How much more can you see when you know what you’re looking at or looking for? How much more do you appreciate a special, unique natural area by knowing its natural history? Or does it make a difference?
When I go to an annual meeting and first step into the meeting room, I see a sea of faces. But then once I start picking out people I know, I feel more connected. Sometimes I even look for people I know to get caught up with them from last year. If there’s new people, maybe I’ll introduce myself. Similarly, when you know at least some of the plants of a place, you feel more connected to that place. Visiting a place over the whole season, you look for plants you maybe haven’t seen since that time last year. It’s nice to see them again (I generally don’t try to start a conversation with the plants, at least if I think anyone might be looking). Newcomers stand out when you know what you’ve seen before.
I teach a class in plant ID. The first 5 weeks of lab, the students learn 100 of our local plant species out in the field by sight. The rest of the term is about learning the traits of 80 or so plant families. After they know some of the plants, they see them in their travels out into the woods and fields. Of course those plants were there all along, but the students had not noticed them because they didn’t know them. They just saw a bunch of plants. They can see them now that they know to look. Knowing how to identify plants also helps them see plants they don’t know. (My ambition is that they then would get to know them. Occasionally I hear back from previous students that actually do so.)
You can tell from some of the posts on this discussion that knowing the natural history of a spot helps enhances enjoyment of it for some people. My guess is that if you’re reading this discussion, you probably know some of the natural history of your places. If so, I’d be interested in knowing how you got to know that and how knowing that helps you enjoy your place more. But I’d also like to hear from any of you who don’t necessarily know the natural history details about your place but still enjoy it just fine. In other words, to what degree is knowledge of natural history a prerequisite for enjoying a place?