Florida Word of the Day: Ligule

In writing the post on hastula, I found out that a hastula is like a ligule. Which  I guess is fine, as far as that goes, but really, it doesn’t go very far with me. I, after all, am neither agrostologist nor graminologist, so I had no idea what a ligule might be. According to MW, ligule, or tongue, is from New Latin ligula, from Latin for small tongue or strap, fr. lingere, to lick. They define it as “a thin appendage of a foliage leaf and esp. of the sheath of a blade of grass.”

By coincidence, I just happened to have Walter Kingsley Taylor’s Guide to Florida Grasses checked out of the library (yet another lovely field guide that this father of a 2-year-old hasn’t been able to afford yet), so I was able to dig a little deeper. It’s always good to review the specialized literature when you’re dealing with an unfamiliar technical term. Dr. Taylor tells us that a ligule is a structure that appears

inside the leaf, on the side facing the stem and at or near the blade-sheath-junction.

[The ligule is] an appendage that consists of hairs, a membrane, or a combination of the two. The ligule apparently keeps debris and water from getting between the sheath and stem. The ligule’s length, condition of hairs, and texture of the membrane (leathery, papery, thin) varies with the species. Most grasses have ligules of about one millimeter or less in length, which require magnification to see. In some grass species, notably barnyardgrasses (Echinocloa), the ligule is lacking. Nongrass rushes also lack a ligule, but sedges have them. Bamboos have two membranous ligules: inner and outer.

Here is a picture from Wikipedia of the ligule:

Ligule of Marsh Fox-tail grass (Alopecurus geniculatus, image by Christian Fischer from Wikipedia)

So it looks like Read and Hickey were right—the hastula, being a membranous structure that appears at the leafstalk tip where the segments of a palmate or costapalmate palm leaf join, is somewhat like a ligule. On the other hand, it’s a lot NOT like a ligule. For one thing, a ligule is tiny, usually requiring magnification to see, whereas a hastula is quite a bit larger:

For another thing, the ligule, it is speculated, helps the grass blade grow by keeping the sheath and the stem free of contaminants; the hastula doesn’t really keep the leafstalk of a palm frond clean. I’m not entirely sure what function the structure plays in the palm leaf.

Moral of story? Analogy only gets you so far. And when the things you’re comparing are anatomical structures of plants, they don’t really take you very far at all. At least, as far as I know.

Florida Word of the Day: Hastula

Today’s word is a botanical term, hastula, which I assume originates from the Latin hasta, spear. I can only assume it because I don’t know it for a fact. None of my desk references, not Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate, not the “unabridged” American Heritage 4th edition, not even the venerable Oxford English Dictionary admit the term into the language. Even the online OED gives me this sad result:

No results, alas, even in OED

So, what to do now? Well, go back to the book in which the hard word arose. In this case, it’s Wunderlin and Hansen’s Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida, 2nd edition. There, we see its use in botanical description of the leaves of Sabal palmetto, the cabbage palm:

Leaf blades triangular, held in a V with a downward curve, the costa extending fully or nearly the length of the undivided portion of the blade, the hastula acute to attenuate, the margin with long free fibers.

Ah-ha. Mm-hm. As I suspected. No help here. It’s got something to do with the leaves, or the leaf blades, but context really isn’t helping.

A quick Google search, though, turns up a nice definition from an article on invasive exotics in Hawai’i:

hastula In some palmate palm fronds, a flange of tough material on the upper side of the petiole where it joins the frond blade

That helps. So does this rather more technical definition from A Revised Classification of Fossil Palm and Palm-like Leaves, by Robert W. Read, Leo J. Hickey, which appeared in Taxon, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Feb., 1972), pp. 129-137:

A ligule-like structure (hastula) at the apex of the petiole (usually only on the adaxial surface, rarely on both surfaces) where the radiating segments are inserted on the palmate blade.

Now, if I only knew what a ligule was, I’d be in business. After all, if two respected scholars like Read and Hickey tell me that a hastula is ligule-like, well, that’s good enough for me! But here the editors of MW11e are kind to me, and explain that a ligule is

a scalelike projection esp. on a plant: as a: a thin appendage of a foliage leaf and esp. of the sheath of a blade of grass.

