Saturday, December 20, 2008

High on Carex

December is a tough month. Today, when I was walking down the hallway towards the glass door that would lead me out of the office, I did a double take. I actually saw blue sky. It had been raining all morning, and now, finally, the clouds had broken. No more rain, and even a little bit of sunshine. It was the first that I had seen since last Friday, when I took the pictures of the Juncos. Getting shots in the daylight at this time of year just isn't conducive to my work schedule! I need to try harder- perhaps even take the camera to work and try to catch a cooper's hawk taking down a morning dove.

But I digress. During the field season, I travel across the Lake Erie Watershed searching for Ohio's rare plants. Us botanists collect specimens of plants when we're in the field, allowing us to document a plant's existence. Often, when I collect a specimen, I have no idea what it is, and it takes careful examination under a dissecting scope to put an ID to it. Plant ID is challenging, but all it really takes is time and a great deal of patience.

My view at work the last few weeks has looked liked this:

I've spent hours looking through the scope at plant parts. What you see here is a closeup view, taken through the scope using my Panasonic LZ8 (digiscoped!) of the perigynia of Carex comosa, a fairly common sedge in Ohio found in marshes. This particular specimen I collected back during our June trip to Kelleys Island.

Sedges in the genus Carex are fascinating to study. Just like learning the birds that come to your yard, I'm trying to learn the sedges of Ohio. It is a large group with over 150 species just in our state. What is amazing is that sedges superficially look alike- but once you learn what to look for, they really begin to look different. Ever watch the show John and Kate plus 8? When Megan and I first started to watch the show, we couldn't separate the sextuplets-at all. Now that we've watched a million episodes, we've begun to get to know them and they all look very different to us. The same thing goes with sedges! Enough studying, patience, and persistence, and you'll soon be able to tell Carex gracilescens from Carex blanda!


P.S. Note the time of this post. I can't sleep- and I'm apparently high on Carex.


  1. Sunshine has been a bit scarce around here too, but Friday was fantastic.

    Now I know where to find an expert when I need a sedge IDed. :-)

  2. We had that marvelous sunshine break through briefly, too....much too briefly. You work sounds interesting. When I became a biology major in college it was because I loved animals, but I had a really wonderful botany professor who made me end up loving plants instead! Every part of the natural world is fascinating to someone...sedges are your "thing" at the moment :-)

  3. Just stopping by to wish you and Megan a very Merry Christmas, Tom!! Better lay off the Carex!

  4. *LOL @ "high on carex."*
    In a similar vein, when I raised game birds w/my ex, he couldn't sex the young ring necked pheasants, much less tell them apart. I spent hours in their pen, however, hand feeding them & getting some of them rather tame. I could tell them apart & I learned to sex them by sight, alone. After a while, I could tell just by looking at them, who was going to be a what.