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Crime Pays, Botany Doesn’t; We Get Real with Garden Futurist Joey Santore

Articles: Crime Pays, Botany Doesn’t; We Get Real with Garden Futurist Joey Santore

Summer 2023

Listen to the Podcast here.

Joey Santore shares his enthusiasm for studying the diversity, evolution and ecology of the Earth’s plant life so we can see it’s the least boring topic there is! Shedding pretention to get real, this interview digs into why we should embrace Botanical Latin and a distaste for elitism as we rip out lawns and find plant exploration in unexpected places.

This episode was sponsored by:

Header Image: Prostate Milkweed (Asclepias prostrata). Photo: Joey Santore

Sarah Beck: You’re listening to Garden Futurist. I’m Sarah Beck, here with Adrienne St. Clair. Hi, Adrienne.

Adrienne St. Clair: Hi, Sarah.

Sarah Beck: Our guest today is Joey Santore, who’s known for Crime Pays But Botany Doesn’t, which focuses on the evolution of plant lineages—systematics—and it provides education and insight regarding the diversity, evolution, and ecology of Earth’s plant life to all who are interested in exploring it and better understanding.

Adrienne St. Clair: Wikipedia describes him as being “known for his ‘Bill Swerski-esque’ Chicago accent, and his frequent use of profanity when talking about plant species” (2023).

Sarah Beck: Let’s talk about Crime Pays But Botany Doesn’t. What originally sparked your interest in botany? I love asking this question about plants people all the time, because you just sort of assume people are going to say, “Oh, well I spent all this time in the garden with my mom or dad or whatever,” but sometimes it’s not that.

Joey Santore: I didn’t have a garden. I didn’t have a garden until, Christ, I’d already been into botany for a few years. But initially it wasn’t, I didn’t have any interest in botany. I was really originally interested in geology, which I got just from traveling around the country and seeing all these weird mountains and rock cuts and road cuts, railroad cuts, anything.

So that was what captivated me at first, because I would just see these weird formation squiggly lines on the sides of roads, road cuts, et cetera, different colors. And I just realized I had no idea how those got there or what they were. So I decided to quit traveling. I was getting around the country on freight trains. I was like 21, 22. So traveling was free, and this is before cell phones, too. It was really nice. I like how much bigger the world used to feel back then.

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I moved back to San Francisco, and I was going to City College there and taking a couple geology classes. I had no interest at all of getting a degree. I mean, when I went to school, I told myself, “If I go to school with the intent of getting a degree, it’s going to make it not fun. It puts this goal in there, and then what am I going to do with a degree, anyway?” I know so many people that I had originally gone to college with—because I went to college for a year or two—who graduated and couldn’t get jobs and didn’t do anything.

I just wanted to go to school to learn, and so I did that and that made it really fun. I just took like two classes a semester. I was living in The Mission, which was super affordable back then.

So I would be walking around the city, I’d be walking around San Francisco, and I would end up going to Golden Gate Park, and I’d see all these cool trees in Golden Gate Park. I had lived in California on and off for like six or seven years at that point, and I had no idea what a redwood tree was. I didn’t really pay attention, even though they’re planted as street trees sometimes.

So when I finally stopped and realized what it was and looked it up, I was kind of blown away, and so I wanted to grow one. So I took a little cutting off of one in the Panhandle and wrapped it in a paper towel and just some really rudimentary propagation techniques, and it ended up rooting. I thought that was pretty cool. And so it ended up doing really well. And then I just started reading more.

I would go to the library, just hang out on the internet reading articles. I would get a stack of books and go sit at a table and just peruse whatever books I picked off the shelves for two or three hours, because my mind was just really hungry and I was addicted to information, you know. Then I would break it up with drawing in a little notebook. I carried a little journal and sketchbook around with me.

So I would read about these things and read about what they were related to. Wikipedia has a little taxonomy chart on every species page, and it would say order, family, genus. And I use that like, “Oh, if I’m interested in a redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), then I click the family that it’s in, I can see other variations on Sequoia sempervirens that have evolved in other places.” So that kind of stirred my imagination a little bit, like, “I wonder what a redwood that evolved in Taiwan or Japan or Tasmania looks like,” and then I would go seek out those trees in the botanic gardens and arboretum.

That was the great thing about living in the Bay Area back then, especially when it was a lot more affordable, was that the public gardens and the library and all, it had some really wonderful resources. So I used them to my advantage and I would learn about these things. I just had this addiction to information.

