Wildlife Research, Monitoring & Mentoring

Solving Life’s Little Mysteries

Week 15
It’s life’s little mysteries that keep our sense of wonder alive. Categorizing and naming things is built into our human DNA, and for some, the drive to give names to things is stronger than others. I would guess it is that drive that sends people down the career path of being biologists and botanists. It was with great restraint that I resisted identifying one particular species of plant that was growing in my backyard plot and slowed the process of my identifying all the grasses at once. But it has been a long season, my plot has served me well, and it is time for me to let it go as the plants reach the end of their life cycles. Today I make the announcement that my mystery plant has been identified! I can now get a peaceful night’s sleep knowing that the unnamed plant in my backyard plot has been given a name.
Its name is Bob. Bob Goldenrod to be exact. Bob has been a shy, unassuming chap all year long, being content to remain inconspicuous amongst all his other plot fellows – he especially liked to hide beneath the grandeur of the loudly extroverted Common Milkweed. But as you can see, the milkweed’s raucous lifestyle has completely burned it out, leaving nothing but dried-out and used-up stem while Bob Goldenrod has chosen this moment to finally stand up and be noticed! For those of you that still must know, despite my comedic effort to keep you in suspense, his proper name is… Euthamia graminifolia, and you can call him Flat-topped Goldenrod. However, he will always be Bob to me. 
The pictures for this post were taken two weeks ago and I have not been out to my plot since. By now I think the life there has pretty much run its course, leaving me with little left to report on. The hues of gold that I waxed rhapsodic about in my last have steadily been turning to dull and lifeless tans and browns. In fact, Bob’s bright yellow flowers were the only splash of color in the entire plot. He was the last plant standing, so to speak. Nor were there any insects to be found in my plot, although even now Autumn meadowhawk dragonflies are still actively patrolling the fields, which means other, smaller insects are still numerous enough to keep their stomachs full. I don’t think I will be able to resist a mid-winter check-in with my plot; I do sense a little nugget mystery may be found then. But for now, my plot and I will die back together and make plans for the spring. I am curious to see what might grow there next year, if new plants will emerge or if they will remain the same. I wonder what critters might show up – and will I have an easier time identifying them and the plants they associate themselves with? I have learned so much this year, and along with that knowledge comes a little less mystery. Yet I do not feel like my world has grown smaller; if anything it has grown deeper. I highly recommend that if you find yourself struggling to find a good New Year’s Resolution on the eve of January 1, 2024, that you resolve to try this out for yourself.
To keep up with my latest activities, join our Facebook Group, the Natural Neighbors Network. And if you are looking for a more consistent nature-based activity close to home, why don’t you give iNaturalist a try? You can use the iNaturalist app on your phone to document and keep track of your own nature sightings. iNat’s artificial intelligence and online naturalist community can be immensely helpful to budding naturalist and can inspire contributions to scientific study at the same time.

You can download iNaturalist here:https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/mobile_apps_nz

Peace, Plants.
Rich Couse
Natural Neighbors Program Director
<a href="https://biodiversityworksmv.org/author/rcouse/" target="_self">Rich Couse</a>

Rich Couse


Rich is a Conservation Biologist and the director of the Natural Neighbors program. He grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts and lives in West Tisbury. Rich has a B.A. from UMASS in English with a minor in Education, a M.C. in Publishing from Emerson College, and an M.S. in Environmental Sciences, Conservation Biology from Antioch University.

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