100 Species Challenge

Quote from Homeschooling the Doctorate:

Someone I was recently reading (I cannot remember who–Berry? Wirzba?)
lamented the decline of local knowledge among modern westerners. “Most
people,” whoever-it-was said, “cannot recognize even a hundred plant
species within a mile of their home.”

Can you recognize a hundred plant species that are living within a mile of your home?  Sarah has designed The 100 Species Challenge and it has got my juices going.  As I said in her comments section, I am tired of responding to inquiries about plants with, “I don’t know…I’m just not any good at remembering names of plants.”  This is a great way to grow in knowledge of my locality. 

And since I have a plant specialist living one mile away (my daughter-in-law) I have no excuse.  I love the pace Sarah is planning: two new species a week.  Oh, people, I am getting EXCITED! 

Here are the rules:

The 100-Species Challenge

1. Participants should include a copy of these rules and a link to this entry in their initial blog post about the challenge. I [Sarah] will make a sidebar list of anyone who notifies me that they are participating in the Challenge.

2. Participants
should keep a list of all plant species they can name, either by common
or scientific name, that are living within walking distance of the
participant’s home. The list should be numbered, and should appear in
every blog entry about the challenge, or in a sidebar.

3. Participants
are encouraged to give detailed information about the plants they can
name in the first post in which that plant appears.
My [Sarah’s] format
will be as follows: the numbered list, with plants making their first
appearance on the list in bold; each plant making its first appearance
will then have a photograph taken by me, where possible, a list of
information I already knew about the plant, and a list of information I
learned subsequent to starting this challenge, and a list of
information I’d like to know. (See below for an example.) This format
is not obligatory, however, and participants can adapt this portion of
the challenge to their needs and desires.

4. Participants are encouraged to make it possible for visitors to their blog to find easily all 100-Species-Challenge blog posts.
This can be done either by tagging these posts, by ending every post on
the challenge with a link to your previous post on the challenge, or by
some method which surpasses my technological ability and creativity.

5. Participants
may post pictures of plants they are unable to identify, or are unable
to identify with precision. They should not include these plants in the
numbered list until they are able to identify it with relative
precision. Each participant shall determine the level of precision that
is acceptable to her; however, being able to distinguish between plants
that have different common names should be a bare minimum.

6. Different
varieties of the same species shall not count as different entries
(e.g., Celebrity Tomato and Roma Tomato should not be separate
entries); however, different species which share a common name be
separate if the participant is able to distinguish between them (e.g.,
camillia japonica and camillia sassanqua if the participant can distinguish the two–“camillia” if not).

7. Participants may take as long as they like to complete the challenge.  You
can make it as quick or as detailed a project as you like.  I’m
planning to blog a minimum of two plants per week, complete with
pictures and descriptions as below, which could take me up to a year. 
But you can do it in whatever level of detail you like.

I know it is wicked of me to bring a plant topic around to books, but those of you that have stuck around MagistraMater know how big a fan I am of Wendell Berry.  And you can guess how delighted I am to be reminded of Norman Wirzba.  His book on the Sabbath is on my wish list at PBS. 

You know, don’t let the number 100 frighten you.  Can you name twenty species?  Wouldn’t ten be a good start?

Oh, yay! 


In another of those lovely intersections of interest, I read “The Life of Trees” in the current online edition of Books and Culture.  Alan Jacobs cites Garrison Keillor: “he came to see that his ignorance of trees was emblematic of  his difficulties [in writing a novel]”.  GK’s characters “leaned against vague vegetation.”   Ayup.

In this short essay on books about trees are some fascinating new discoveries by scientists at Humboldt State (my husband’s alma mater) who have climbed to the top of the redwoods to study the ecosystem of the canopies.  I learned three forms of arbor  (arboreal, arboriphile and arboriphobic) and was introduced to a froe (a tool for cleaving wood by splitting it along the grain).   I recommend this article.


3 thoughts on “100 Species Challenge

  1. I read your title and thought “oh great.  birds.”  But no, plants!  I am psyched.  I am going to modify your rules since I am a plant person, with several college level ID classes under my belt.  I have an unfair advantage.  Also since I have dialup, posting photos is a real hassle.  Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Mme, you have the “gift” to press a button – where it hurts – i majored amongst others in botany (because the teaching bursary required it); with self-educated botanists (inlaws) in the family i cringe every time they name plants & share their enthusiasm… i only remember the theoretical stuff; don’t ask me to put the genus & species name to the actual plant… so, shall i dust the cover of Handbook of Nature Study and join you? I might end up on the good side with the inlaws  

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