Around this time, smartphones were coming up. I don’t even think I owned a smartphone till like 2010, 2009. With that, now you had 24-hour access to the library. I always say, you can use phones to look at like pictures of butts and food, or you can use it to educate yourself. You can use it to take 9,000 photos of yourself, or you can use it to teach yourself organic chemistry, or physics, or read about the world around you.

I just became just obsessed with these different varieties of conifers. I grew up in Chicago, when I would hear conifer, I would think pine trees and spruces and all these— the diversity of pines and spruces in the Midwest latitudes is pretty boring. It’s not, I mean, there’s some great trees there, but the really interesting stuff is like the subtropical or cloud forest conifers from all these far-off places, and they were all being grown out at Strybing Arboretum and Botanic Gardens in San Francisco and Golden Gate Park. I would go to UC Berkeley Botanic Gardens, too.

I started volunteering at Strybing and there was this guy, Don Mahoney, really wonderful man who kind of mentored me in propagating all these plants. That was one of the best ways, I feel like, to get to know any plant, is to grow it through its lifecycle and ask yourself questions. Why is it doing well? Why is it struggling? What does it need? Does it need shade? Does it need light? And then learning that what it needs is basically tied to how it evolved and what environment it evolved in: shady forest, fire dependent, chaparral, whatever.

So it just opened up this huge can of worms that I loved. Every answer opened up 10 more questions. And so it just became an addiction, and it became really fulfilling, too.

I had always been a pretty angry kid. I had gotten into trouble a lot. I was always mischievous, too. I mean, I was having fun, looking for new ways to amuse myself, laugh my ass off with friends, but ideologically pretty angry at the way things were. I saw a lot of problems with the world around me.

So this was a nice positive antidote to that. Having an interest in the “natural world,” which is really just the real world. The human world is the thing that needs its own designation, its own word to describe it, because this is not, whatever we’ve made is not the way things have been on this planet for 99.9 percent of the planet’s history.

So one thing led to another. Soon I was studying oaks, then I was studying manzanitas, then I learned about native plants. Then I was studying flowering plants, which I initially had no interest in. I just didn’t find angiosperms interesting.

I think in California, because the California ecological setting is so diverse and the geologic setting is so diverse, that botanists there caught on quicker to the whole idea of like ecology and how things evolve in different settings. We have the same genus with one species in the mountains and one species in the desert. And wow, look at that. You can see how evolution has sculpted two different versions of the same thing from an evolutionary lineage that they diverged from.

Joey Santore Self-Portrait. Photo: Joey Santore
Vine-like Moonlight Cactus (Selenicereus spinulosus). Photo: Joey Santore

Sarah Beck: I love that aspect of all botanic gardens, this idea that this is a place to go and follow your own question, follow your own inquiry, like you say, there’s all this information there to be had. I love that sort of third space in the world. It’s not work, it’s not school, it’s this other place that you can go and you can learn things and have those experiences.

Joey Santore: That’s where I try to spend most of my life, is in that third space. Metaphorically, where it’s like, I’m doing so much and I’m exhausted, but it’s not work because I’m just so addicted to it and obsessed.

Sarah Beck: I want to talk about this passion and Crime Pays But Botany Doesn’t. I want to just hear from you a little bit about, first of all, you’re talking about systematics most of the time. I mean, this is like evolution of plant lineages. This is serious science, and yet you’re finding ways to talk about diversity and evolution and ecology and Earth’s plant life, and you’re talking about it in just about the least boring way possible. I’m just curious how you do that?

Joey Santore: I don’t know. I’ve had different teachers throughout my life. I remember I had a chemistry teacher. God, we used to smoke weed with this guy, which, I wonder about that, too. I’m like, what was this dude doing? But he was probably like 25. He was just this really cool, goddamn man. He just had this way of teaching chemistry. He was obsessed with it. And he would be in the class, “Don’t you understand?” He wanted you to get it. He’s like, “This is so cool!”

This dude was legit, and he had a passion for chemistry. Just the way teachers like him that I would have, and other teachers I’d have during my brief stint in college. It wasn’t a job to them. They loved talking about this stuff, and I’ve had that, too.

I love—there’s something that happens when you see the excitement and something, like when you see a click for someone who’s listening to you, and listening to what you’re saying, and they finally see it. They see the magic in these other life forms that you’re talking about. And you’re like, “goddamn, that’s so great. I’m so grateful that this does it for you, too.” Like, “I’m so glad I was able to show someone else.”

