Monday, December 13, 2010

Hiking With Botanists

Wild grape leaves in the sun

I have friends I’ve known for nearly 20 years. They are PhD Botanists who work at Kew Garden in London. I’m not quite sure what each does but they are top experts in their respective fields. We manage to visit at least once a year on one side of the pond or the other.

We all like to hike. When visiting us in California, they enjoy getting out into the landscape to see the plants. I’m always happy to accompany them on these hikes. Hiking with Mark, Michael & Maarten (I’ll just call them M3) is always an educational experience. I generally retain only one bit of information from the hundreds of bits they tell me during our hikes. Generally, Latin is involved. I don’t retain Latin for too long; it just falls out of my head. I’m linguistically impaired.

This trip, I learned that there are orchids indigenous to Palm Springs. M3 pointed them out exclaiming about how much better these specimens are doing than their specimens at Kew. Orchids? I saw weeds growing along the stream. Hmmm…. Those are orchids! Wow!

The other day, we hiked in Andreas Canyon: a one-mile loop trail easily walked in 30 minutes or so. These were Botanists. We hiked that mile in three hours. They left no plant unexamined. No seedpod ignored. M3 was ecstatic to find Resurrection Ferns growing in the crack of some boulders. Imagine what the Maiden Hair Fern did for him!

Maarten examining Maiden Hair Ferns

We’d walk 10 feet and stop to examine a plant. Discussions would begin about the plant. The 3 M’s would examine that tiny weed until they’d all agreed on its genus, species and Latin name. Twenty minutes later we’d continue on. After another 10 feet M3 would stop to examine another plant growing along the path. Discussions began and twenty minutes later, we’re on to the next plant 10 feet away.

Thankfully, I enjoy listening to their discussion. Their combined knowledge of botany is a constant amazement to me. I had no clue what they were talking about but it was impressive. While 3M focused on the individual parts of Andreas Canyon, I enjoyed the overall scenery; I enjoyed the quality of the morning light through the vegetation (I dare NOT call them weeds!).

I took nearly 100 photograph of Andreas Canyon. M3 took just as many. At day’s end, I uploaded his photos into my Mac and he transferred my photos into his laptop. Between the two photo sets, we have close ups and landscape photos: a complete set.

Hiking with Mark, Michael and Maarten teaches me patience. I learn to slow down and actually examine the “stuff” at my feet. I learn to slow down and examine the landscape through which I’m walking. I stopped to actually watch the changing light on the fall leaves and through the palm trees. I see the world with new perspective. I cannot tell you the Latin name of any of the plants we examined.

I did learn that Mistletoe is such a successful parasite, it needs no leaves. There’s something to think about this Christmas season.

Please take time to visit my website at Take a look at my artwork. Contact me if you want to buy one of my works or if you have any questions about a specific piece. My contact information is on my website or you can leave a comment on this blog site for me to contact you (include your contact info!). You can e-mail me at or you can telephone me on my studio phone 760-992-3157. You can call me. I won’t mind.

Thank you for listening

Jerry L. Hanson

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