Day: March 24, 2022

A Most Brassicaceous Goose-chase

The human female is back at work on the BBBB (Big Book of Boring Botany) and has reached the “D” portion of the mustard family. Let’s see how she gets on with the little surprises I’ve lined up for her today.

Having dealt with Descurainia, she has turned her attention to Draba. These are usually small plants with a rosette of leaves at the bottom and little white flowers up top. Sorting the species out involves looking at the fruit shape, counting stem leaves, and looking closely at the hairs on various parts and seeing how many rays or branches each little hair has.

Definitely requires magnification.

You can see the human female’s scribble on this sheet:

She’s trying to justify her annotation, just on the extremely remote off-chance that someone else will ever care enough about these weeds to look at this sheet again and care what she thought.

Time for a wild goose chase!

She has come up with an identification for this sheet…

But when she looks in the database, the record for this accession number is not a Draba at all, it’s a mustard called Erysimum asperrimum, collected on the same date in the same county and by the same collector. So now she has to go and find that sheet and see if it was entered with the wrong number while this one was somehow not entered at all. (She has found a number of old sheets that were never computerized.)

Ehehehehe! She couldn’t find the other sheet in the collection, so maybe it doesn’t exist and the computer record is for the Draba sheet after all and was just put in with the wrong name. (Student workers have been known to just bring up a previous record and not edit it completely or correctly.) Before she changes anything, though, she is going to check whether the Draba was perhaps computerized with the wrong accession number. She’s doing a search for the collector’s field number, 36980.

Hmm. Looks like the collector has another specimen with the same collection number, something in another family in another county. Now she’s going to have to go find that specimen and make sure it wasn’t put in with the wrong field number.

And there it is! It’s a Bernardia (in the spurge family) from Val Verde County, and it has the exact same field number as the Draba. Old Victor L. Cory used the same number twice, which is a no-no. (At least he used them. His sometime-collecting-partner, H. B. Parks, frequently didn’t bother with a number at all.)

It’s getting later and later and more and more obfuscated. She was due home for dinner a while ago and has been scurrying from one end of the collection to the other for twenty minutes now, trying to sort this all out and leave for the day. Quick, woman! Make a decision!

Or else just leave it for now.

After all, I can always just add this mischief to what I have planned for tomorrow!

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