Nature Journals ~ Identify That Plant!

leaves and acorns drawn in pen and ink, copyright Liz Macklin 2021

In master naturalist training we identified trees by looking at their shape, bark, leaves and seeds. While hiking near Barcroft’s bog, we found oaks and poplars growing tall above a thriving poison sumac. Be aware, and if you’re in doubt about a plant, don’t touch or taste! Poet Jacqueline Jules stresses the importance of learning our plant IDs — and watching out for poison ivy!

Identifying Ivy

by Jacqueline Jules

I beg you. Reconsider
preconceived notions
and identify the difference.
 
Three together. Mitten shaped.
Small stem on the center leaf.
Pointed tips. Shiny. White berries.
 
Not the same as Virginia Creeper
and its cluster of five.
 
Do a little research. You’ll find
most are harmless. Don’t despise
every green vine gracing the path
because one or two
produce a nasty itch.

“Identfying Ivy” copyright by Jacqueline Jules — printed with permission of the poet

Read more poetry by Jacqueline Jules at Metaphorical Truths.

For help with identifying plants and animals, submit a photo to INaturalist. Researchers and citizen scientists (and even people like me!) use the posted data to learn more about our world.

In the Washington, D.C. region Alonso Abugattas posts observations about animals and plants and answers questions on his blog, the Capital Naturalist.

Nature Drawings & Poetry

Summer — Silence

Winter would seem to have a lock silence — 
the snow quieting the fields across the countryside, 
muffling even big city sounds and rounding off rough edges.

But silence is big enough to hold all seasons, 
and has a special place for summer — 
ocean, waterfall, and subway tunnel, yes,

and not only on top of whatever barns remain
on prairies or in mountain valleys —

but deep in the city, up on the tar beach rooftops 
of Manhattan, 

Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx —
maybe even Staten Island.

Where a kid goes to hear the stars,
their voices need no words.

from The Four Seasons by John Clarke

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is macklin_armnjournal_feb4_2021_lowres.jpg
Leaves | pen & ink with watercolor & pencil | copyright Liz Macklin 2021

Only a few weeks ago, I met a group of Arlington Regional Master Naturalists to talk about journals inspired by nature. To prepare I headed to Barcroft Park, the site of our March field trip. The trail, covered with snow, wound past a seep bordered by tall trees. Quiet prevailed.

Our leader Jan had pointed me to the work of John Muir Laws, biologist, artist and journal mentor. Laws advises beginners to include numbers, words and pictures in journal entries. Near the path, I found a branch with dry leaves. It was just the right place and just enough of a specimen to start my notes. I recorded time and temperature. I described features like color, shape and location, and I finished a quick sketch.

Jan stressed that journals can be exclusively written work, too. That brought to mind autumn meetings with a group of poets and visual artists at Fort C.F. Smith Park. The year? Possibly 2004. My friend John Clarke shared a poem at each session. I thought of John, as I heard rumbles of automobiles and leaf blowers and beyond that, the calls of crows and the trills of other birds, perhaps sparrows, in the trees above. Further up the path, I reached the playground of a school deserted through the winter — a pandemic silence, broken only by brief tapping by a woodpecker.

Taking in the sunshine, I decided that the best journal was one that you enjoy working on!

Read the complete text of John Clarke’s The Four Seasons