While working with a batch of specimens, analyzing the contents of their "notes" fields, I came across this strikingly poignant note on a specimen label: "strong aroma reminds me of deer hunting with dad near Lake Berryessa."
The tarweed represented by the specimen sheet is nothing particularly spectacular: a handful of cream-colored flowers, likely a little brown and shriveled due to age, on a spindly stem with thin leaves and minute hairs. The data offered by the specimen--date, location, species--are surely worthwhile for studying plant distributions, ecology, and evolution. Yet something about this quick note reminds us that plants can be even more than data points or scientific curiosities. To humans, plants can evoke memories, symbolize ideas, and encapsulate emotions,
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.