I came across this article the other day, People are ‘blind’ to plants, and that’s bad news for conservation, and the headline rang the bell of how I felt before I started learning to identify plants. I felt a wrongness around the fact that I hardly knew anything about the plants in my backyard, in the woods, on the dunes I cross to reach the beach. I knew oak, and onion grass, white pine, and dandelion.. and not much more.
As a child, I remember watching ants’ traffic on my landlord’s peonies, snapping swollen purple and red buds from other plants along the walkway, whose names I didn’t learn – or wonder too much about – and including onion grass as a main ingredient in my mud “stew” concoctions. Later, I’d harvest a few snap peas from my dad’s vegetable garden, and I learned what maple leaves look like, but it wasn’t until I had a child of my own and realized I couldn’t teach them about plants that I recognized the depth of the void where that knowledge should be.
Through online connections with other “crunchy mamas,” I learned that plantain (Plantago spp.) leaves could be used to soothe a bee sting, which knowledge – and then experience – ignited the curiosity vapors down in that void, propelling me to find books and local teachers to teach me common plants to forage locally. I helped get a local earth skills class together so my child could learn from folks who already knew, while I got my knowledge up to speed. I took a Permaculture Design Course, made a permaculture design for my parents’ property, attended plant swaps, and started planting everything I could get my hands on, to increase the biodiversity on the land and mine and my children’s ability to closely observe different plants.
I started studying herbalism, and eventually wound up here at The Green Farmacy Garden, where I now host workshops introducing others to a variety of plants and sharing my enthusiasm and appreciation for them. I compulsively play “I Spy” whenever I’m driving, checking the changing roadsides frequently for perched or flying hawks, and exercising my plant-recognition capacity as I scan wooded edges, vine-covered highway walls, and neighbors’ gardens as driving safety permits. My teen and I are currently making our way through Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, and I keep feeling grateful and welcomed when it seems aspects of my life and experiences are aligned with some of the practices she experiences as part of “becoming indigenous to place.”
My coworkers are on their own arcs of the plant path, both with ever-developing herbal, foraging, discovering, researching, and stewarding repertoires. And from each of our vantage points, studying introductory botany with our GFG mentor and former director Helen Lowe-Metzman in a dedicated learning space remains an empowering prospect in which we’re excited to immerse.
This opportunity is appropriate for students from any angle of plant interest, whether you’re a plant beginner, permaculture student, budding or practicing herbalist, would-be forager, native plant enthusiast, gardener, or nature-lover. Whatever your reason for wanting to be able to recognize plant inhabitants of your ecosystem, you’re invited to join us for Beginner Botany Basics Saturdays in April, beginning in just a few days. “Plant-Blindness” is an experience of separation that we can outgrow.
Beginner Botany Basics
Every Saturday of April 2021, 10:30am-12:30pm
Learn how to use a field guide to identify plants in the wild.
This 4-session course will equip you to use a field guide to determine a plant’s family, genus, and usually species identification.
The first session will be devoted to learning botanical terms for plant parts, which you must learn in order to use the Newcomb’s Field Guide. During the remaining sessions, you’ll develop your proficiency applying these terms and using the guide to identify plants from a variety of families, including:
- Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis family)
- Asteraceae (Aster family)
- Berberidaceae (Barberry family)
- Brassicaceae (Brassica family)
- Lamiaceae (Mint family)
- Papaveraceae (Poppy family)
- Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)
- Rosaceae (Rose family)
- Rutaceae (Citrus/ Rue family)
You’ll learn some characteristics of these families to help you not only identify, but also learn uses for the plants you encounter.
Click here for more information and registration!