Soil, known to some farmers as black gold, is as much a necessity as water, but is nowhere near as simple. Beneath your feet lives a complex chemical stew of geologic and organic components, of swimming microbes and rhizomatic networks.
What one sophomore is learning through an internship at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Tyson can be used for experimentation precisely because it is not untouched wilderness. “This is WashU’s hidden gem,” Natural Resources Coordinator and Staff Scientist Beth Biro said.
How does one study plants that no longer exist? In short: burnt seeds. Paleoethnobotanists sift through ancient dirt at archaeological dig sites to find seeds preserved by partial burning. Once back at the lab, they spend much of their time studying minute differences in seed morphology.
In conversations with Washington University’s thriving botanical community, one man comes up more than any other: Cody Azotea.
The Butterfly Garden is a garden with a purpose. Pretty as it is, each plant is selected with the entire ecosystem in mind.
While the Wash. U. environment has a dedicated team behind it, most smaller parks in St. Louis do not.
One of the misconceptions we have about nature is that we are somehow separate from it, that we can organize humans into one box and nature into another us. Humans like to think of ourselves as special, and the idea of unadulterated wilderness is an appealing myth. Yet, to truly grasp nature, we have to put ourselves in it, to understand our role as a part of that system.
Just as we humans retreat indoors to escape the chill and ditch our Hawaiian shirts, so too do the trees retreat inwards to their roots and ditch their colorful leaves.
Many years later, having dedicated her life to the study of medicinal plants both in the Amazon and across the world, Memory Elvin-Lewis looks back on her time in Peru with fondness. “It was a wonderful adventure, just a totally excellent and super adventure, and I miss it every day.”
Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.Subscribe