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.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Triadenum virginicum

Time to start catching up on photos from this growing season.
Back in late July, Lindsay and I joined a group from Save the Dunes on a quick trip to Pinhook Bog in LaPorte County, Indiana.  Led by staff from Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the walk down the boardwalk and back was very brief and only touched on the unique bog flora, but I used a free second to take a couple of photographs of a plant that I admire but don't see very often, Triadenum virginicum (Virginia Marsh St. John's Wort).
Triadenum virginicum in Pinhook Bog.
The most concentrated area of the geographical range of Triadenum virginicum is the New England region of the United States (and north into Canada).  The range of the species follows the Atlantic Coast south, around Florida, and along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to Texas.  Like several other species with which it often grows, this modest pink-flowered plant is also disjunct in the Great Lakes region, making it a unique part of the flora in this part of the country.  Triadenum virginicum grows in bogs, interdunal swales, and wet meadows.

Note the pointed sepals and "long" styles of Triadenum virginicum.
A very similar species, Triadenum fraseri (Fraser's Marsh St. John's Wort), has a geographical range that overlaps with that of T. virginicum, but T. fraseri is found more in the Great Lakes and New England regions and north, without an affinity to the coastal plain.  It has been treated as a variety of T. virginicum in the past, but most botanists now consider the two to be distinct species.  The sepals of T. virginicum are longer (greater than or equal to 5 mm long versus up to 5 mm long in T. fraseri) and sharper pointed (acute to acuminate versus obtuse in T. fraseri), and the styles are longer in T. virginicum (more than 1.5 mm long versus less than 1.5 mm long in T. fraseri).  In addition, T. fraseri is rarely found with open flowers in the field (but they are said to open after spending an afternoon in a vasculum!), whereas it is not uncommon to see T. virginicum with open flowers.

Plants in the genus Triadenum were formerly treated as part of the genus Hypericum, but they are now distinguished from Hypericum due to petal and stamen characteristics.  The petals of Triadenum are pink or flesh-colored (versus yellow in Hypericum).  The stamens of Triadenum are in three groups of three and alternate with three large orange glands (versus being of various number and lacking glands in the flowers of Hypericum).  This unique characteristic of the flowers of plants in the genus Triadenum is the origin of their Latin name, as Triadenum means "three glands."