A change of pace

As an ecologist that mostly focuses on plant-mediated interactions (above- and belowground!), I have worked with quite a few model systems, that I have gotten to know quite well. I have reasonable botany skills, too. Or well, good memory, rather. Of course, my knowledge is entirely limited to the severely depleted biodiversity found in the Netherlands, where no ecosystem is untouched, and pretty much every system is severely overfertilized. My version of botany is also not very systematic. I could not key out anything using specific plant traits if my life depended on it. Sure, some of the main family traits I may have remembered from my first year in university (but probably not). However, I have always had a good eye for recognizing things and memorizing them (and I have always loved scientific names). I couldn’t tell you why a certain species is what it is, but at least I could tell you what it is.

Since moving to Bavaria, well, the first year here, I was just getting used to the place and finding my bearings. But since last autumn, we explored quite a bit in the area. I live in a swampy, loamy peatland area, just North of Munich. My gut feeling is that there is not much diversity here either. The region is characterized by a load of agriculture, and between the barley and hops fields, you may find the odd artificial flower strip, but there seems not to be much room for more natural grasslands. There is also, generally, not too much room to explore here either. The loamy soil is pretty wet and combined with hills, it doesn’t make for great ‘off the beaten track’ work. Beaten tracks there are few. But we do go out to the Bavarian Alps quite a lot. Our highest Dutch ‘mountain’ is just over 300m… The Alps are a different story, with some of the near peaks ranging between 2000-3000m. You can imagine that conditions are a bit different, and partly because of this, the Alps boast a much different and more diverse set of plants than the Netherlands. Because of this, I have recently started to look at plant diversity with different eyes. I now take much more time to look around. Before, I was always most focused on spotting reptiles, which requires a different pace. Reptiles are gone if you’re not fast enough. Plants were therefore not really on the radar. We now move much more sluggishly, because we are walking around with a toddler. Reptile spotting days are over. Plants don’t run.

Anyway, today we went to a place called Tegler Alm, and we approached it via the back roads (most people take the paved main road to it). As is becoming the new norm for me these days, I took some snapshots of the spring flowers. The first I had never even seen before (but that may not mean anything. I think I will be ordering some books on the flora of Germany, Bavaria, or the Alps, so that hopefully someday soon I can also add a bit more beef to just the names, but for now, you’ll have to do with just a bunch of names and pictures. Any suggested titles for good books that include pictures (like I said, I am not a key guy) are welcome! Please leave them in the comments below.

Petasites albus – White Butterbur

Tussilago farfara – Coltsfoot

Chrysoplenium alternifolium– Alternate-leaved golden Saxifrage.

Anemona nemorosa – Wooden enemy (I admittedly stole this name from Dave Goulson, but I’m sure he was also not the first to come up with it)

Primula elatior – Oxlip

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of one but almost two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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