Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Livers Never Shiver


The weather today turned cold and misty, so many of the small early bloomers called it a day and folded up their flowers, but the hepaticas (liverworts) were quite nonchalant about the chilliness. This sunny little flower belongs to Hepatica nobilis, the common hepatica of Europe. The taxonomists have been having a field day changing the classifications of the members of this genus... I good naturedly went along with the last shakeup, but now they've gone too far. We used to have a nice group of species: H. acutiloba, the sharp-lobed hepatica, and H. americana, the round-lobed hepatica, both native to this country. Then Europe had H. nobilis, and Asia had H. asiatica var. japonica; a fine system, understandable to all. Well, then japonica was moved into nobilis as Hepatica nobilis var. japonica... suspect to my mind, but being a good sport, I went along with it. Now I find they are also shoving acutiloba and americana into nobilis, as var. acuta and obtusa, respectively. These taxonomists must think plant labels grow on trees.
The people who work in this field are a different breed... very focused. Tom is a botany major at the U. of Iowa here in Iowa City; I met him because he compiled the plant community manual for the woodland nature preserve that I've been volunteer-managing. He loves mosses, and took me off down a trail in the woods to show me a rare club moss. Now, he's been accepted in the graduate botany dept. at Berkeley. I lived in Berkeley in the early 70's when I was doing my internal medicine residency; I lived two blocks off of Telegraph Avenue, and had hair down over my shoulders and an attitude. Internal medicine may have been my specialty, but partying and having fun were at least my sub-specialties. When I heard that Tom was moving to Berkeley, I excitedly started telling him I'd fill him in on all my old haunts and all the great places to hear music and dance and party. This offer didn't seem to cause even a stir of excitement in him... then I realized; this is a fellow who is planning a lifetime career around the taxonomy of mosses... sigh... my old apartment with the black walls covered with rock record album covers probably isn't there anymore to rent, anyway.
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Comments:
You did take your record albums with you when you moved out, didn't you? :-)

But somewhat seriously, since you know a real live taxonomist, who funds these people and why? I assume a lot of the reclassification is based on molecular-level studies, but is it really necessary? I can't get used to the renamed plant families, let alone genera and species.
 
I am glad you are around to keep your eye on those taxonomists, Don. They cannot keep issueing new names and classifications just to fit their whims!!
I betcha that moss guy really gets his party on!!
 
Entangled... yup, I still have my albums (and still get them out and play them once in a while). The album covers glued to the apartment wall came with the place. Well, you know who funds these guys... the plant label makers.

Sissy... I dunno; nice guys, but short hitters on the party scene, I think.
Don
 
You keep coming up with more beautiful flowers everytime I visit your blog. You tempt me sorely.
 
Ki... well, that's what credit cards are for (isn't it ?).
Don
 
The renaming of plants is quite complicated to comprehend. I am talking about the plants that we grow - aloes. Plants that look the same end up in different species and the other way round. There must be a reason for doing it so I will just try and learn all over again, which is not very fast.

I got caught in the topic.
What I wanted to say is that I would like to add your blog to my blogrol. If you do not like it then please let me know and I will remove the link immediatly.
 
My mind is still boggling over you with long hair & partying in Berkeley. Hmmm. I need to reassess my view of you as the quiet gentleman with the incredible woodland garden. I guess that stray hemp plant should have given me a clue.. :)
 
Wanda... my present demeanor is a cover (or due to chronic brain damage).
Don
 
I was on Telegraph Ave. not too long ago. You're right--you wouldn't know the place!
It's always seemed to me that many (most?) people who end up in the biological sciences do so because they love to organize and classify things. Certainly that's been the case with every high school biology teacher my daughters have endured.
 
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