Bach and Coffea arabica

Today’s the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach and I almost let it get away without a mention of his Coffee Cantata. Good Music Guide has the story but I’m relating to the music not only because I’m a coffee drinker who happens to listen to Bach a lot, but because the some of the world’s finest (at least most expensive) coffee is grown here in Panama, the Esmeralda Geisha.

More importantly, though, the coffee family, Rubiaceae, is well represented here in the tropics. Two of my favorite plants in that family, Alibertia edulis and Palicourea trifolia, are growing in my yard, along with the exotic Ixora. However, for Bach’s memory today, here’s Coffea arabica.

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Eleven Great Posts on Plants

There’s a new edition (#38) of Berry Go Round up at Anybody Seen My Focus? (Don’t you love the name of that blog?)

It’s an excellent survey of eleven (if I counted correctly) posts about plants put together with a fun theme and fine writing throughout. I loved the post on the Golden Glow Mystery and the one with tips for growing lettuce (and I thought we couldn’t grow it well here in Panama because of the heat – maybe not!) and the one on eating cattails and the other on big bluestem…well, you see, you’ll just have to go check them out for yourself.

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A Chance to Contribute

Fabre circa 1913

Image via Wikipedia

The internet is my library.

Without it, my learning about the plants here in Panama would be unbearably slow. I often think of Jean Henri Fabre who had to mail out plant specimens and wait for a botanist to reply before he could learn the name of the plant his insect was eating (or using for nesting material or whatever else). Would I have had that kind of patience?

Fortunately, I don’t have to test my character in that way. The vast resources of the internet solve the patience problem for me.

Not long ago, though, as I was going through my usual routine before writing up a plant, I came across a mislabeled image. Actually, I see mislabeled images frequently, but this one showed up at Encyclopedia of Life and was the feature image for the sandpaper tree, Curatella americana.

Now I’m very much an amateur, and a lot of the time I don’t know whether a plant image is mislabeled or not. But I happen to know Curatella americana very well, and I know its relative, the sandpaper vine, Davilla kunthii even better. The image in EOL was of supposed to be of Curatella americana leaves but was actually of a Davilla sp. leaves.

It turned out that the image appeared in wikimedia commons as well, and showed up when doing a search in wikipedia for Curatella americana.

I could not abide it that people would see this image of those leaves and think they were looking at Curatella americana!

Fortunately, both wikimedia and EOL are, like good scientists, set up to be self-correcting. Many eyes find truth. So I signed up to edit the wikimedia image and had the instant gratification of seeing my correction online. Within a few days, the file itself was re-labeled and so the image no longer shows up as C. americana in a wikipedia search.

For EOL, I submitted some of my images of C. americana to the EOL Flickr group. Within a few days, my own image then showed up when searching for C. americana. Luckily, EOL has a rigorous authentication procedure and eventually the erroneous image would have been caught. Now a real botanist will be authenticating my own image and may very well substitute an even better one.

Isn’t my library wonderful?

Posted in Classification, PostAweek2011, Resources | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Earthquake, One Week Later

Of all the technological sites I have seen during the past week, the Japan Quake Map gave me the greatest sense of the disaster. It’s a mashup of a Google Earth map and earthquake epicenter, date & time, and magnitude information. Highly recommended.

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