When I started my Master Naturalist class in June and was given the assignment to collect and identify forty wildflowers over the summer, I asked C if there even are forty different types of wildflowers in Maine. (His answer, a rather indignant "Yes!").
Over the next two-and-a-half months, I collected and collected and collected. Everywhere I went--beaches, hikes, strolls, parking lots, weedy edges--I looked for unfamiliar plants, snagging a representative sample and stuffing it in my bag, pocket, or car to be looked up later when I had the leisure to flip through Newcomb's and key it out.
It's amazing how learning the names of flowers, and searching for new and different ones, has made me so much more aware of all the diversity of plant life, even in my own yard. For instance, I've known what a goldenrod is for years, but I never knew there was more than one kind of goldenrod (in fact dozens!). I never noticed the great variety in leaves, growth habits, shade of yellow and size of the flowers, and blooming time. Now I see a new species I've recently learned and it's like recognizing a friend, "Hello Slender Goldenrod, I see you're looking fine today." [Of course, there are the many flowers I learned briefly, who are more like that passing acquaintance whom I was introduced to once, but who I don't quite recognize, and whose name I don't quite remember. Is that Early Goldenrod or Canada Goldenrod? I hurry past those, not making eye contact, hoping they don't notice my rudeness.]
I passed the forty mark some time ago and kept going, finding flower number 100 right on the edge of the grass outside my office Friday morning (red sand-spurry). I don't think I'll stop there, though, but rather spend the fall sorting through the many asters and whatever last-gasp of growing season flowers come my way.
White snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum)
Slender-leaved agalinus (Agalinus tenuifolia)
Large-leaved goldenrod (Solidago macrophylla)
There's also a nodding bur marigold (Bidens cernua) in the vase, but I think it's nodding so much it's out of the picture.