juniperus virginiana

Nerds in the Woods 2019, Part I: Poking at Plants

Longtime readers may recall that Sigyn and I have on more than one occasion accompanied the human female to the annual Nerds in the Woods gathering.  This is a one- or two-day event, during which nerdy naturalists seek to catalog all of the various bloomy, flappy, squiggly, crawly and otherwise organic entities in the local Lick Creek Park.

In the Olden Days, the human female used to head up the plant team.  She spared no efforts, traipsing to remote parts of the part to compile her long lists of herbiage, things with (no doubt made-up) names like “daisy fleabane,” pinweed,” “forked blue curls,” and “rosettegrass.”  Several years ago, I tipped the organizers of the event off to just how hard she worked her fellow volunteers and how tedious she is with her constant bragging about how there are “more plants in the park than anything else, blah, blah, blah…”  So they stopped inviting her.  She volunteered to help out.  They unvolunteered her.  Cue moping, which was more tedious than the endless stream of botanical trivialities.

This year, much to my astonishment and dismay, the local chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas asked her to sit in at their table.  Oh, foolish mortals.  You will now never be free of this tiresome limpet!  Remind me to point and laugh later, when you are ready to stuff socks in her mouth to shut her up,  and remind you that you brought it on yourselves. 

Come Sigyn, let us accompany her.  I know that you are capable of strolling through the woods without nattering on, so for your sake, I will subject myself to a car ride with her.  We can always sneak away from her when we get there.

We are now here.  The NPSOT table is plunked down in the middle of a big patch of this:


Whatever “this” is…  Do you recognize it, my love?

By Idunn’s little apples!  Sigyn says it is heartwing sorrel, a useful plant to know because the leaves are edible.  I would never have guessed.  My sweetie always knows the best things!  She even says she knows of a good recipe for potato-sorrel soup, something involving heavy cream, chicken stock, potatoes, and this little bit of the wild herbiness.  (You know, once chopped up, one bit of greenery looks much like the next.  I wonder if I could make the human female a pottage of lawn clippings and get her to eat it, telling her it was this?  I bet she’d be half a bowl in before she suspected anything amiss…)

Now the human female is wandering away from the table, tallying up the various species in evidence today.  She and Sigyn have zeroed in on this bright pink posy.


The human female says it’s a prairie gentian.  It’s not very big, but Sigyn is even less big, so she needs a boost to see the yellow markings on the petals.  There are at least seven species in that photo–it’s a good year for wildflowers!

Come my love, let us leave the human female to her clipboard and census-taking.  While she’s peering at grasses and sedges, let us make our escape.  See–over there?  The electric blue of your favorite, spiderwort.


The camera scarcely does them justice!

And it would not be spring without the annual Sigyn-admiring-the-scarlet-pimpernel picture.


Sigyn is making happy squeaky noises at the minuscule yellow Sisyrinchium with the maroon eye-ring too.  She likes the flowers that are “Sigyn-sized.”  Be careful, though, dearest, as some dog-walkers have not heeded the injunction about cleaning up after their pets.  There are fire ants about, as well.

Ah.  No fire ants and no doggie “presents” up here in this juniper tree.  No, nothing but shade and sunshine and a nice breeze and some curious blue-gray berries.


Yes, dearest, I know they’re not really berries.  They’re “fleshy female cones, each with one to four seeds and a covering of grayish wax. They have traditionally been used to season meat, especially game, and some kinds provide the flavoring for gin.”

What?  I’m not allowed to know botanical facts?  You wound me!  I am a man of many talents and much knowledge!

Also, the human female leaves her books lying about and sometimes I am really bored.

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Just Hanging Around

We are still hanging around here at Maybe-Mint-But-No-Actual-Spring.  The human female is itching and scratching because she didn’t want to goop up with bug repellent for what she thought would be a short trip.  She’s getting good and bitten up and, since she is physically incapable of not scratching, I predict that that  one on her neck will be roughly the size of a prize-winning goiter by tomorrow.


You’ll notice I said “hanging.”  I mean that in the literal, dangling-from-stationary-objects sense.

Looks like a good crop of grapes this year.  We shall have to come back when they’re ripe and watch the human female make horrible faces as she tries to eat them.  (I know better than to try to eat them with the skin on, but she isn’t very bright and foolishly tries one every couple of years, just to see if still tastes awful.  Hint:  it does.)


Cedar trees–which are junipers and not, apparently, actually cedars (stupid Midgardian plant names!)–are also good for dangling.


I’ve yet to see the human female try to eat a juniper “berry,” but I wouldn’t put it past her.  Hmm…  I shall have to ponder how I can bring such a thing about.

It’s not only woody plants that are good for dangling.


She’s had to enlist the human female’s help because the stems are so thin, but once up there, Sigyn has found that this very fuzzy brome grass has a satisfying sway to it, especially on a breezy day.  Yes, Sigyn, those fuzzy spikelets would make good pets.  Of course you can bring one home if you like!  Bring three or four and I will put some in the human female’s socks.

In addition to the hanging about and mosquito-slapping, there is a good deal of clambering happening here today.

This is old plainsman, or woolly-white.


Then there’s this yellow thing.  Its name, the human female says, was recently changed from Engelmannia pinnatifida (which at least described the shape of the leaves) to Engelmannia peristenia, a move which has proven to delight absolutely no one.


This plant is named after a botanist with such poor handwriting that his labels have been databased as Eugelmuuu, Engelnuuu, Euglenumu, and various other permutations.  Cursive is such a stupid idea.  Jotuns and Asgardians both use runes and trust me, we don’t have such orthographic abominations.

This is such a backwards planet.

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In Search of Posies, Part II: Sea of Bluets

I think we have found what the human female wanted to see most–a large patch of tiny little bluets.


They appear to come in a variety of sizes and colors, all of them “cute.” Sigyn is cooing at each and every one of them.  I will just sit here while she bounces from plant to plant, trying to choose a favorite.  She had the same difficulty last year.

(an eternity of squeaking later)  She’s leaning toward the minuscule white ones.


Sigyn, don’t you remember these?  Of course you do.  You never forget an old friend.  You’re just happy to make the re-aquaintance.

Oh, look–what’s that red over there?  Is that another type of flower?


Sadly, no, just some colorful geranium leaves. Still, Sigyn loves them.

Um, Sigyn, I don’t know if you have noticed, but there are fire ants down here in the grass. Let us get up from our loamy squattings and gain a loftier perspective on the flora.


This is just what I had in mind. This juniper offers a great view of the flowers scattered about.  Sniff, sniff!  It is also loaded with an aromatic resin which, I suspect, has wonderful combustible properties.  You keep an eye on the humans and the hyena, while I gather some of these fragrant bark shreds for, uh, potpourri.   Yes, that’s it.  Potpourri…

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