Whew. What a relief! Aren’t you glad to know that a hastula is like a scalelike projection on a plant? Sometimes learning about words can feel like you’re caught, like Eloise, on that gigantic traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe:

And to come, ahem, full circle, i.e., return to the information about Sabal palmetto in Wunderlin and Hansen that I was looking up,  it’s obvious that the shape of the scalelike projection known as a hastula can vary. In the cabbage palm, its form is “acute to attenuate.”

Geometrically, of course, an acute angle is one smaller than 90°. In nonmathematical terms, of course, acute means, “ending in a sharp point.” Botanically, I suppose, it means pretty much the same thing.

And here is what MW has to say about attenuate:

at·ten·u·ate \ə-ˈten-yə-wət, -yü-ət\ adj [ME attenuat, fr. L attenuatus, pp. of attenuare to make thin, fr. ad- + tenuis thin] (15c). tapering gradually usu. to a long slender point <~ leaves>

So the hastula of the cabbage palm is acute to attenuate, and looks something like this:

I think, given the photographic evidence, that I am justified in deducing that the word hastula has the same origin as hastate, which does indeed come from the Latin hasta, spear.

Below is another form the hastula can take, much more rounded. It’s from a different species of palm, one I have yet to identify:

And this final version of the hastula is even less spearlike than the last; it’s just a thin strip of plant tissue that separates the petiole/stalk from the palm leaflets/fingers:

So I’m not too solid on the derivation of the word, but my guess is that the first ones described were indeed spearlike, and the name stuck, even though, as the pictures above prove once again, etymology doesn’t dictate to nature.

In case you were wondering about that one-sidedness of the hastula that Read and Hickey discuss, well, here’s what it translates to in images:

See, no hastula on the adaxial side of the frond; if you want to see it, you have to turn it over and look at the abaxial part.

Word of the Day: Fomite

The word of the day is fo·mite \ˈfō-ˌmīt\ n, pl fo·mites \-ˌmīts; ˈfäm-ə-ˌtēz, ˈfōm-\, which, according to Merriam-Webster’s online medical dictionary, is

an inanimate object (as a dish, toy, book, doorknob, or clothing) that may be contaminated with infectious organisms and serve in their transmission <the much maligned toilet seat is a remarkably ineffective fomite—M. F. Rein> <what are the most common fomites for rotavirus in day-care settings—Pediatric Report’s Child Health Newsletter>

My trusty MW Collegiate provides some interesting etymology: “back-formation fr. fomites, fr. NL [that’s New Latin], pl. of fomit-, fomes, fr. L., kindling wood; akin to L fovēre to heat — more at FOMENT.”

Foment, of course, means to promote the growth or development of; fomites, then, would be the substrate upon which this growth or development would occur. The link between foment and fomite is spurious, however. Rebellions are fomented; bacteria are cultured.

Or is that link spurious? Saturday night sure felt like my body was rebelling… I’m not entirely sure what fomite was responsible for the transmission of my most recent illness:

  • Was it the lovely cotton handkerchiefs with which we lovingly wiped the lad’s little nose-y during his weeklong hiatus from school?
  • Was it the vomitus with which he so liberally graced me as I stayed home to tend him at the midpoint of the aforementioned week?
  • Could it have been the dirty dirty hands that he lays so liberally on my face?
  • The bathwater that he splashes on me? The towels we dry him with? The cute little clothes he wears?

I’m just glad that the forces of my immune system were able to quell the disruption with only minimal loss of sleep and comfort.

Whatever may have been the transmission  method, it was successful, despite the hygiene regimen so strictly enforced by the lad’s loving mother. She always does her best to disrupt the fomites’ plans. She launders, she washes hands, she enforces personal hygiene.

When she’s not around, do these standards slip? Is that what happened?

It’s possible. But Dad doesn’t like dirty hands any more than Mom, and while he doesn’t launder as frequently, he does take what he considers reasonable precautions against disease transmission. Personally, my money’s on the bath of hot, greasy vomit that Dad enjoyed while tending the lad last week. Not something a reasonable hygiene regimen could avoid. Give those beasties a few days to ripen:

  • lag phase (high metabolic activity but no cell division)
  • log phase (rapid–logarithmic–bacterial cell division)
  • stationary phase (bacterial growth rate equals bacterial death rate)
  • death phase (nutrient sources exhausted, bacteria population collapses)

There you have the arc of a neat little rebellion. And it would have worked, too, if it weren’t for those meddling immune responses.

