Dec 6, 2019
Today we celebrate the botanist who made his mark in human anatomy and the botanist who lost his civil war specimens to a confederate raider.
We'll hear the most popular poem about trees written by a poet who was killed in WWI.
We Grow That Garden Library with a self-published humorous garden book by one of my favorite garden authors.
I'll talk about a garden gift that you can split - one for you and one for a gift - and in the perfect price point for holiday gift exchanges and then we'll wrap things up with a story about the protection of the work done by botanists over a century ago.
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
Today's Curated Articles:
In the past, Clove-pink was esteemed equally with the rose in mixtures. Regarded as "exceedingly cordial" and "wonderfully above measure comforts the heart."
Clove-pink petals w/ verbena infused in alcohol was a refreshing bath liqueur.
The "Red List" is the go-to for birds and mammals but only covers ~10% of plants. A new study's preliminary estimate found a third of Africa's tropical flora (~7000 species) are likely/potentially threatened with extinction
You say Potato, I say Potato Exhibit!
Just in time for the Holidays, the exhibit @MobotMuseum is called “Potato (Solanum tuberosum): Apple of the Earth" & will be on display through March 17.
The potato is the most important non-cereal food crop in the world.
Galleries feature contemporary artists Seamus O. Hames, Dornith Doherty, and Corina Kennedy. Each artist has interpreted the unique story of the potato, especially the historic impact of the late potato blight that devastated the potato crop in Ireland in the mid-19th century.
Now, if you'd like to check out these curated articles for yourself, you're in luck - because I share all of it with the Listener Community on Facebook. So, there’s no need to take notes or search for links - the next time you're on Facebook, just search for the Free Facebook Group - The Daily Gardener Community and request to join. I'd love to meet you in the group.
#OTD Today is the birthday of Johann Gottfried Zinn who was born on this day in 1727.
Zinn died at the age of 32, but he accomplished much in his short life and he focused on two areas of science: human anatomy and botany.
From an anatomy standpoint, in his early twenties, Zinn wrote an eye anatomy book and became the first person to describe the anatomy of the iris in the human eye. There are a number of parts of the eye named in his honor including the Zinn zonule, the Zinn membrane, and the Zinn artery.
It's fitting that Zinn wrote about the iris - which of course is also the name of a flower - and so there's some charming coincidental connection between his two passions of anatomy and botany.
In Greek mythology, Iris was a beautiful messenger - a one-woman pony express - between the Olympian gods and humans. Iris was the personification of the rainbow. She had golden wings and would travel along the rainbow carrying messages from the gods to mortals.
In the plant world, the iris is a genus with hundreds of species and is represented by the fleur-de-lis.
When Zinn was 26 years old, he became director of the University Botanic Garden in Göttingen (pronounced “Gert-ing-en”). He thought the University was going to put him to work as a professor of anatomy, but that job was filled and so botany was his second choice. Nonetheless, he threw himself into his work. When Zinn received an envelope of seeds from the German Ambassador to Mexico, he described the blossom in detail and he published the first botanical illustration of the zinnia. He also shared the seeds with other botanists throughout Europe. Like most botanists in the 1700s, Zinn corresponded with Linnaeus. No doubt Zinn's work as a bright, young garden Director and the fact that he tragically died young from tuberculosis, spurred Linnaeus to name the flower Zinn received from Mexico in his honor.
And so, Zinn lives on in the name Zinnia - a favorite flower of gardeners, and for good reasons: They come in a variety of vivid colors, they can be direct sown into the garden, they attract pollinators like butterflies and they couldn't be easier to grow.
And, if meditation is something you struggle with, you can still become a Zinn Master, if you enjoy growing Zinnias. :)
And, I'd like to think Zinn would be pleased being remembered by the Zinnia because, like the Iris, the Zinnia has a connection to the eyes.
We've all heard the phrase beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well... in the case of the Zinnia, the Aztecs were clearly not a fan. In fact, the Aztecs had a word for zinnia which basically translated to the evil eye or eyesore. The Aztecs didn't care for the zinnia flower - but don't judge them because it was not the hybridized dazzling version we've grown accustomed to in today's gardens. (You can thank the French for that!) The original plants were weedy-looking with an uninspired dull purple blossom. This is why the blossom was initially called the crassina which means "somewhat corse" before Linnaeus changed the name to remember Zinn.
Over time, the gradual transformation of zinnias from eyesores to beauties gave Zinnias the common name Cinderella Flower. And here's a little factoid: the zinnia is Indiana’s state flower. I like to imagine when it came time for Indiana legislators to vote in favor of the zinnia, Zinn was looking down from heaven and smiling as he heard these words: "All in favor of the zinnia, say aye."
#OTD On this day in 1852, the Harvard botanist Asa Gray wrote to Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
Gray wrote the letter because he couldn't lecture at the Smithson due to his demanding schedule. But he also sent his reassurance in that Smithsonian was establishing itself as the scientific adviser to the United States Government and not to worry about any more negative media coverage of the Institution.