Sarah Beck: This is something, and just between you and me, Pacific Horticulture has been talking about this for a long time We want to not be elitist. For instance, Botanical Latin, like that’s a great example. We want to use it, we want to make sure people aren’t using it as a way to intimidate someone else and to make them feel like they’re not part of a conversation.

Joey Santore: Yeah. I hate it when people say that argument. They’re like, “Oh, it’s elitist to talk.” It’s like, no, it’s not. There’s a whole system here that’s amazing.

Sarah Beck: Exactly.

Joey Santore: It’s the best way that we as these bipedal primates have of trying to understand how evolution works. And it’s fucking cool.

It doesn’t mean you’re a hotshot because you can say all this shit. That’s the thing too, if you’re using this language and you’re not explaining it to people who obviously don’t fucking get it and it’s flying over their heads, then you’re an asshole. You are an elitist.

You’ve got an opportunity to teach people, decode this for them, and then explain it so that people are getting something from it. Because right now it just seems like you’re showboating. You are kind of being, you know what I mean?

Sarah Beck: We’re always trying to find these ways to make it okay to say something wrong or just create that atmosphere where we’re all having that level of enthusiasm about why, and this doesn’t have to be like an intimidating experience where we’re nervous about saying something.

Joey Santore: No, it doesn’t. You have to not care. You genuinely have to not give a shit.

Don’t curse like I do but, “Oh, oops, I made a mistake.” Who cares? Everyone has flaws and most people are just covering them up and bullshitting. And I’m not faulting them for that, but I’m just saying, once you realize that, it’s like, well, you got nothing to, you’re the same as everyone else.

What really matters is, can you be kind? Can you teach things to people in a way that they can understand? Can you articulate? And basically, can you disarm people so they know how to approach you?

Especially among like well-intentioned people. They’re like, “How can we make it more inclusive? How can we?” It’s like, you can’t fake it. You can’t try too hard. Whatever it is. You got to just be yourself. You got to be real, be kind. But like, if you start faking it, it comes off as that and it comes off all stiff and it’s not fun. You’re worried about if you’re going to make an ass of yourself and people detect that.

Joey Santore with Friends. Photo: Joey Santore

Sarah Beck: I’m curious to hear a little bit about your travels, because I was looking at some of the places you’ve been on your botanical adventures. Obviously at Pacific Horticulture we look a lot at other dry summer locations, mediterranean zones. We’re always looking at things that may relate to the Pacific region.

You’ve been in Mexico and Western Australia and Chile. I’ve been looking a lot at plants in Chile recently. New Caledonia. I’m just curious what guides some of your adventures as far as what you’re deciding to go and see, especially recently?

Joey Santore: Back to that same thing I was doing when I was like 24, when I’d go on Wikipedia and look up a family and then look up other genera in it. Whenever I look at a plant, I immediately want to know what family it’s in. How many species are in that genus? How many genera are in that family? Is it super diverse? Is it monotypic?

Symplocaceae, which is a genus (Symplocos) I didn’t even know about. It’s a southeastern genus in Ericales, the blueberry order. Some of them have their own species of Exobasidium fungus that parasitize them and mimic flowers.

Sarah Beck: Oh, that’s weird.

Joey Santore: And so, I’ll read about this stuff. And then I see, oh, there’s a species that grows wherever, Chile, or it’s got an amphitropical distribution, this genus. It occurs north and south of the equator in the New World. Then I would just be like, “Damn, I wonder what that’s like over there.”

Like, I talk with my friend, Matt Berger, a lot—Sheriff Woody on Instagram. He’s into the carrot family, Apiaceae. And we were reading about Azorella compacta, that high alpine Chilean carrot that can live for like 2,000 years. It’s a member of Apiaceae. It forms these huge mats. Llareta, they call it. Two Ls. Llareta.

And we learned there was a species that grows Macquarie Island. So we were just thinking like, “How did it get there? Okay. Obviously bird dispersal, when did that dispersal event happen? How many millions of years ago? God, isn’t that crazy? I wonder what the climate is like there.” It’s this tiny island off the coast of Tasmania, isolated.

It’s just that wonder, it’s just that imagination, just goddamn, there’s another variation on a theme that evolved. I mean, really, it’s just fascination with evolution. Probably the same thing that so many other biologists and botanists feel, the same thing that Darwin felt, just how many different endless forms most beautiful have been created in how many different geologic and climatic settings? It’s the same way that humans can breed broccoli and kohlrabi and brussels sprouts are the same species of Brassica. The environment has created all these different variations on the form of a certain genus or family or whatever. It’s incredible, whether the plant evolves in a desert or a swamp or a high mountain setting or whatever. I don’t know, that stuff just fascinates me.

