of other small spring plants with teeny white flowers, all the while knowing that Ottine Swamp, as such, no longer exists.

Or–and I like this possibility the most–maybe she’ll decide that it’s a new species and do all the work and publish it and twelve different botanists will immediately leap upon her in print and point out that it’s something dead common the rest of the world has known about for ages. Yes, let’s go with that scenario.

What’s that old saying? “When you hear hoofbeats, don’t look for zebras”? By all means, human female, go after those zebras…

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