Spotted geranium is a woodland perennial wildflower in the Gerianaceae family. Its Latin nomenclature is Geranium maculatum — the etymology of Geranium comes from the Greek geranos meaning “crane,” in reference to the fruiting capsules of this genus which resemble the beak of a crane, and the species name maculatum means “spotted” and describes the mottling of the leaves.
I have a confession to make. I’m in love. The first time I saw her, my heart skipped a beat. There she was, stretching out in the spring-time sun, dressed in baby blues and be-jeweled in yellow. Her delicate scent was carried by the gentle spring breeze. She was so gorgeous and I fell for her right on the spot. Who is she? She’s a plant, Camassia, of course! What an elegant beauty!
Erigenia bulbosa is a charming little plant. It is one of the earliest blooming wildflowers in the eastern United States, lending the common name Harbinger-of-Spring. The name Erigenia means “early born.” Depending on the climate, the tiny flowers of harbinger-of-spring may be found emerging above the leaves in woodlands as early as late January, though typically in February or early March. Harbinger-of-spring is dormant by April or early May, and all traces of the plant aboveground are gone, making Erigenia a truly ephemeral plant.
At the beginning of March I had the opportunity to join Edwin Bridges, Alex Griffel, and Eric Ungberg down in central Florida for a weekend of botanizing throughout the region’s varied ecosystems, all of which are managed through prescribed fire. Edwin runs his own botanical and ecological consulting business, and his encyclopedic knowledge of the area’s flora is impressive. His work in ecosystematics presents a comprehensive picture of the ecological workings of the region. Alex is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and has worked with The Nature Conservancy’s Tiger Creek Preserve burn crew. Eric Ungberg is with Duke University’s plant lab, and was down in Florida for some of the same reasons I was, such as curiosity and the love of botanizing. All were great people to be around and to learn from.
For as long as we’ve been a species, all across the world human beings have told stories. And in the stories told about origins and our place within the world, there is a theme that consistently reoccurs. In these stories, human beings are given a role as stewards or caretakers of the earth. They are taught to respect and value all other beings, knowing that there is no separation of humans from out of the web of nature, but that we are all related and interdependent on one another.
To use the language of science, we might say that Homo sapiens plays the ecological role of keystone species of the planet. A keystone species is understood as one which has such a large impact on its environment that its very presence structures and maintains the ecological community of which it is a part. And no one would deny that human beings have drastically reconfigured the planet’s landscape! Indeed, many today are coming into agreement that a new geological epoch has arisen, and it is to be called the Anthropocene: the Age of Man.