Had I been of a more scientific bent (and had a few petri dishes and a supply of nutrient agar lying around), I could have tried this nifty little experiment to see what kind of cultures I could have grown…

Word of the day: irrupt

Today’s word is irrupt. It’s not just an alternative spelling of “erupt”; it has a specific meaning in ecology. Merriam-Webster’s 11 team defines it as follows:

ir•rupt vi [L irruptus, pp. of irrumpere, fr. in– + rumpere to break — more at REAVE] of a natural population : to undergo a sudden upsurge in numbers esp. when the natural ecological balances and checks are disturbed.

While the etymology seems sound (to break into, basically), this is an unsatisfying definition on several levels. For one, it implies that the word applies especially or more strongly when there has been an ecological disturbance, presumably caused by man (notice the “natural” in the mention of ecological balances; would a disturbance like a hurricane count? Or would it take something like the disaster that created Yellowstone to disturb the checks and balances enough to cause population irruptions?).

I don’t like tying the meaning of this word to something manmade, like the DDT contamination that caused many populations of predatory birds to crash in the 1960s and 1970s. After all, many northern bird species demonstrate irruptive winter movements that, as far as we know, have nothing to do with human behavior, as atrocious as that behavior sometimes is for the environment.

To imply that these irregular and abundant population shifts are caused by ecological disturbance posits that said disturbance is somehow unnatural. For instance, it has been well documented that Snowy Owls winter farther south in years when the vole population in the north crashes. These crashes in turn seem to coincide with a fairly regular failure of the mast crop that sustains their populations. To say that this is a disturbance in ecological balances and checks is disturbing. An irruption of a species may be attributed to non-natural causes, but to write it into the definition is somewhat disappointing.

The American Heritage team takes a simpler tack in their definition, but their example also implies some hand-of-man work going on in the background

To increase rapidly and irregularly in number: In the absence of predators, the island’s rodent population irrupted

In their example, the predators seem to have somehow been removed from the equation; therefore the subsequent increase in rodent populations is unnatural. Either this is just a bad example of the word, or something is wrong with ecological science.

After all, if there had been rodents on the island to begin with (as implied by the phrase “the island’s rodent population”), any increase in their numbers could not be an irruption, because the population would already have attained an equilibrium state: there would be no room for an irruption, just a slight increase or decrease in a relatively stable number. On the other hand, if there were no rodents on the island to begin with, and then they were accidentally introduced to an island where they had no predators, then yes, any subsequent population explosion would indeed be an irruption. And that, presumably, would be more likely to be caused by human behavior than by “rafting” from the mainland, as happens on Trinidad and Tobago when the Oronoco is in flood.

So, OK, I’m willing to cut both dictionary teams some slack, as long as they admit that there’s a lot of context missing from their examples…

With all of that dictionary-searching, I almost lost sight of the reason I was interested in this word: we were hoping for an irruption of American Robins on our Christmas Bird Count last weekend, but we didn’t get it. Very few were seen by any of the parties; I had none myself. Oh, well.

Word of the day: protoctist

Today’s word is fairly hardcore. A couple of months ago, I talked about the different ways scientists (biologists, taxonomists, zoologists, botanists, etc.) categorize life on Earth into five kingdoms (the Prokaryote superkingdom consisting solely of Bacteria, and the Eukaryote superkingdom, which contains the remaining 4 kingdoms: Protoctista, Animalia, Fungi, and Plantae).

Since then, I’ve been reading a lot of fun stuff (Tolkien, Herbert, comic books, Elmo board books, find the truck/train/car/plane/boat books), and hadn’t gotten back to my Margulis and Chapman until today. After all, it has a Lot of Hard Words In It.

But I knew I had to come back to it at some point, because I was curious about that first eukaryote kingdom, Protoctista. I mean, what the heck is that, anyway? Well, according to M & C,

Kingdom Protoctista comprises the eukaryotic microorganisms and their immediate descendants: all algae, including the seaweeds; undulipodiated mastigote molds, water molds, the slime molds and slime nets; the traditional protozoa; and other even more obscure aquatic organisms. Its members are not animals (which develop from a blastula), plants (which develop from maternally retained plant embryos), or fungi (which lack unulipodia and develop from fungal spores). Nor are protoctists prokaryotes. Protoctist cells contain microtubules, nuclei, and other characteristic eukaryotic features…. Many photosynthesize (have plastids), and most are aerobes (have mitochondria)…. (120)

I warned you that there were A Lot of Hard Words. This is just part of the first paragraph of the introduction to this kingdom. Keep plugging away. The real juicy bit is right ahead:

All protoctists evolved from symbioses between at least two different kinds of bacteria—often many more than two.

