Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Edouards Baltars - Collection of Mile-a-minute in Maryland Aug. 23, 1964

Eduards Baltars, Aug 23, 1964. Baltimore County. Polygonum perfoliatum (Persicaria perfoliata). Norton Brown Herbarium University of Maryland, College Park #3603:

for the Story of the Introduction of Mile-a-Minute see;
History of the Introduction of Mile-a-minute weed (vine) - Persicaria perfoliata

               We live in a society where it is not so much what you know but what boxes you have checked off along the way to a piece of paper that is important. And then once armed with the correct documentation, the inclination is to assume those who have not checked the same boxes must by definition not have knowledge or information worth knowing or hearing.

               Edouards Baltars had much to offer a world that did not listen and is paying the price. Eduards Baltars left a legacy quietly forgotten that sounded the alrm about ivnasive species before invasive species issues were taught or thought about or even cool. Edouards Baltars lived and worked in forgotten silence at the very beginning of the ideas of invasion biology.

               And because he was "just" a carpenter, those who should have been listening, never heard his crystal clear clarion call to action; his warning about Mile-a-minute vine in North America. 15 years before the modern literature began to ring with alarm, the knowledgable  carpenter  saw, collected and stated the problem of Persicaria perfoliata, which he knew as Polygonum perfoliatum.

               Eduards Baltars was not just a carpenter of course, but a trained botanist without the proper creditals or language skills to get along in his adopted country. Born in Riga, Latvia, he and his wife, Marta, had fled the country after World War II arriving in the United States in 1944. Here because his language skills were not consider adequate , the university trained botanist found work as a carpenter. He knew enough to teach or work in a public research institution, but there was no mechanism that recognized his knowledge and experience.

               Over the next two decades he would devote his free time to Maryland's flora volunteering his skills and knowledge to plant and carefor a native plant garden in Baltimore, as well as collecting and mounting at least 287 botanical specimens for various U.S.  herbaria. He did this at no pay for over 20 years enriching our knowledge of our natural resources because he loved plants and learning.[1]

               Among his sheets of dried botanical plants carefully preserved are multiple collections of P. perfoliata, mile-a-minute. And here is the stunning surprise for those who think they know about this invasive plant: The literature mentions Moul, 1946, and then Hinkman and Hinkman,1979, and from there off to the races with Riefner and Windler, 1979. But the quiet carpenter had found this species in 1959 at the "border of Gunpowder Falls N[orth] of Corbett Rd, E[ast] of Corbett".  Only two years earlier another "uneducated" naturalist, Floyd Bartley, had found the invasive mile-a-minute in Owings Mill, Maryland. Both men submitted their specimen to the Smithsonian.[2]

               This however is not the end of the story, for identifying but not notifying is to not complete the circuit of early detection and rapid response (EDRR). Eduards Baltars did not stop for on August 23, 1964 on a collection specimen sheet he typed:

"according to my observation Polygonum perfoliatum is rapidly spreading Maryland. I know 3 locations in Harford County and in Baltimore County it grows along streams and railroads from the Pennsylvanian border south to Coockeysville. N .W. of Phoenix (Baltimore Co.) is 3/4 mile stretch along a railroad where all shrubs are covered with this pest. In some places it grows together with P.scandens."   

               This 1964 specimen was colelcted at the border of Gunpowder Falls, along the railroad southeast of Sparks in Baltimore County Maryland.

               As I try to find funding that would allow me to begin to inventory our disappearing collections, I am reminded of a saying: Nature communicates the past to the future, by storing information in the present.  Eduard Baltars is shouting at us here and now from the past, and we continue to be deaf and dumb; our needs do not seem to include the changes around us; or is it that we do not want to know? My quest to find funding is as quixotic in as Baltars' incessant plant collecting and clear warning.

Edouards Baltars; E Fisher; et al. List of plants collected by Edouards Baltars in Maryland, 1951-1971, not included in Norton & Brown's catalogue of 1946. Cylburn Park Wildflower Preserve and Garden Center. Baltimore, MD.  p.34 

[1] Isaac Rehert. June 19, 1971. Walk With Plant Specialist Presents Variety of Lessons. Baltimore Sun
[2] Botany Collections. Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. reference numbers:  Bartley 2313406; Baltars 2313406.

1 comment:

Cliff Davis said...

There's a lot of blog to explore here and I'm looking forward to it, as a fellow enthusiast of our Eastern wood and lonely warrior against invasive species. -- Cliff