Oh Happy Death

Today should have been a happy day. I found a rare gem…for me, a first-time discovery. The occurrence had been documented before, but I have stood poised through winter, waiting for the moment that I would encounter the elusive and rare snow trillium (Trillium nivale). The plants are minute–about the same height as a Kennedy half dollar on its side, and similar in width to the same coin on its face (at least those encountered today). Their foliage is glaucous (with a bluish hue), and the flowers are white, giving double meaning to the name, “snow trillium,” as the plants also often bloom through the last fits of early spring snow. Anyone walking with eyes looking forward rather than to their feet would miss these plants. It’s almost as if snow trillium exists because one thinks there should be beauty at one’s feet or where one is, rather than in the forward view or future. The first plant I found was not in flower, but it was promising to reveal its beauty soon. The feeling I had at that moment is one that only searchers–birders, botanists, other similar types–understand.


However, I was immediately concerned by my setting. It was clear I was near the edge.

Standing next to my first snow trillium, it was clear I had little woods left to explore.

Standing next to my first snow trillium, it was clear I had little woods left to explore.

I stumbled out into the open, beneath the power lines, into an area within the greater realm of the snow trillium, carefully outlined in pale green colored pencil by my predecessor on the old aerial photo I carried with me. I was immediately sober, angry, and mourning.

The view at my feet.

The view at my feet.

The view forward.

The view forward.

I thought I had been desensitized long ago, perhaps even before I ever wore a cape and gown or even drove a car.

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac.


About prairiebotanist

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4 Responses to Oh Happy Death

  1. paulmozina says:

    Hi Dan. Gary Birch works with the department of transportation to try to bring a more enlightened approach to maintaining flora and fauna in their right-of-ways. See http://scuppernongspringsnaturetrail.com/2014/02/17/kettle-moraine-oak-opening-2/

    I wonder if there is a similar function/role at WE Energies, or who ever it is that maintains the corridor under the power lines, that could be influenced to take a different approach.


    • prairiebotanist says:

      Paul: Yes there are, and I/we are going to reach out to them. Biologists at WE Energies have been good to work with in the past.

  2. Just posted two of your posts on Friends of the Mukwonago River facebook page. Wonderful, but it took a while to decipher who you are,

    • prairiebotanist says:

      That is intentional, more or less for work reasons…these are my personal views, etc. Thanks for sharing my posts.

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