Elisabeth C. Miller Library logo Miller Library Home UW Botanic Gardens Home UW Botanic Gardens Home book graphic

3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle, WA 98195 | (206) 543 0415 | Open: | Library Schedule

Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Knowledgebase record #10

Evolution of the Genus Iris by Robert Michael Pyle, 2014

Reviewed by: Rebecca Alexander
Review date: 2014-07-23

Evolution of the Genus Iris jacket The title of Robert Michael Pyle's most recent book might fool readers into supposing it a scholarly treatise aimed at the ultra-specialist in the Family Iridaceae. Look inside the cover of Evolution of the Genus Iris and all will become clear: these are poems of everyday life from the particular perspective of a Pacific Northwest naturalist.

The Miller Library has several other books by Pyle (including Wintergreen about the ecology of the Willapa Hills, and The Butterflies of Cascadia : A Field Guide to All the Species of Washington, Oregon, and Surrounding Territories). These plain-spoken poems feature garden perennials, reflections on the Palouse Giant Earthworm, longhorn beetles, butterflies, banana slugs, and how could I resist mentioning a paean to librarians.

One of my favorites in this first collection of poems is "Botany Lesson: Cleome." It begins, "He called it bee balm, but I heard bee bomb." The poet and his friend are on a butterfly-collecting trip, encountering specimens of wild Cleome. Pyle points out that Theophrastus's coinage of Cleome was based on a mistaken notion that the plant was related to mustard, when it is actually "a caper called spider plant, or bee / plant, for the love of honeybees but never bee balm." It's a poem of friendship and reminiscence as well as an observation about the complexities and accidental poetry of naming things.


Need an answer to your gardening question? Ask us directly!

Browse keywords or Search:

Keyword Search