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Re-Learning my Botanical Latin

Maureen Sexsmith-West ISA Certified Arborist, PR4600A I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Lake Louise with a great bunch of people from the Alberta Native Plant Council. As an arborist, I love my trees and shrubs but I also have a real soft spot for herbaceous plants. What better place to increase my knowledge than with a seasoned group of botanists and horticulturalists. It didn’t take long when I realized that we were speaking two languages. Me, in common name, and them in Botanical Latin. In my dealings with clients, if I referred to their Manitoba Maple as Acer negundo – they would give me a confused look so I seldom use the Latin terminology except at professional development events or for technical writing. It was surprising how easily it fades to the background. Even more challenging is the botanical references to flowers. This is a new area of learning for me as I work towards my Master Gardener Certificate so it was a great opportunity to learn for seasoned veterans.

The experience was fantastic. As mentors my fellow flower hunters were patient and enthusiastic, and the weather really cooperative. Each day offered a two different hikes depending on your potential interests and your energy level.

Hiking with them was a bit different than I am used to. It took 30 minutes to get through the first 10 feet of trail as they busily brought out their hand lenses and horticultural keys. I was rewarded with a white bark pine and a busy squirrel harvesting seeds. We only made it half way along the trail before the sun started to dip behind the mountains on the first night. Every field activity ended with a massive list of identified species. All the lists will be compiled by the ANPC and published some time in the future.

On Saturday, I ended up at Lake Louise. Having lived in the Elkford, BC I was familiar with a lot of the plants and the beautiful colour of the water from the gypsum. I was especially excited to see a Stellar Jay and an opening friendly chipmunk.

Sunday, I tagged along with Mari and her family. She works full time looking for rare vascular plants. I just had a funny thought – do all green people take green working holidays?

We took a short hike to see some hoodoos and the two of us challenged a 5.5 km, 700 m elevation change trek. I thought I would be pretty sore today but not the case. I guess I am in better condition than I thought – I suppose hauling branches and digging in the garden is a good substitute for going to the gym after all. With no sign markers along the way, we chatted with hikers on their way down to get an idea of how much further – amazingly, each response was estimated at 20 minutes (x 6 or so requests). We noticed the changing bloom periods the higher up we went. We did find a few introduced/invasive species. Mari was especially excited when she identified a rare species for our log book. She recorded all the data and took a few pictures.

To further my challenges, I brought along my new digital camera. While I did get some fantastic shots, probably wasn’t the best time for learning all the new features. I have posted a number of pictures on Flicker if you are interested in seeing some more. Click on this link: Photostream



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