Then I was lucky enough, I don’t know, two or three years ago, a woman reached out to me who was from the UK who was like, “I want to send you to these places because I’ll never be able to get there.”

I was really grateful. I mean, she really helped me with a lot of the trips. South Africa, a gentleman reached out to me who was down there like working for some cannabis thing. And he’s like, “Yeah, we’re doing well. I’d love to see you do some videos on the plants down here,” and I was like, “Hey man, totally, I’m down,” you know?

Sarah Beck: South African plants are so interesting and many of them do really well here.

Joey Santore: I mean, that place was overwhelming. I made like half the videos that I recorded. There was just too much.

Yeah, I mean, it was completely overwhelming because you’d go from one mountain to another and there’d be a whole different cast of species, and you couldn’t tell. You’d be like, “Is this the same species? It’s the same genus, but it’s the same species? Looks a little different.”

It’s one of the most overwhelming places I’ve been botanically, and there’s just so much cool stuff there. I mean, the “beetle daisies,” (Gorteria). They’re these members of Asteraceae that have patterns on them. And there’s a couple different variations. There’s few different species, actually, that have patterns on their ligules, their rays, their ray florets that mimic, not monkey beetles, but Cape bee flies (Megapalpus capensis), which is a really common pollinator there. There’s a species of Pelargonium in the geranium family that does the same thing.

Not only is the little pattern darkened, but it’s embossed, too. It’s raised up. It’s fucking wild. You think about how that must happen, how prevalent that pollinator must be. The pollinator flies down. It’s trying to mate with the ray floret. It crawls around the flower, disperses pollen. And unrelated plant families doing that, too.

Sarah Beck: Plants are so kinky.

Joey Santore: It’s nuts. That, again, that just is like pouring gas on that fire of imagination. You’re like, “Goddamn it. That’s so cool.” Where else have you seen this happen? Orchids do a lot of insect mimicry. There’s a iris down there, member of the Iris family. They often have purple flowers, and this one has basically truncate leaves, but at the end, they end in a flat point, or flat edge. But the edge looks like it’s been gnawed on. Like this plant has evolved to mimic leaves that have already been hit by an herbivore. Do I know that this is happened? Was I there to watch how this thing evolved and what selection pressures? No, but this thing looks, it’s such a bizarre leaf shape. There’s no other reason.

People down there just know that, too, like, “Oh yeah.” Like all the botanists, they’re like, “Oh, yeah, just—”

Sarah Beck: Right, yeah. Nothing chewed that. It just looks like that.

Joey Santore: It just evolved like it’s been chewed on so herbivores leave it alone, you know? It’s like browned at the end, too. When I first saw it, I was like, “Man, something came through and gnawed on it.” And then when I got down close, I was like, “Oh my god, are you kidding me?” And then I realized they were all like that. Nothing gnawed on them, that’s how this thing evolved. It was the most uncanny… that was great for me because, again, it’s just pouring gasoline on that fire of imagination.

Now I want to know more. How does that evolve? You go to bed at night thinking about that.

Babiana cuneata. It’s got cuneate leaves, wedge-shaped leaves. Babiana cuneata. Goddamn, it was such a—that was one of the coolest cases of selection pressure I’ve ever seen.

Sarah Beck: Plants are just so incredibly cool and it’s hard not to share that.

This comes back to this idea of the urban spaces, something that, I know that you think about a lot because you’ve spent time in cities. You were in Chicago, you were in the Bay Area for a long time. And just thinking about how to bridge that experience for people in urban spaces.

There’s a lot of talk that feels really hard to take sometimes, with biodiversity loss and climate pressure and all of that. And yet I think there are so many ways that we can move forward, especially in urban environments, and help people come to this conversation and be excited.

Vine-like Moonlight Cactus (Selenicereus spinulosus). Photo: Joey Santore

Joey Santore: I think, obviously if you live in a city, most people don’t have lawns. Most people don’t even have houses. There’s a lot of apartments. I mean, I always recommend, if you have a house, you rent it or whatever, kill your lawn immediately and start planting stuff there.

Get a tree company to dump mulch. You’ll need mulch. Rip up the lawn. Start bit by bit if you need to. You can get a sod cutter if you have funds to rent the sod cutter, like a hundred bucks. If you don’t, whatever, do the slow method. I just dig it up with like a narrow, sharp, we call them sharpshooters here, these narrow trenching shovels, whatever.

