Thursday, May 24, 2012

a little botanical time travel

Last summer when we came up to the farm I happened to notice some very distinct leaves at the edge of the woods. The flowers were nothing but tatters, but I was sure that I recognized what it was. So yesterday I took another walk down in that direction and amazingly found not one, but six red flowered trillium specimens, Trillium erectum, all blooming. At supper I told the children about my high school AP Biology wildflower project and how it had a huge impact on my education. Our class had 6 months (spring starts early in VA) to find, identify, and collect (either by photograph or pressing) as many wildflowers as we could. We could work in pairs or by ourselves and our grade was determined by the number of points we amassed. Each flower was given a different point value based on its commonality/rarity. Most flowers were given a value of 1 point, only a few were given more than a value of 10 points. My score, if I can recall (it was over 20 years ago) was around 730 points. 

The only student to get a higher total was Albert Lin, a brilliant student who scored a perfect 1600 on the SATs and ended up on the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions. (it turns out, after a quick google search, to find that he is now a professor of law at UC Davis.) He took every assignment seriously and I think had some in with the faculty at W&M to get some of the most rare specimens. I certainly don't hold his besting of me against him. But it was clear that I was the one student who was immersed in the project, traveling to various locales around the state, always on the hunt for a flower I didn't yet possess a picture of yet. It was a project that helped shape who I am; a lover of order and collections, a person who loves to be around plants, and someone who notices the details of her surroundings. I still have my 2 massive albums, filled with little more than dust and neatly printed labels and in the front is a blown up picture of my 16 year old self in a hysterically childish yellow slicker and hat on a collecting trip at a local park. 

After supper last night Charlie wanted to see this 50 point flower so I showed him a picture in my Peterson Field Guide, but he said, "I want to see the actual flower!" So, the three little kids and I left the dirty dishes on the counter and tromped around the rapidly growing hay fields to see this:     

It might not mean much to anyone else, but just seeing this flower brought back a flood of memories. This is the kind of experience that I want my children to have by homeschooling, the opportunity to find some subject of study that sparks something inside them that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

1 comment:

Rose Godfrey said...

I have fond memories of hydrangea flowers. A dear older friend had two bushes in her yard when I was a child. She'd bake chocolate chip cookies and put together a bunch of flowers to send to friends. They always seemed to make an odd arrangement in my mind back then, but everyone sure knew who they were from. It was kind of her signature.

She was kind to all who knew her, and every time I see a hydrangea now, I think of this friend who was a surrogate grandmother to me. I also get hungry for chocolate chip cookies when I see hydrangeas. Always looking for an excuse...