Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Botanical Blossoming

I've been wanting to come back to plants for some time. We touched on it briefly a few years ago; we discuss leaves in the fall and maple syrup in the late winter and flowers in the spring and summer. But it has never gotten much past the obvious. We've never dived deep. This may be the year.

The horticultural garden visit earlier this month was the beginning of an inkling with my eldest. She talked of wanting some herbs to plant herself. "We'll see," I thought, knowing how our wishes of the moment are often not meant to turn into reality. This past Sunday we had the very good fortune of meeting up with Nancy Webster at Brandywine Battlefield. She was there (in historical garb) with part of her collection of colonial medicine and equipment. We stayed for awhile; Erin didn't want to leave. She wasn't furiously asking questions, just listening, intently. Although a little grossed out by the preserved leech (she knew what it was, mumbling something about an American girl doll book) and the amputating saw, the medicines and tonics derived from plant material intrigued her. I was intrigued myself as Nancy explained that she has been making these medicines for 32 years and recently met some doctors doing research into herbal medicines -- she's even been helping them with their research! Turns out that the potency of a homemade herbal medicine is dependant on the amount of rainfall that year. This year's crop is not going to be as potent.

Perusing through the library yesterday, I picked up a few books, just to see if this is the right time for a dive into the botanical pool with Erin. The Flower Hunter; William Bartram, American's First Naturalist and My Favorite Tree: Terrific Trees of North America were received well and I was just told that I can count her to read the rest. The second book sounds simple but gives you very specific information just right for 3rd-6th graders as well as memories of the best trees for sitting under, or climbing, or picking fruit from. Tolkien would have liked this book.

If it is too hot to play tomorrow maybe we'll take a dip with the on-line exhibit of Phyllotaxis - the study of the spiral arrangements of botanical units - and sneak a little math in there with Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Mean.


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