Thursday, November 7, 2013

Furbish Lousewort ( (Pedicularis furbishiae) Poem Charles Osgood, CBS newsman, 1977. From “Nothing Could Be Finer Than a Crisis that is Minor in the Morning” by Charles Osgood, 1979.

Quoted in Robert Mohlenbrock’s book, “Where Have All the Wildflowers Gone,” 1983. 

Kate Furbish was a woman who a century ago
Discovered something growing, and she classified it so
That botanists thereafter, in their reference volumes state,
That the plant’s a Furbish lousewort. See, they named it after Kate.
There were other kinds of louseworts, but the Furbish one was rare.
It was very near extinction, when they found out it was there.
And as the years went by, it seemed with ravages of weather,
The poor old Furbish louseworts simply vanished altogether.
But then in 1976, our bicentennial year,
Furbish lousewort fanciers had some good news they could cheer.
For along the St. John’s River, guess what somebody found?
Two hundred fifty Furbish louseworts growing in the ground.
Now, the place where they were growing, by the St. John’s River banks,
Is not a place where you or I would want to live, no thanks.
For in that very area, there was a mighty plan,
An engineering project for the benefit of man.
The Dickey-Lincoln Dam it’s called, hydroelectric power.
Energy, in other words, the issue of the hour.
Make way, make way for progress now, man’s ever constant urge.
And where those Furbish louseworts were, the dam would just submerge.
The plants can’t be transplanted; they simply wouldn’t grow.
Conditions for the Furbish louseworts have to be just so.
And for reasons far too deep for me to know or explain,
The only place they can survive is in that part of Maine.
So, obviously it was clear, that something had to give,
And giant dams do not make way so that a plant can live.
But hold the phone, for yes they do. Indeed they must, in fact.
There is a law, the Federal Endangered Species Act,
And any project such as this, though mighty and exalted,
If it wipes out threatened animals or plants, it must be halted.
And since the Furbish lousewort is endangered as can be,
They had to call the dam off; couldn’t build it, don’t you see.
For to flood that lousewort haven, where the Furbishes were at,
Would be to take away their only extant habitat.
And the only way to save the day, to end this awful stall
Would be to find some other louseworts, anywhere at all.
And sure enough, as luck would have it, strange though it may seem,
They found some other Furbish louseworts growing just downstream.
Four tiny little colonies, one with just a single plant.
So now they’ll flood that major zone, no one can say they can’t.
And construction is proceeding, and the dynamite goes bam.
And most folks just don’t seem to give a Dickey-Lincoln Dam.
The newfound stands of Furbish louseworts aren’t much, but then
They were thought to be extinct before, and may well be again.
Because the Furbish lousewort has a funny-sounding name,
It was ripe for making ridicule, and that’s a sort of shame.
For there is a disappearing world, and man has played his role
In taking little parts away from what was once the whole.
We can get along without them; we may not feel their lack.
But extinction means that something’s gone, and never coming back.
So, here’s to you, little lousewort, and here’s to your rebirth.
And may you somehow multiply, refurbishing the earth.


ben said...

I like the poem. Thanks

Scott Namestnik said...

Sounds like a little plant I know named Thismia.