Who would have thought? My ambitious aim of writing one blog entry every
week fortnight didn’t quite come true last year! There are substantial doubts that it will do this year as 2010 promises to be a rather busy year with a lot of things to plan (all those holidays for example ;-)…).
No, my new year’s resolution revolving around plants is inspired by the chapter “collecting” in David Attenborough’s book Life Stories – btw a delightful, leger read and a 9 Pound bargain on Amazon.
In this chapter there were two points about Charles Darwin that caught my attention:
- He did not join the Beagle as a naturalist, but as an entertainer providing “gentlemanly conversation” to Captain Robert Fitzroy.
- Despite his great reputation as the non-plus-ultra bettle collector, Darwin turned out to be quite a bad scientific collector while on the Beagle, who didn’t label his grand collection of differently shaped giant tortoise shells that he found on different islands.
Sorry, Charles, now this is really a first semester biology student mistake! You do that once with your test tubes (e.g. by semi-labelling them with 1,2,3 or even adding !) and you never do it again. All that tedious cloning for nothing…
But, in Darwin’s case he couldn’t make up for his mistake by starting the experiment again… Luckily, he could rely on his assistant Symes Covington’s labelling skills. Of course, being only the assistant, Covington didn’t get to collect the impressive tortoise shells, but the rather unimposing mockingbirds. True “mocking” birds though there turned out to be!
Not labelling collected objects appears incommensurate with – if not opposing to the idea of scientific collecting. Nonetheless, there is (at least) one more famous victim: Henry Wellcome. As I learned last weekend on a fantastic (free!) tour through the “Medicine Man” exhibit at the Wellcome Collection, Henry Wellcome left warehouses full of objects (ranging from weapons over paintings and artificial limbs to who knows what kind of curiosities) without any label!
Shaking my head it dawned on me: In my plant photo collection there are quite numerous unlabelled “mocking plants” to be found. Many of them beautiful to look at or at least very beneficial to humankind – but without a freaking label!
Just like Darwin who must have made his new year’s resolution the labelling of his collected items once he realised his mistake, my new year’s resolution will be the meticulous labelling of all plant pictures I take.
And then, there will also be more to write about!