Cool, huh? Just like us, these leetle teensy-tinsy organisms (well, seaweeds can get pretty big… oops! don’t want to give away the point of this post!) evolved from bacteria.

But why do we have to call them protoctists? What’s wrong with the good old shorter word protists? I’m glad you asked. I’m even gladder that M&C have the answer, so I don’t have to do too much more research:

Why “protoctist” rather than “protist”? Since the nineteenth century, the word protists, whether used informally or formally, has come to connote a single-celled or few-celled tiny organism. In the past three decades, however, the basis for classifying single-celled organisms separately from their multicellular descendants has weakened. Multicellularity evolved many times in unicellular organisms. Many multicellular beings are far more closely related to certain unicells than they are to other multicellular organisms….

We adopt the concept of protoctist propounded in modern times by Californian botanist Herbert F. Copeland in 1956. The word was introduced by English naturalist John Hogg in 1860 to designate “all the lower creatures, or the primary organic beings;—both Protophyta, … having more the nature of plants; and Protozoa … having rather the nature of animals. Copeland recognized, as had several scholars in the nineteenth century, the absurdity of referring to a giant kelp by the word “protist,” a term that had come to imply unicellularity and, thus, smallness. (122)

In other words, calling this kingdom Protoctista allows us to avoid lumping most of these organisms in with the other three eukaryote kingdoms,* all of which are inherently multicellular, but still allows us to include large multicellular organisms in as needed (like those giant seaweeds I was talking about earlier).

All protoctists are aquatic: marine, freshwater, terrestrial but needing moist soil, parasitic in moist tissues of other organisms. In fact, according to M&C, “nearly all animals, fungi, and plants—perhaps all—have protoctist associates” (123).

The best part about protoctists, though, as with almost all the organisms in M&C, is the pictures. These things have some amazing body plans. Too bad you have to shell out the money for the book to get a really good feel for what I’m talking about.

Maybe at some point I’ll be able to put this book down and move on into the other kingdoms, but for now, Rhizopoda, Granuloreticulosa, and 34 other phyla of protoctists have my attention. They don’t have much of a plot, though…

* Bonus points to those of you who can name those other three kingdoms without Googling! (All you have to do is read this page again; this is not a hard quiz, even if it does have Hard Words.)

Florida word of the day: raindrop

Although south Florida’s rainy season has been officially over for a few weeks now, that doesn’t mean that we won’t get any more rain for the year. Far from it. After all, the “dry” season still has cold fronts pushing down from up north, and these are usually preceded by at least some measure of precipitation. And since we got a front just this week, courtesy of the late-season tropical storm Ida (the link will take you to the National Hurricane Center’s awesome graphic loop taking you through the storm’s wind history), I thought now would be a good time to  share another Florida word of the day (FLWOD) with you all.

The picture is not from this week’s storm, but it does show the key ingredient, and today’s FLWOD: RAINDROP. That’s one word, not two. As with yesterday’s word, today’s word was gleaned from my day job reviewing copyediting for textbooks. And it’s particularly apropos* today, since just the other day we finally got a decent taste of cold-front, as opposed to tropical, raindrops falling on our heads. As I discovered recently, just because the heat generally stops around Halloween down here in south Florida, that doesn’t mean the cool air rushes in. The first ten days of November were marked by warm (mid-80s) days and warm (mid-70s) nights; we’ve been looking forward to the first “real” cold front of the dry season, and although this one doesn’t seem to be all that strong, it is at least a taste of things to come. (Despite the deliberately provocative title of my post, no one was fooled into predicting an early autumn by that foretaste of delightful cool we got in mid-October; one look at the calendar told us that it was too soon to hope back then.)

But Wednesday’s raindrops, Thursday’s cool weather, and the promise of lovely chilliness on Friday conspire to bring new hope to those of us down here who still miss the cool autumns of our youths.

Raindrops is an example of a compound word, formed from the separate words rain and drop (and confusingly set in the plural, with a singular verb, just to see who’s paying attention here!). The rules governing when compound words are spelled open (rain drop), as hyphenated compound (rain-drop), and as one word (raindrop) are complex. The Chicago Manual of Style calls this “probably the most common spelling question for writers and editors,” and advises that “the first place to look for answers is the dictionary” (CMS 15, p. 299, section 7.82). And that’s good advice.

