Dr M’s University of Reading signature module the legendary Vegetation Survey and Assessment (VSA) module has come to an end for another year (“shame!” I hear you cry!).
“Go forth and botanise” Dr M urged as he offered up his three top tips for the eXtreme botanist:
- Overcome any fear of keying that might be lurking or loitering in your minds. Keys are one of the main windows into eXtreme botany (any botany for that matter!). Whether the veg key, the book of Stace or the moss book, keys offer the eXtreme botanist a route into plant ID that goes beyond just memorising and straight recall and allows the botanist into new, uncharted eXtreme botanical waters. No key is perfect, and God (and Dr M) knows, learning to use a key can be very frustrating. But diligence pays dividends, and it is surprising how soon the early mistakes and errors become fewer, and consequently, confidence grows and a spirit of “OK, I’ll have a go, it might take a few tries and some wrong turnings, but the key really will help!” comes to the fore.
- Challenge yourself! Don’t be satisfied with less than eXtreme botany! Get familiar, and up close and personal, with common plants, absolutely essential! BUT seek out too, the less familiar, the strange and the downright difficult! The reward from even just getting close to identifying something new and strange and difficult can be immense! There is no other feeling quite like it!
- Enjoy plants and embrace eXtreme botany! For Dr M, his love of plants stems from the fact that plants are quite simply fascinating, beautiful and endlessly rewarding. Maybe not everyone shares Dr M’s particular over-the-top brand of eXtreme botanical delight and delectation, but then there is room in this world for an infinite variety botano-philes! The VSA module has been carefully hand-crafted and designed by Dr M to impart skills of plant ID, skills of vegetation survey and skills of eXtreme botany! After VSA it is up to each student to set themselves their own botanical challenges to take them forward. Since starting teaching VSA, Dr M has delighted in observing how his students forge onwards and upwards along their own eXtreme botanical journeys in their life after VSA!
To help them on their journey from VSA and along the path of eXtreme botany, Dr M serenaded his students with this, his latest musical offering in the form of his own eXtreme botanical take on Sinatra’s classic “My way”. Here are the lyrics of what is: Dr M’s eXtreme botany way…
(Dr M in pensive, reflective mode, with even a hint of the melancholic)
And now, the end is here
And so we face the final lecture
My students, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state the case, of which I’m certain
You’ve studied Vegetation Survey and Assessment
You’ve ID’d each and ev’ry plant group
But more, much more than this, you’ve done eXtreme botan-ee
(Dr M introduces a touch of irony to the proceedings)
Plant tests, you’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
You did, a Phase 1 survey, and saw it through without exemption
you planned each Phase two quadrat, each indented couplet in the veg key
And more, much more than this, you studied Poace-ae
(Dr M moves into dramatic (and very loud) mode)
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew!
When you collected more than you could ID!!
But through it all, when there was doubt!!!
you grabbed the plant and keyed it out!!!!
you held your hand lens to your eye, and did extreme botan-ee!!!!!
(Back to pensive)
You’ve loved, you’ve laughed and cried
You had your fill, your share of plant tests
And now, as the module ends, we find it all so amusing
To think you did all that
And learned to love your times ten hand lens,
Oh, yes, you really have, you’ve done eXtreme botan-ee
For what is a VSA student, what have they got?
If not the book of Stace, then eXtreme they are not
To key the mosses, and the lichens too, and not to ignore them as so many do!
The record shows you used the keys, and you are eXtreme botan-ists!
(…and the beginning)