Luckily, I sleep with a notepad next to me. My brain made a connection whilst I slept and I woke with a strong urge to write it down.
A little background:
I’ve been gently mulling over ways to categorise the plant families, possible ways of lumping them together, memory aids, mnemonics, stories that are meaningful to me to help make sense of what is a very large area of study. I’ve drawn mindmaps and done a fair amount of word association. An example: the family Caryophyllaceae, otherwise known as the Pink family. It contains such common plants as chickweed, Stellaria media, and carnations, Dianthus spp. I imagine a pink cadillac driving down a road, driven by a woman named Cary, and a man named Phil. I can see chickweed growing from the glovebox. As I get to know the family better i’ll add other things to the image.The flower parts come in fives so I could make all the parts of the car come in fives. 5 spokes on the wheels, 5 spokes on the steering wheel, maybe even 5 wheels, a wacky races pink cadillac. According to Botany in a Day there are 5 sepals, 5 petals and 5 or 10 stamens, but there are exceptions. The petal ends are often split, giving the impression of there being twice the number. Don’t be fooled!
A feature of the family is the saponin content, they literally contain soap. So as a defence in our botanical wacky race, the pink cadillac will spray soap on the road behind it to foul it’s competitors (predators).
So, last night, the connection I made was in linking the Rubiaceae family to the Caryophyllaceae. One connection is obviously the ruby part of the name, which links to pink. Another is that it contains cleavers, or goosegrass, Galium aparine, among it’s members. Chickweed and cleavers are plants I see everywhere around gardens and waysides. They’re among the first wild edibles I learnt, and I love them both. Also in Rubiaceae we find coffee, Coffea spp. Apparently the roots of some Galium species will give a red dye, and the family contains the very popular herb Rubia tinctorum, madder. Historically, used widely as a red dye.
I still need some thinking time to draw the Rubiaceae wacky races car in my head. It’s got to include velcro somewhere, cleavers being the inspiration for that invention. You’ll know cleavers by it’s little clinging seed heads that get stuck in fur and clothing.
I’ll update this when I’ve some more ideas.