CMS goes on to provide definitions of open, hyphenated, and closed compounds; they also point out that permanent compounds can be found in dictionaries, while the more troublesome ones, the temporary compounds, are “not normally found” in the dictionary. CMS, AMA, Garner, and even the unfussy CSE all agree, though, that hyphenation warrants careful attention by writers and editors.

An important point that some writers forget is that sometimes “the same word” is spelled both open and closed, depending on how it functions in the sentence (you knew that grammar would come back to haunt you!). For example, consider another word that could come in handy here in south Florida, at least during the summer rainy season: rainout. As a noun, it is a closed compound: “Today’s stroll was a rainout.” Like so many other compound words, though, it can also function as a phrasal verb, in which case it is spelled open, as two words: “Today’s stroll was rained out.” (Eric can tell you that we’ve used, or should have used, this phrasal verb a few times this year!)

Whether open or closed, though, any word having to do with rain is of vital importance here, as they are everywhere actually. The water supply for south Florida depends to a large extent on surface runoff, whether into the giant basin of Lake Okeechobee, deep under the ground in the Floridan aquifer, or near ground level, as with the surficial Biscayne aquifer. For more on this, you have to visit Robert Sobczak’s blog, the South Florida Watershed Journal; I will not reinvent the wheel here; all I’m trying to do is highlight the importance of raindrops to south Florida, and remind you to be careful when you spell the word.

Hope you enjoyed the post!

*Ironically, I’m always tempted to spell this particular word the French way, as two words, “a propos” (or, to be more correct, à propos)–another example of a two-word compound becoming one over the course of time!

Florida word of the day: pickerelweed

In my day job, I spend a lot of time with my nose in dictionaries and style manuals. And today, while thumbing through Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition* (you see why in the trade we call it MW11), I ran across a headword (MW11 calls them “guide words”) that I actually know something about, and, what’s more, is on topic for a blog about nature in south Florida: pickerelweed.

Here is what the MW team has to say about the plant:

pick·er·el·weed \-,wed**  n (1836) : a shallow-water monocotyledonous perennial plant (Pontederia cordata) chiefly of the eastern U.S. and Canada with large leaves and a spike of purplish-blue flowers

That definition is true enough, but it doesn’t go very far. And a picture is worth 1000 words (actually, the MW11 team thought of that, too, but I don’t want to scan their line drawing and break copyright; they have the picture on their own website, though, if you want to follow the link):

The image above shows the “pickerel” spike, but there’s much more to this plant than that. For one thing, the leaves, which, as MW11 admits, are large:

For another thing, the common name of the plant, pickerelweed, seems to come from its shape, which one must suppose, is somewhat like that of a pickerel. Whether this quick association makes sense, though, remains to be seen. So let’s go see!

According to MW11e, a pickerel is either what the Brits call a small pike (sounds reasonable enough), or:

either of two fishes resembling but smaller than than the related northern pike: (1): CHAIN PICKEREL (2): one (Esox americanus) of eastern No. America having green or red fins and a black bar below and slanting away from the eye 2 : WALLEYE 3 [which, if you follow that cross-reference, MW11 tells us is “a large vigorous No. American freshwater food and sport fish (Stizostedion vitreum) that has large opaque eyes and is related to the perches but resembles the true pike—called also walleyed pike

So, as far as I can tell according to MW11e, this plant, Pontederia cordata, must either look like a little British fish or a large vigorous North American fish. Of course, if you follow taxonomic changes, you’ll find that the MW11e team is a bit out of date; the walleyed pike is no longer called Stizostedion vitreum, but Sander vitreus. I assume that doesn’t change too much about the facts of the case, though: this plant must be the plant that looks like a fish, right?

Well, sort of. Actually, opinions vary. Maybe it’s a mistake to rely on one dictionary’s definition; let’s see what the American Heritage team brings to the table:

pick·er·el·weed n. A freshwater plant (Pontederia cordata) of eastern North America, having heart-shaped leaves with long petioles and spikes of violet-blue flowers.

