Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The western red columbine and the beginning of my downfall

On the several occasions when we moved into a new house, the first order of business for my father was to begin planting fruit trees.  That was followed by roses and other ornamentals.  So there was an awareness of plants in my earliest memories.  The bug didn't hit my though, until summer camp in the sixth grade, somewhere up in the San Bernardino Mountains.  We had to do a project, and all the seeds planted in my subconscious suddenly coalesced, and I chose wildflowers. 

Aquilegia formosa
Before that I had decided to become a nuclear physicist, I think after being inspired by one of Frank Baxter's Science episodes on TV - "Our Mr. Sun," or something like that.  Anyway that was discarded on that fateful day at camp, and from then on I was committed to being a botanist.  Through all the science training and career as a biology and botany professor, I was deep at heart a wildflower enthuisast, and to this day, I am always looking for that next flower to capture on film (or now as a series of bits in a digital file - not nearly as romantic!).

The primary evangelist for my conversion was a population of the western red columbine, Aquilegia formosa,  occuring along a stream near camp.  The dainty flowers, aptly named for the female clown in a popular 18th century English theater, dangle an dance in the breeze, waiting for hummingbirds to feed on their nectar and bring pollen.  This species occurs throughout the Pacific states in mountain meadows, one of many that can be found throughout North America and Eurasia.

Stay tuned.  This is just the beginning!