Friday, January 18, 2013

Remembering Floyd Swink

The comments in the previous post got me thinking about the legendary botanist Floyd Swink and what a remarkable life he led. When he passed away in the year 2000 he left a solid legacy of botanical awareness and a growing conservation ethic in the vast Chicago region. He was witty, funny, and brilliant in many subjects, especially botany and ornithology.
He mentored two of the finest naturalists ever to walk his beloved prairies: Jerry Wilhelm and Laura Rericha. In the picture above, Floyd is on the right and his protege, Jerry Wilhelm, is on the left. Photo courtesy of Jerry Wilhelm.

The picture below was taken by Emma Pitcher after Floyd walked through a dense colony of Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza). Thanks to Barbara Plampin for sharing it.

The Heinze Land Trust once sponsored a memorial celebration of Floyd's life, for which I wrote the poem below. It rambles and doesn't follow any of the rules of good poetry, and I apologize. 

-----------------------------
I bought a book a while ago,
And it helped me see nature
With a clearer lens.
Plants of the Chicago Region
It was called. It guided me
To beautiful forests, prairies, and fens.
The authors turned out
To be the helpful type
And I began to learn the flora,
From Aquilegia to Indian Pipe.
I found out there’s a lot of Rhus radicans
To make you scratch,
And Polygala paucifolia
Grows in a patch
Near the top of an old wooded dune.
Polypodium stands nearby.
You could even find Epigaea
If you really try
And don’t give up too soon.
Elegant little slippers
Are known to sprout
When scarlet tanagers come out
And call “chic-bird” in the dunes.
There is always something new to learn,
Perhaps a Carex or some rare fern,
And for years, there was someone we could ask
For help when taxonomy was a heavy task.
His name was Floyd, and it came to be
That he named up the plants for you and me.
We’ll never forget him. His influence lives on.
Like Orchids and Lilies and Round-Leaved Croton
He brightened our days, and he enriched our minds.
Above all he was very intelligent, funny, and kind.
Floyd was one of our last links to “Plain Ol’ Charlie Deam,”
And we’ll not see their kind again, or so it would seem.
We’ll never forget him. Floyd’s influence lives on. So
We’ll continue to study his books
And we’ll smile when we think of his puns,
And we’ll treasure the memories of days in the field
With Floyd, true master of botany, vast knowledge revealed.
May each of us find in the words Floyd has written -
Inspiration to wander on, even when tired, and hungry, and bug-bitten.
                                                            
Long live our passion for botany in the Chicago Region, and long live the memory and legacy of our extraordinary leader!

5 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Heart felt poems don't have to follow rules to be good.

Scott Namestnik said...

Keith, the poem is awesome! Thanks for sharing. The question, however, is where do I find pants like that?

Keith Board said...

Thanks Lisa and Scott! Yep, those are cool pants but I especially like the shoes!

Ron Gamble said...

Yes; the shoes got my first attention too. :-)

Keith Board said...

Those shoes might be Chucks!