Leaving aside the typographic considerations (AH actually uses periods at the end of their definitions! Hallelujah!), this definition does bring a bit more clarity to the issue. The leaves are described as heart-shaped; MW’s team is happy with the vague description “large.” AH also mentions that the petioles (what most people think of as “leaf stems”) are long; MW doesn’t seem to care about this. Then again, MW does provide a picture, which AH doesn’t, so maybe they were relying on those 1000 words to flesh out the missing details from their 25-word description. And when it comes right down to it, neither team has defined the plant all that well, despite having 64-dollar words like monocotyledonous or petioles.

Many botanical descriptions of the plant are much more helpful, explaining that the leaves are twice as long as they are wide, with heart-shaped BASES, etc. etc. The leaves do bear somewhat of a resemblance to the pickerel fish, although I suspect they look more like the namesake of the pickerel, which is the pike, itself named after its resemblance to the weapon:

A pike

A pike

Or was it the other way around? People were probably catching pikes to eat long before they were making them to keep people beyond sword’s length. MW11 tells us that the word for both the fish and the pointy spiky spear date from the 13th century. The Old English word pic, meaning sharp point, might be behind both words. (The verb form, to pike, comes from the French piquer, to prick.) Oh, for a good etymological dictionary! Speaking of which, the OED cites the pike as fish as far back as 1314; pike as sharp point goes back much, much further; pike as weapon dates from about 1275.

However, there is another option for the derivation of the name pickerelweed, one which makes at least as much sense as the association between the shape of the leaves and the shape of the pike-weapon or pike-food. According to a blog post by Ken Moore, a North Carolina blogger, “the common name, pickerelweed, refers to the pickerel fish, which feed along the edges of such emergent aquatic vegetation.” While I’ve not independently corroborated Moore’s research, this ecologically based derivation makes intuitive sense as well; the namers of things were much closer to the natural world than we are; it seems plausible that they would have named the pickerelweed after its ecological associate, the pickerel fish.

Moore’s source appears to be Paul Green’s Plant Book, which sounds delightful, as it apparently contains

daily observations and conversations with the local folks of the Cape Fear River valley, from Chapel Hill down through Lillington, Fayetteville and beyond. Plants take on a special dimension when accompanied with past and present human association.

Hear, hear! And here is a lovely old illustration of P. cordata from a 19th-century book on lilies that I found on Wikipedia:

from Les liliacées by Pierre-Joseph Redouté. Paris, 1802-1816. Stipple-engraving in colour finished by hand after Pierre-Joseph Redouté, engraved by J. Chailly (sheet 342 x 515 mm, under passe-partout).

from Les liliacées by Pierre-Joseph Redouté. Paris, 1802-1816. Stipple-engraving in colour finished by hand after Pierre-Joseph Redouté, engraved by J. Chailly (sheet 342 x 515 mm, under passe-partout).

As the Wikipedia entry tells us, the generic name of this plant was applied by Linnaeus himself, in honor of Giulio Pontedera, an Italian botanist from Padua who, ironically, did not accept Linnaeus’s system of binomial nomenclature. The italian Wikipedia entry tells us that he is responsible for discovering and naming several plant species (“A lui si deve la scoperta e classificazione di diverse specie di piante; la famiglia botanica delle Pontederiaceae è a lui dedicata.”), although the entry doesn’t tell us which species he discovered, or whether they retain the names he gave them, since he rejected Linnaean naming conventions.

The specific epithet, cordata, means “heart-shaped,” which refers to the leaves. (Please don’t confuse it with the phylum name chordata, which means, basically “having a notochord“; these plants may look like they have a heart [they wear it on their leaves], but they don’t have a nervous system.) Don’t rely on the heart-shaped leaf base, though; the leaves can have a distinctly heart-shaped base, or it can be rounded. It’s far easier to ID the plant by its pickerel-shaped spike.

So pick your favorite explanation for the “pickerel” in pickerelweed: either it’s the pike/spike of the flowers, the pike/spike of the leaves, or the pike/pickerel that browses in and around its feet! Either way, it’s one of the prettiest flowers in the wetlands.

If you’re interested in more details about pickerelweed, I recommend the following links:

* Disclaimer for the FTC: I bought my own copy of all the dictionaries cited in this article. No one gave me anything, either in money, consideration, or in kind, for this article.

**Sorry, I don’t have access to the special phonetic characters that should be there, the high-set mark for primary stress, the low-set mark for secondary stress, or the e with a horizontal bar over it that shows how to pronounce that tongue-twister “weed”; if you want to see them, check out the online definition provided by MW. For the same reason, I have not bothered to replicate the phonetic spellings from AH either.