Get rid of the lawn, start planting stuff. Find plants wherever. If you don’t have a yard, plants are everywhere, man. Wherever there’s space where there’s not concrete, or even just a little bit of soil or a crack in the concrete, there’s going to be a plant growing there. If you’re in a city, there’s going to be probably a lot of invasive, non-native species, but that can still be cool.

Look at the ecology that those plants are creating there. Look at what’s interacting with them. Look at the insects that are hitting the flowers. Look at the birds that are eating the seeds. The plants that grow in urban spaces, many of them non-native, what is this makeshift ecology that’s created, and what’s the epitome of this human disturbance, like the city? How have they adapted?

When I lived in West Oakland. I would go to the train yard there, this stretch of yard called the Desert Yard. So it was just a nice place to go, and then eventually you start looking around. There was plants everywhere. You’d start paying attention to what’s growing there. Some invasives, some natives. The natives that can end up growing in cities and thriving: a lot of Baccharis in the Bay Area, coyote bush. Quercus agrifolia—live oaks—too. The scrub-jays (Aphelocoma) plant them.

I mean, it was so cool to see that, you know? These natives that were able to hang on and compete with the invasives and grow in this toxic, messed-up soil and tolerate occasional herbicide spray by the railroad or whatever.

Certainly I would also mention it’s important to go to the botanic garden. We’re getting away from this Eurocentric version of how a botanic garden should look.

There’s plants everywhere. I mean, you got to put the phone down, and you got to get outside, and you have to just look, and you have to think about things, you know?

iNaturalist has been super essential to me, mainly just to keep track of everything that I see. Now that I’ve got so many names inside my head, plant names. I used to never forget genus names. Now I forget genera names pretty frequently if I haven’t been to that spot in a while, whether it’s a region of the country or whatever, but I’ll never forget family. So you can look it up by family. So I’ll always look up my observations, what family, region, boom, I get a list of what I’ve seen. So it’s super helpful.

Whenever I collect herbarium pressings, I’ll make sure the voucher specimen has the iNaturalist number on it, too, so people can look it up and see photos, et cetera.

Sarah Beck: Something that you said, and I read this, you said that “Lawns represent a fundamental denial of place that’s been ingrained in all of us from a young age.” I’d love if you could talk a little bit about that context in terms of your interest in plant evolution and why this is so exciting and interesting, no matter where you live and even if you are in an urban environment, this idea of connecting to what is that story of the ecology of your spot, right?

Joey Santore: There’s this idea that “Well, most people have lawns because my kids like to play—” really? Your kids like to play on just an open, barren, exposed field, and do what? Like when it’s 95°F (35°C)? When I was a kid, we liked to play in alleyways. We liked to play in all the cutty yards, places to hide, crawl around the bushes. I don’t think kids like to play in the lawn, especially when it’s hot outside.

The main thing with the Kill Your Lawn for me is it’s a way of providing habitat and forming a bond with the land that you live on. You’re creating habitat, you’re restoring habitat that’s been lost.

And the thing about, especially in America, that still blows my mind is we are still destroying so much habitat to build shopping centers, to build tract housing, to build sprawl, to build this car-dependent way of life that’s literally killing us physically. There’s something in our genome as human beings that wants to connect to the life around us that wants to have our hands in the soil and be around plants.

That is where the richness in having a garden, a native plant garden, comes from. Then of course, you could plant edibles, you’re growing your own food. That’s fulfilling, too. Some people end up breeding their own plants, whether they’re plants they like, whatever. Selecting traits, just doing good old Mendelian genetics, or trying to breed their own squashes or whatever. Some people really nerd out about it, you know?

It’s good for mental health, it’s certainly good for physical health to get you outside and to get you working the land. I think it just, more importantly, it has you develop a connection to the life around you. Not just the plants.

I come home to my house now. We killed the lawn. First thing I did when I got here, before I even moved anything in. Well, I moved a couple things in. I was sleeping on a mattress in a corner of my house. But we ripped the lawn up. I got my friend Zack to come by. We ripped the lawn up, planted a bunch of natives, put down some mulch so the sun wouldn’t bake the ground. Now, eight months later I can’t walk to my door without hitting a butterfly. Well not hitting, but without it flying right in front of my face. I mean, it’s just swarms of butterflies. Swarms of caterpillars. We get cool toads and frogs coming by, lizards coming by. It’s just so nice. I’m out there with my daughter. We got a moth light and a shower curtain hung up on the outside of the house, seeing what species of moths are out and about.

