by Ben Sikes
When I was a new dad and living in Louisiana, I was working hard and trying to figure out how I was going to do this thing called life.
I was newly married and had a new job at a big USGS facility working on population genetics and restoration. I was learning about the the city, Lafayette, and decided to go try frisbee golf just to be outside and see the area. I wasn't very good at frisbee golf mind you and only had 3 disks (a driver, a mid-range, and a putter), which I had left over from my college days. On hole two, my mid range went directly into an island of trees that was around a seep or low area of the course.
Having little recourse, I adventured through the shrubs and brush guarding the inner sanctum, only to come face to face with two stems of beautiful red flowers. I had no idea what they were, and no way to find out, since this was before cell phone cameras were ubiquitous. I sat there amazed. It was Louisiana, but it was getting pretty late in the year (October I think). I really wanted to know what these flowers were. I stared and studied trying to recall any botanical names I knew, but came up empty.
As I grabbed my disk and started to head back out to the course, a cardinal flew into the brushy scrub and started upbraiding me, likely because of a nest nearby. I looked at the flower and looked at the bird, remarking how bright red they both were, contrasting with the yellowish gray-green of live oaks and the rest of Louisiana that time of year. I didn't forget the flower though, and spent time searching for it's picture and name when I finally got home. Turns out, the bird was a hint: the mystery plant was a Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis).
Ben Sikes is a scientist who live in Kansas. He hasn't always lived in Kansas, but he would say he's always been a scientist. Photo by Jonathan Bauer.