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Friday, June 20, 2008

Well, it looked like a bird's foot to me.

Yesterday I called my sister and she told me about the conversation she'd had with my four year old nephew about "butter and eggs". That's what people around Oneida call the brilliant yellow wildflower that runs rampant in the hills where we grew up. He had told her "I think it's got another name," but what he said next seemed highly unlikely to her. She put him on the phone to repeat it and - in his adorable, hushed, four-year-old phone voice - said "birdfoot trefoil". I practically shouted "That's exactly right!" I was so proud to have taught him that during our hike on Saturday. It makes me happy that he's enjoying our hikes together enough to absorb information such as the story of how birdfoot trefoil got its name.

But here's the thing. It turns out that I didn't actually know how birdfoot trefoil got its name! I remember going on my wildflower walks in 1993, carrying my Peterson's Guide to Wildflowers along roadsides and through fields, and could have sworn that it said the name came from the angles of the leaf branching. When I Googled it just now, though, I found out that the name came from the appearance of the seed pods. Heck, I've never even looked at the seed pods - at least not that I remember. Now that I have, I can see the resemblance. But those leaf stalks still look like birds' feet to me! If you don't believe me, hold one up in your hand, look at the angle where the stalk divides into three, and think of the crook in a bird's leg.


No? Ah well. In any event, I'm teaching my nephew good stuff on our hikes.

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