One of the most useful aspects to learning plant families is the way one begins to find and see the connections between seemingly separate species. Take the flowers of Ipomoea pandurata above… five-petaled big white morning glories with fuchsia centers, on a sprawling vine of heart-shaped leaves.
Sometime in August my friend Eric Lewis sends me a message. Eric is a teacher of plant knowledge and permaculture practices in the Maryland area. He’s found a large stand of wild rice in a local river. I’d never harvested wild rice before so the idea of gathering some was exciting, especially rice that was local to the Chesapeake Bay bioregion, only a couple hours drive away from me. I knew that wild rice or Zizania aquatica was a fairly common tidal grass up and down the east coast but I had no experience with it. Wild rice normally conjures up ideas of the north country regions surrounding the Great Lakes, but as I was soon to find out, it is more common and abundant than I had imagined. Eric kept daily watch over the ripening rice, and when it was ready for harvest, I borrowed a canoe and we took to the river…
Wild plants have made up most of the focus of this blog. But what about “domesticated” plants, such as the annuals we grow in our gardens?
How can we treat them that they behave more like wild plants – vigorous, resilient, low-maintenance, and more fecund and feral – yet which continue to supply our needs for flavor, nutrition, and ease of access?
The answers, I believe, are found inside the genome of the seed where genetic diversity is found. I will explore the concept behind landrace gardening, which provides for many real-world examples of genetic diversity in action.