Saturday, May 19, 2007

Common Cowparsnip

I must tell you, today I blog with slightly more hesitation than normal. Why? This past week, I listened to an author on NPR, whose name I did not catch, talking about how Americans are increasingly isolating themselves from other people and our social networks are breaking down, resulting in hyper-individualism. Then, I was reminded by the words of the natural history writer David Petersen that you can't experience nature by leafing through a book or watching nature documentaries on television. Although at one time this was my strategy, I know now that one must get out into the natural world, bringing a critical eye, and observing everything in that realm with a fine tooth comb. That is what I try to do, and I write some of my observations here- This space helps me remember names, faces, and places, and this is my nature journal. I do hope that my thoughts, pictures, and words inspire you to get out and create your own nature journal, be it on paper or on the computer.

Today, I would like to share a photo of common cowparsnip, Heracleum maximum. It has to be one of the largest non-woody plants in Kenney park. Over 4 feet tall, it is currently in peak bloom. Its blossoms are characteristic of the carrot family. Although they look somewhat like an umbrella, botanists have called this flower structure an "umbel" Be careful though, this plant can be known to give dermatitis to some if one touches the plant. It is related to Giant Hogweed, which can cause severe burns on the skin when one comes into contact with the plant's sap. Although cowparsnip stays a bit smaller than the ten and fifteen foot non-native Giant Hogweed, it is a very noticable plant and quite stunning. Look for it near you. In Kenney Park, it grows along stream terraces.

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