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Polypodium dictyopteris (lance fern)

by di2 

Posted: 06 November 2007
Word Count: 475
Summary: An extract from my Australian Colonial History Blog telling the story of my quest to understand why a 19th century plant explorer Allan Cunningham dedicated his life to science.
Related Works: A time line that sings • In the footsteps of Allan Cunningham • The King`s Botanical Collector Preface • The Tomb of Phillip Parker King • 

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A scholar recently visited my Allan Cunningham Project at www.Artuccino.com. How do I know he is a scholar . . . well . . . anyone who is seeking information about the history of a plant collected in New Zealand in 1838 and can lay down a sentence like the request that follows must be a scholar . . .

"When you go to the Sydney Herbarium (NSW), I will be most grateful if you will look for the sheet of the Allan Cunningham specimen of this species [Polypodium dictyopteris] for me, which might be filed under the genus Anarthropteris (Polypodiaceae) or might be filed as Loxogramme, and then perhaps as Loxogramme lanceolata or Loxogramme dictyopteris."

If you can make a request like that you would have to be a scholar, wouldn't you agree!

You never know where your journey will take you and you never know who you will meet along the way. A scholar to me is like Justin Timberlake is to a pop star fan. Well not quite but nearly. Silly I know but it's fun. Before we go any further, I must tell you that Im not really a person who is interested in botany in a serious way. Its more the idea of it that gets me. Im interested in the how of it and the why of it. The idea of someone quietly focusing on a plant captures my imagination. Life is so hectic with little time to rest, some people live their lives studying plants, how interesting. Plants are so quiet and so very beautiful, as nature is.

One of the joys of writing non-fiction is the research, the serendipity of discovery. It would have been nice to report that I found a specimen of Polypodium dictyopteris collected by Allan Cunningham in 1838 only months before his death and it would have been nice to say he discovered the plant on such and such a day in such and such a place. Unfortunately my opportunity for 15 seconds of fame has flitted in and flitted out of my life, like a butterfly. Never daunted, it will remain on my list of challenges and one day I will be able to reply to the request in the affirmative because I am on a quest. A quest to tell Allan Cunningham's story.

The challenges set for my quest don't include finding a sword embedded in a rock so I can slay the dragon. Thank goodness for that! I've been given a challenge with a minor obstacle . . . time.

As time goes by and the various challenges are met and obstacles overcome, somewhere somehow, while I'm looking for something else, Polypodium dictyopteris will suddenly appear and that will make me smile.

"Jump and the universe will catch you!"

View the formatted and linked version of this article at: http://www.artuccino.com/Allan_Cunningham/Blog/index.php?pageNum_rsBlogAC=4&totalRows_rsBlogAC=9#top_of_text

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