A stroll through the forest of great botanical writing from the past year

In the Forest of Good Advice (Wai Koa Plantation, Kauai). Andy Murdock, 2018

The last thing I expected from 2018 was for it to end with an inspiration from Bob Ross.

I was in a store shopping for a present for my nephew, when he happened to text me his Christmas wish list. The first item on the list: a Bob Ross paint-by-numbers kit. I laughed at this. He certainly hadn’t grown up with him on TV — why Bob Ross? Just then, two women walked past me, one of them saying, “Oh, Eddie loves Bob Ross!” …


An avalanche of cliffbrakes. Yosemite National Park. Photo by Andy Murdock.

A murder of crows. A rafter of turkeys. A pod of whales. A gulp of cormorants.

I can still see the cartoonish icons from the Nature Company poster on the back of the door to my second grade classroom, listing collective nouns for animals. Some names were descriptive or fanciful (a flamboyance of flamingoes!), others totally missing a great opportunity (an array of hedgehogs?).

At the time I assumed these were mostly fake, silly terms made up to fill out a poster and sell novelty books. In truth, these terms are often quite old, many dating back to the 1400s…


Great botanical writing that helped distract us from the past year

Go here to clear your mind, or at least go here in your mind to clear your mind. Photo: Andy Murdock

I’m going to start with a guess: If you’re reading this, you’re looking for interesting things to read that have absolutely no connection with the daily news — a respite from the whirlwind of 2017.

If you read last year’s The best plant stories of 2016, you can guess where I tend to look for such escapes. Judging by the well over 100 plant-related stories I’ve bookmarked over the year, I’ve been doing a fair bit of escaping.

When I’m really looking for a mental reset, a way to…


Great botanical writing from the past year, with special guest appearances by fungi and algae

Dicranopteris fern fiddlehead, Oahu. Photo: Andy Murdock.

By now, you’ve probably heard: 2016 is getting some pretty bad reviews.

If you’re at all botanically-inclined, however, 2016 was something of a banner year. Matt Damon won the Golden Globe for playing not just a botanist, but a heroic space botanist. Botanists noticed. Almost immediately there was a new species of nightshade named after him. We had the first space plants (to be clear: space plants, not space pants). In a bit of a first, there was big lichen news in 2016 (more below), and even a book about forestry that hit the bestseller list.

Andy Murdock

I put words on things. Editor, travel and science writer, churro enjoyer. I brake for ferns. Formerly @airbnb & @lonelyplanet.

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