How Brains Work

I’m sure this has happened to you:  You didn’t even know something existed.  Then for some reason, it comes into your consciousness.  After that, you see it everywhere and you wonder why you never noticed it before.

Running Strawberry BushLast fall, I took a walk at Audubon’s Bentley Sanctuary toting my relatively new Canon Rebel XT, all excited to take some interesting fall wildflower pictures.  I ran across something I had never seen before.  It took quite a bit of detective work to discover the name of this plant.  Eventually, I found it by accident when one of my Flickr contacts posted a similar picture with a name… Running Strawberry Bush (Euonymus abovatus).

Running StrawberryOnce I knew what it was, I started seeing it in lots of places:  Busti Park, College Park, Bergman Park…  Pretty much everywhere I walk.  It’s a native shrub/vine that I find on the forest floor.  This spring, I’ve been watching for flowers.  Since the plant is new to me, I’ve never seen it in bloom.  The last couple of weeks, I had been seeing only tight little buds.  Yesterday, while in pursuit of still another Jack-in-the-Pulpit picture, I found some flowers.

It’s a fairly inconspicuous greenish bloom, maybe one-quarter inch in diameter that lays on top of the leaf attached to the main stem by the most delicate stem I’ve about ever seen.

According to the University of Michigan’s website on Native American Ethnobotany, various preparations of this plant have been used by the Iroquois to treat urinary difficulties, “bad blood”, and people who are bewitched.  Ethnobotany.  That’s another one:  I learned about it just a couple of years ago when we had a part-time staff member who was interested in this area of study.  I had never heard that word; now I see it all over the place.

Foamflower PatchI’m sure that with another couple of cups of coffee and a lot more time, I could leap from this brilliant introduction into something truly profound about the way the mind works.  Instead, I’ll randomly switch gears.

While on the homeward stretch of our Bergman Park loop, I was suddenly overwhelmed with a sweet, sweet smell.  I looked around trying to find what was so fragrant.  Lolli the Wonder Dog bounded off to show me this huge patch of Foamflowers.  I had never noticed a scent with this flower before, but there are apparently a lot of things I don’t notice right away… So I wandered over and stuck my nose into a couple of the flowers…  Nothing.  Hmm…

Bugle and Sweet WoodruffA few more steps down the trail and the scent is getting stronger.  I’m also noticing a rather loud buzzing of bumblebees.  I’ve seen lots of bumblebees on the Bugle.  Could that be the source of this heavy perfume?… Or maybe the Sweet Woodruff?

No, it’s neither of those.  Then I see it… back behind the purple and white… an enormous blanket of Lily-of-the-Valley.  It wasn’t easy to find the right angle for a picture, and white flowers are unusally difficult to photograph (I’m afraid my blooms are a bit overexposed – I’ll have to go back and try some more!).  I may have stepped on one bumblebee in the process, too, poor thing.

Anyway, I wish you could smell this photo, and hear the bees.  Here’s Lolli the Wonder Dog, too, in case you forgot what she looks like.

Lily of the Valley   Lolli the Wonder Dog

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