#OTD Today is the anniversary of the death of the Quaker doctor and botanist Jeremiah Bernard Brinton who died 125 years ago today in 1894.
During the civil war, Brinton served as an assistant surgeon and on September 14, 1863, he was promoted to Medical Purveyor.
It's hard to imagine, but Brinton managed to continue botanizing during the civil war. It's true. One time he was going to collect a specimen and he made a friend in Major General Gouverneur K. Warren. That little connection was a happy recollection for Brinton through the years.
During the Civil War, there was a man named John Singleton Mosby who was a Confederate raider. Mosby and his men conducted raids on union soldiers and communications over the span of two years.
On May 12, 1864, Mosby and his men captured a group of supply wagons. Dr. Brinton narrowly escaped, but his collection of botanical specimens from Virginia were destroyed when Mosby burned the wagons.
After the war, Brinton founded the Philadelphia Botanical Club. The highlight of his botanical life was guiding Harvard's Asa Gray and the Linnaean Society's William Caruthers on a visit to the pine barren region of New Jersey. His successfully showed them an extremely rare plant - the Schizaea pusilla or the little curly-grass fern.
In the final years of his life, Brinton dedicated himself fully to botany. He loved to entertain friends in his botanical workroom known as "the Den." In 1895, when Brinton was 60, he died from a heart attack and was found sitting in his chair in the Den.
A Biographical Sketch of Brinton in the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club reported that on the last night of his life, Brinton visited a friend and they discussed a German poem called "Good night."
Over the quiet pathway
Comes clear the bell-ring sound;
Good night thy heart now sleep may
And 'morrow a day comes round.
Once more then let us whisper
A good evening and good night.
The moon shines o'er the housetops,
Our Lord keeps us in sight.
Today is the birthday of the journalist, poet, and World War I soldier Alfred Joyce Kilmer who was born on this day in 1886.
Kilmer was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey and he was killed in action on July 30, 1918, while serving as a sergeant in the 165th Infantry regiment.
Every year, Kilmer's childhood home at 17 Joyce Kilmer Ave. in New Brunswick, the city holds it's annual Open House is held from 10 am to 4 pm.
Kilmer is best remembered for his poem, Trees:
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Luke a few years ago and his love of plants and his sense of humor make for a delightful combination.
Luke has worked in horticulture for quite some time. This book gives you another crack at reading Luke’s hilarious take on his favorite pastime: gardening.
Personally, I love following Luke on twitter because his perspective is so original. He draws on the downright funny aspects of growing plants.
Despite (or perhaps because of) a childhood spent dodging falling apples in his Dad's orchard, Luke harbored a dormant love of all things horticultural until college, when his brother showed him how to germinate an avocado pit. That experience inspired Luke to change his major to Botany and the rest is history.
This is Luke's second book and it's a series of essays that offer another hilarious and heartfelt look at Luke's life with THE MOST terrible people on earth: plants.
I love what IndieReader said about this book,
"It reads like the kind of far-flung ruminations a wacky mind might ponder during the mundane processes of working on a garden."
Luke's book would make a lovely gardener gift for the holidays for yourself or for someone else - because it's the kind of book you can pick up and just read a funny story or two and then go about your day with a little boost of garden happiness and humor.
Best of all, it's Luke's passion for gardening and for life that makes his stories especially connect with those of us who give gardening our all.
Don't forget, you can get a copy of Luke's book and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for under $14.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
Last year on this day on a post on IDigBio we learned that the over 100,000 specimens that make up the University of Cincinnati's botany collection were going digital thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation.
In the post, the herbarium curator Eric Tepe,
"... opened a folder on his desk to reveal a flower that was plucked on a spring day in 1884.
He said, 'This is running buffalo clover. It does really well when there’s some disturbance in the soil. So in bison tracks, it would have been abundant.'
Running buffalo clover began to disappear across much of the West with the wide-scale slaughter of buffalo. Today, the clover is federally protected as an endangered species. So UC’s specimen is especially valuable for researchers.”
In the article, Eric pointed out that the single specimen of Running Buffalo Clover was shipped to two separate researchers over the past few decades - one in Kansas and once to Miami. Digitizing specimens means that everyone can have access and shipping won't always be necessary.
That's a great thing because we learned just last year Australian customs purposely destroyed a herbarium collection because they were worried about bringing in invasive species. They were not aware that what they were intercepting was a priceless 200-year-old French collection on it's way to the herbarium in Queensland. Those kinds of tragedies can be avoided by going digital. And, if something does happen to the original, at least there is a digital copy - which is better than nothing at all.
In the Cincinnati herbarium, like so many herbariums around the country, these collections have been waiting, largely undisturbed for over a century. And, I think, it's tremendous that the valuable long-ago work of botanists can be seen and referenced by all of us - at any time and any place - as long as you have wifi.
Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."