Archive for November, 2017

What plant is that? Ingenious efforts to make identification easier


One symptom of our society’s decreasing connection with nature is that hardly anyone knows the names of plant species any more, and it’s not entirely due to too much time spent staring at screens. It’s also because identifying plant and animals – especially plants – can be very, very hard: while there are 10,000 bird species worldwide (of which 1,100 in the U.S. and 514 in Germany) and 3,600 snakes, the plant enthusiast must contend with 400,000 species globally (U.S: 17,000; Germany: 4,100). Still. the diversity champions are the beetles, with as many species – just species of beetles – as there are plants.

There are two main reasons for the difficulty in identifying plants, one intrinsic to plants themselves and one more human-centric, and this post is about how botanists have made the impediments a little less impeding. The relevance to Germany is that nowadays it has some outstanding information design in the area of plant identification, although in prior decades the U.S., U.K. and Australia also had fascinating innovations that are now nearly forgotten. (more…)