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I began to notice plants more when I began thru-hiking.  As I hiked up mountains, the plant composition changed.  As I hiked alongside rivers, the plant composition changed.

Botany is a very complex subject.  However, we can always learn a little at a time with the plants near us.  Like breaking a thru-hike down into one state at a time, we can break botany down by the ecosystem.

When you work on your nature journal, check out the plants near you.  You’ll notice that in the spring and summer, many wildflowers bloom.  Then, you’ll notice that some bloom earlier than others and that some bloom longer than others.  If you stay in one location for multiple years, you can see trends occurring over time.  For example, some flowers will begin to bloom within a week of the same time they bloomed the previous year.  This is called phenology.

Plants hold many secrets that western civilization as a whole has largely ignored in its quest for resource extraction.  Native peoples have held this incredible knowledge for millennia.  If we start small in understanding the interactions between plants, we may yet be able to help our planet.  The more you understand, the more we can protect these environments that sustain life as we know it.

Furthermore, if you love charismatic megafauna, you will know that they often need large, in-tact ecosystems to survive.  These larger mammals eat smaller mammals that depend on plants.  If an invasive species takes over an ecosystem, it can decrease the population of prey animals for those larger mammals to eat.

So, let’s take a closer look and see what cool things we can learn!