I’ve just happened upon your fabulous tumblr and have an inquiry. I have been wanting to teach my child who is 9 yo more about botany. I’m a casual fan of it, and not a great teacher. I feel like I get too caught up in the details for him to follow. So, my question is, where could I start? Do you have any resources that could help me in teaching a child this age? I want to make a book of the plant life he can find in our local area with him but want to do it in a way that will be memorable.

(tbh i think the biggest mistake we make when teaching botany to kids is that we dont show them the cool parts. like when we teach kids about animals we show them lions and tigers and elephants and stuff that they may never see in their lives, and then when we get to plants we show them like. petunias and the parts of a flower and that’s it. kids are always enthralled learning about venus fly traps when they learn about them (because they’re cool as hell), but then we fall flat when talking about how they’re a plant you can stumble across in north and south carolina, and how they contribute to the ecosystem there and can be poached just like an endangered rhino or elephant could be. 

i remember when i was younger i was under the impression that there were cool and exotic plants and ecosystems somewhere in some dense forest in asia or africa, but certainly nothing strange here, where i live. i was under the impression that i was just unlucky in that i lived in a really boring place for that sort of thing. and then i got older and realized that there were plants around me i never knew existed.

for instance, i was told at a carnivorous plant conference this year that every state in the US has a native carnivorous plant. i thought, “Bullshit, not where i live!”. when i got back to school i searched through our herbarium and found a Utricularia specimen collected in 1975…..in the county right next to where i was born and raised (side note: Utricularia is one of those unappreciated carnivorous plants. they live in still water and waterlogged environments where they put down very, very tiny vacuum-sealed bladders; when microorganisms swim by them, they hit the hairs to trigger the traps and get sucked into the pouch, where they’re then digested. the current theory is that venus fly traps evolved from these!)

in high school, i started learning about thermogenic plants, which are plants that heat up. i was under the impression that they were all very far from me…until i found a species that lived in a protected reserve in rural iowa literally 20 minutes away from my house. it’s a remnant ice age population of about 200-400 plants, and knowing that they were there and had always been was incredible. i went and hung out with them about once every couple months in high school. 

so i think the best way to go about it would be to work backwards. native plants are awesome, but when we go to teach animals we don’t start with the native birds in our area; we have to get kids interested first, and then we use that interest to apply it to the things already around us. carnivorous plants are bomb af, and again, there’s a wide range to choose from there (fun fact, we now know that carnivory in plants evolved multiple times independently, so you can find them scattered in with completely normal non-carnivorous relatives!). 

as for resources, documentaries are awesome because they show a good broad range of strange species from across the globe (not just carnivorous plants and titan arums). i made a post with my faves here, and lot of them are on youtube. many of the botanists i met at the carnivorous plant conference this summer became enthralled with them in childhood and found themselves falling into botany because of them (there’s still a lot we don’t know about The Hungry Lads)! 

also one last thing: i have to recommend for you or him one of my fave non-academic botany books of all time, The Plant Messiah by KEW botanical horticulturalist and local lily pad nerd Carlos Magdalena. his entire job is literally rescuing native plants from the brink of extinction, and this book is basically him talking about his adventures in the field and his passion for botany (and also what he had to do to start his career in it). you may know him as the dude who saved the world’s smallest (and most adorable) lily pad species from extinction. this is him in the KEW’s lily pond, holding one of said Small Lads up for comparison with the world’s largest species: 


Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/178297208290.

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