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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Love Latin

This is not a Cottonwood. No one mentioned that
trees age with wrinkles in the identification part
of the descriptions. The smooth bark is at the top
of the tree, about 6 years of growth. The fissures
are at the base. I will make a new botanical later
when I am less mad at the internet. 
I'm not sure why I love Latin so much. It isn't the conjugating and the pronunciation because that stuff just kills me. What I love about Latin is that it makes things clear from an identification perspective. All of the world's organic bits are ordered and cataloged with Latin names to make sense of how things beget, or are related to, other things. When I started working in the rubber stamp industry, I fell in love with Personal Stamp Exchange's images. They incorporated Latin identification in the portraits of flowers and animals. And I think that is where I fell in love with the aesthetic. They took that aesthetic from Victorian botanical prints and illustrations such as this  that I found on Pintrest. I also found this gem which shares a similar aesthetic in my stamp collection.

I don't really stamp anymore. Not in the last few years because of all the things that we have already covered in the blog. But my collection is calling me. I miss the weight of the wood printing blocks in my hand, the squishy tap of the ink as it lands on the rubber and the smell of hot embossing powder. But I digress. I wanted to talk about the Latin. I am a language geek. I am a glyph geek. I love to see how people communicate and I like to play with what we know.  So it is little wonder to me that I am beginning to incorporate what I loved about my work in the past with the work that I am doing now. Part of me wonders why it is taking so long to incorporate the elements... but that is for another post.

One of my goals is to build a library of stock images that I have taken. It will give me a purpose for the images I collect while I am improving my photography skills. And it will give us something interesting to look at while perusing this little ole blog. That is what I am doing today while the sun is still not cooperating. I want to make botanical cards with the pictures that I am taking. But to do that, I need to know the common names of the things that I am taking pictures of. That should be easy. But it isn't.

For a long time now, I thought that the tree that was outside of the house was an Aspen. That is what the homeowner said. But it isn't. Aspens and Birches have smooth papery bark. The tree that is outside of the house has fissures in it, like a maple. So it can not be an aspen. How do you confuse the two? Turns out is is pretty easy. Thank you Latin ID! But no thanks to everyone who's opinions on the subject differ. It would seem that taxonomy is not the exacting science that we would wish it was.

Aspens, Birches and Cottonwoods are very similar. They all have catkins, rhomboid leaves and belong to the same sub-kingdom of angiosperms (flowering plants). It gets a little messy for me in the phylum and class because no one speaks the language of botany that I grew up with. And no one agrees what the distinctions are. Aspens and birches look a lot alike in the bark department. Silvery white, smooth and papery with similar leaves. But they are of different orders. Aspens are Malpighiales and Birches are Fagales. I don't know why the two should look so much alike if they belong to two different orders. It is weird and makes me question if Rivinus knew what he was talking about since they aren't even in the same Family! But the main difference that I can see is that the Malpighiale needs a male and a female tree to reproduce and the Fagale has both sexes on the same tree.

Aspens and Cottonwoods belong to the order of Malpighiales and the Family of Salicaceae. They are dioecious, meaning that the male and female reproductive organs are on two different trees. The catkins (flower clusters) are red for males and green for females. The cottonwood differs from the Aspen in that it has a shallowly fissured bark like maples and oaks and not the smooth papery bark of the Aspen. The leaves are nearly identical which I think is what throws everyone off. Our park is mixed with smooth barked Aspen leaves and rough barked Aspen leaves. Which if I weren't looking so intently at the birds I wouldn't have noticed the trees that they were living in.

There are a lot of details to consider in deciding a plant's taxonomy. And I am glad it is not my job. It is hard enough trying to figure these things out with a field guide and clear pictures. I am fairly confident I know what this tree is. It leaks nectar which is also another trait of the Malpighiales; they require bees to pollinate.This also explains why there are so many wasps that like to nest on the house. And why does all of this even matter?

Because I love the aesthetic of old botanical prints and I want to make a bunch of digital versions now that I am getting used to how my camera really works. All of this research and agony for art that started with an observation. Ugh.... life was so much simpler when I was distracting myself with fishing and outdoor pursuits with the BF. Now that I am outdoors on my own I do not really want to venture too far afield.

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