I think it’s so important for people and plants define place more than anything else. I mean, when I remember being at UC Berkeley Botanic Garden, you go to their Eastern North America section and you feel like you’re in Eastern North America for this little 200-foot stretch of the trail. Then, that’s when you realize like, “My god, this is what really, these hardwood forests, all the plants that grow with them, that’s what really defines the places that we live.”

Sarah Beck: Oh, you’re such a garden futurist.

Joey Santore: I don’t know what that is, but it’s nicer than things a lot of other people have called me so I’ll take it.

Sarah Beck: I believe that Joey and Pacific Horticulture have two different ways of saying the same thing. Joey mentioned his Kill Your Lawn campaign. We have our #LifeNotLawn hashtag. I think these are pretty much the same concept.

I wanted to ask you about your impression of the things that Joey said about kids not actually liking playing on lawn. I loved that.

Adrienne St. Clair: I loved that, too. I saw a presentation by a local group that does asphalt removal in places, so they pull out asphalt do plantings and in a lot of schools. And one of the common things that they hear is, “But if there’s no asphalt, where the kids going to play?” And it’s like, they don’t want to play on the hot asphalt all the time. Like that’s just the only place we’ve designed for them.

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We had a great designer mention this recently, also, a webinar with a designer from New Zealand (White 2023) (link in image to left) who said this whole idea of even like a lawn being flat, she noticed that the places that kids like to play were on slopes and all kinds of places with topography. I think there’s really something to this. The real experience of nature play and the way that kids engage with the outside world, there isn’t as much to do on just like a perfectly, you know, manicured lawn space.

Adrienne St. Clair: Yeah, I feel like he came back to that so many times, was this very human way of experiencing the world and, “I am just going to look at the world and stop, and stop walking and just look at things.” And it doesn’t matter where you are. It doesn’t matter how nice your surroundings are. You can be anywhere and see something that’s amazing. And I think that’s always inspiring to hear people’s perspective like that, and you can get that perspective with any subject.

And so here’s somebody that has that perspective and with botany, and so it’s fun to have that response, because that’s my perspective with botany, too. You know, when I learned about like how plants reproduce and I’m like, “What does the pollen do? That’s insane. That’s absolutely crazy,” you know? “How does the pollen move from the top of the stigma down into the ovary? Plants are crazy.” So to kind of relive some of that excitement is really fun to hear.

Sarah Beck: I think you really hit on it, because I think everyone who is really into plants has had those moments, he really evoked that great teacher moment, when an amazing scientist has said something to you and you get it and you’re just like, “Wow!” I almost think because of his sort of unwillingness to be a, I loved his term, be a stiff, maybe that’s part of the magic here.

Adrienne St. Clair: Yeah.

Sarah Beck: As a botanist, someone who has an interest in this level of the plant science world, how would you describe where that is?

Adrienne St. Clair: The love of systematics?

Sarah Beck: Yeah.

Adrienne St. Clair: Well, the thing about botany is it takes a new language to learn, right?

So as you’re learning plants, you kind of have to learn a new language. And that can be fun if you’re somebody that loves new languages. And it can be frustrating if you’re not. And then systematics takes that to a whole new level, and you’re suddenly learning, you’re using this new language to perceive the world in this hierarchy and relationships that you’ve never imagined before. And so there are botany geeks and there are systematic geeks.

Sarah Beck: You really have to do some hard work to be in the space of being able to make those comparisons or to see relationships the way that you’re describing.

Adrienne St. Clair: I think one thing that I was excited to reimagine and remember through this conversation was I spend too much time in front of my computer, and I was reminded from this conversation to just get outside and look at things, and have that experience of being on the ground looking and engaging and experiencing. And I think it’s where botanists started and then we all kind of meander away from it a little too much with heady ideas and the kind of day-to-day grind. And I forget to get back on the ground and just be out there.

Sarah Beck: That feels to me like a lesson that is so applicable in our field, holistically, you know, everything relating to horticulture and plants, that essential need to go outside and connect again, it’s so universal.

Resources

Crime Pays But Botany Doesn’t

Kill Your Lawn

Matt Berger, @sheriff_woody_pct

White, Xanthe. 2023. “Process-led Design with Xanthe White.” Multidisciplinary Approaches to Resilient Landscapes Series Event in Collaboration with Garden Masterclass. Pacific Horticulture. April 5, 2023. The recording of this presentation is available in our member portal.

Wikipedia. 2023. “Joey Santore.” June 1, 2023.

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