Field of Science

Earning my keep botanically

The Phactor does earn his salary, and for the sake of any Lincolnland legislators who happen to read this (if any happen to be able to read!), its a real bargain to get such expertise so cheaply!

All kinds of crazy, goofy, off-the-wall botanical questions that people come up with get directed to me. Even the Botanical Society of America sends the questions they get to me. Why? For the simple reason that having been a botanical garbage mind for several decades means they get answers. The Phactor delivers! It's a the result of a great deal of diverse experiences combined with a broad knowledge of botany. Please understand, most of my botanical colleagues are experts that can run circles around me, but only in their specific area of expertise. The Phactor is broadly knowledgeable, and also has a very good botanical memory. Telephone numbers, people's names, birthdays, anniversaries, the date, social events, these things I can't remember at all. But every place, every plant, every plant name, every bit of information, gets logged away for later recall almost effortlessly.

So, how does this go? Glad you asked. This AM my friend Bill, executive director of the Botanical Society, sends me an email and a picture. Someone wants to know what this is. The picture was taken in the Bahamas. Already I know this is probably useless information. Most people visiting the tropics for vacation see very few native plants; mostly they see UTF, ubiquitous tropical flora, a set of plants that have been moved around the world by humans for some particular use, often because the plant is attractive.

Well, there it is. Fortunately for my reputation, this is pretty easy. This is an immature fruit of a screwpine (not a real pine at all), Pandanus utilis, probably. The big long leaves with nasty saw-toothed margins are commonly used at a thatch roofing. And of course the Phactor was right, this is an old world plant, a native of SE Asia, so it is an exotic introduction to the Bahamas.

The appearance of screw pines must attact people. They are big, somewhat ungainly, somwhat palm like plants with many stems and huge stilt roots. I say this because I was asked to ID a similar species of screwpine about a year ago from a picture taken in Thailand. And it's hard to tell you how I know what this is because there is only an instant recognition of screwpine. Now if only I could get people to pay for this service.

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