The Plant List and the Deep Map

I’ve been teaching and generally working like a madman, so posting has been slow & may continue to be.  But I just saw this via @ethnobotanista:

The completion of The Plant List accomplishes Target 1 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), which called for a widely accessible working list of known plant species as a step towards a complete world flora. The Plant List can be accessed by visiting

I guess from the very big picture view, having a searchable list of names of all known plant species helps with conservation, at the level of moving what we don’t know we don’t know (i.e. some of the thousands upon thousands of species unnamed or unnoticed by western science) into what we “know” at the margins and making that catalogue of information more widely accessible.  And the taxonomic database element of this is very cool from a plant geek (oh, excuse me, educational) perspective.  So, bravo!

But I happen to think that, at the level of listing and cataloging, what really needs to happen for conservation is that something like William Least Heat-Moon’s Prairyerth: A Deep Map needs to exist (whether in written or in oral cultural form) for every bioregion on the planet.

If you haven’t read Prairyerth, run don’t walk.  It’s not, in fact, a book you really need to “read” in the normal sense, since it’s laid out by geography rather than a linear series of chapters.  It’s more like an autoethnographic artifact that’s one of the deepest expressions of knowledge of place and nature connection I’ve ever seen in writing.  You wander through it like you might ramble and meander through the rising and falling of the “ocean of grass”.  It got me to go to Chase County, Kansas a few years ago and explore the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Flint Hills, which was super fun and began to fill in a big gap in my North American biogeography.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough – read it read it read it.  Then go make the deep map for the place where you live.

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One Response to The Plant List and the Deep Map

  1. Pingback: The Great Plains Continue to Change | Renewing the Commons

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