This morning (as has been my practice for the past few weeks) I took a walk around our pond and across the field, observing the day-to-day growth of this year's crop of wildflowers and watching for any new (to me) "minuscules" that might have popped up overnight. I was rewarded with a lone plant of about 7.5 cm high with asymmetrical violet flowers and thick, spear-shaped leaves.
watercolor over ink on Clairefontaine 90g paper
Well, after I had completed my sketches and notes, I headed home and began my research into the identity of my little mystery plant. A quick check of my favorite online reference sites informed me that my "discovery" was Wright's Scullcap (Scutellaria wrightii) and that it had first been identified by one Charles Wright shortly after the establishment of the Texas Republic.
Well, given my penchant for tangents, one thing led to another. And, before long, I was researching the life of this "adventure botanist" and thinking to myself, "Wow, this guy was a 19th century Indiana Jones!" The highlights in brief: after completing his studies at Yale Mr. Wright started out as a teacher for a plantation in Natchez, Mississippi -- only to see the plantation fail two years later. Mr. Wright then traveled to Texas, where he collected botanical species from 1837 to 1951. It was during this period that Asa Gray (the renowned Harvard University botanist) secured Wright a position as botanist with a military expedition scheduled to explore the Rio Grande Valley. During the expedition's voyage from Galveston to San Antonio to El Paso, Charles Wright actually walked 673 miles and collected 1,400 specimens (which he forwarded to his friend Gray).
Wright's final botanical adventure took him to Cuba in 1856... and lasted for the next 11 years! (Definitely not your average sketchcrawl.)
And, after reading about all that, I came away with the Indiana Jones theme song stuck in my head and wondering: if we taught our children more about the exploits of people like Charles Wright (or Alexander von Humboldt, or Jeanne Baret) could we perhaps stimulate a new generation's interest in science?