Dear Petalidium lucens,
Way back when I was a graduate student at DUKE, I happened upon a loan of a herbarium specimen of you. I remember the day: I was sitting at the far end of the herbarium, with Dr. Wilbur looking over my shoulder to monitor my mischief. When I laid eyes on your bracts, it was love at first sight. (That, and the dense white tomentum of Petalidium englerianum….). At the time, I never knew that you and I would eventually cross paths. Well, 10 years later, we have. I am so glad that you waited for me…..
I have always wanted to tell you that I find you to be among the most brilliant species of what Kyle and I call “the Southern Clade” (Did you know you were part of a clade? Do you care?). Please tell me: what is the developmental basis for those beautiful, papery bracts that are interwoven by thick, red veins? What is the adaptive value, if any? And why is it that you inhabit such a narrow corner of Namibia, refusing to grow anywhere else on Earth?
Locally abundant, globally beautiful, you always make me smile whether in the cellulose, in the herbarium, from a photograph, or via a memory….
A botanical admirer
PS: Your friend, Petalidium linifolium, told me to tell you to get some skinnier leaves.
Wild collected, Namibia, Tripp et al. #2065 (RSA-POM); Photo by Erin Tripp