The 100 Species Challenge

August 9, 2008 @ 6:18 am | Filed under: ,

Updated to add this link to our family’s running list.

At The Common Room I learned about the 100 Species Challenge, the brainchild of scsours over at xanga. The idea, sparked by a quote about how few people can name a hundred plant species in their own neighborhood, is to become the exception to that observation by learning to identify the flora of your own surroundings.

Back in Virginia, we could have filled up our list right quick! But here in San Diego, as I’ve mentioned before, a good many of the plants are new to us. No longer can I dazzle my family with my encyclopedic horticultural knowledge. Nowadays, our jaunts around town are full of conversations along these lines:

Scott: “Ooh, pretty flowers. What are those called?”

Me: “I have no idea.”

Scott, incredulous: “But…but…but that’s your job!”

Which means, I guess, that all the other stuff I do around here is just a hobby. 😉

(Melissa Wiley: changes diapers for fun.)

Anyway. The 100 Species Challenge sounds like just what I need to regain my former lofty position as Family Guru of Flora and Fauna. (I’m thinking we’ll add fauna to our challenge: a second hundred-species list.)

Here are the rules:

1. Participants should include a copy of these rules and a link to this entry in their initial blog post about the challenge. I will make a sidebar list of anyone who notifies me that they are participating in the Challenge.

2. Participants should keep a list of all plant species they can name, either by common or scientific name, that are living within walking distance of the participant’s home. The list should be numbered, and should appear in every blog entry about the challenge, or in a sidebar.

3. Participants are encouraged to give detailed information about the plants they can name in the first post in which that plant appears. My format will be as follows: the numbered list, with plants making their first appearance on the list in bold; each plant making its first appearance will then have a photograph taken by me, where possible, a list of information I already knew about the plant, and a list of information I learned subsequent to starting this challenge, and a list of information I’d like to know. (See below for an example.) This format is not obligatory, however, and participants can adapt this portion of the challenge to their needs and desires.

4. Participants are encouraged to make it possible for visitors to their blog to find easily all 100-Species-Challenge blog posts. This can be done either by tagging these posts, by ending every post on the challenge with a link to your previous post on the challenge, or by some method which surpasses my technological ability and creativity.

5. Participants may post pictures of plants they are unable to identify, or are unable to identify with precision. They should not include these plants in the numbered list until they are able to identify it with relative precision. Each participant shall determine the level of precision that is acceptable to her; however, being able to distinguish between plants that have different common names should be a bare minimum.

6. Different varieties of the same species shall not count as different entries (e.g., Celebrity Tomato and Roma Tomato should not be separate entries); however, different species which share a common name be separate if the participant is able to distinguish between them (e.g., camillia japonica and camillia sassanqua if the participant can distinguish the two–“camillia” if not).

7. Participants may take as long as they like to complete the challenge. You can make it as quick or as detailed a project as you like. I’m planning to blog a minimum of two plants per week, complete with pictures and descriptions as below, which could take me up to a year. But you can do it in whatever level of detail you like.

I will probably create a separate page for our running lists: link to come.* The kids can help me keep it updated. It’s going to be fun to see how many we know right off the bat. We really have already learned a great deal in our almost two years here. (Can you believe it has been almost two years?)

Okay, what this project needs now is a pretty little button.** I would pester Alice Cantrell for one of her beautiful watercolors but it’s her gardening season and she just might be a tad busy!

*No time like the present: here it is!

**I tried my hand at a few (and stuck one in up above). Other contributions welcome.

Updated to add: Here’s a Flickr page for our Challenge as well.

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25 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. monica says:

    count me in!! i may be your only reader from romania, but i have already started dog earing the field guides. i will put the list on my blog and i would love to have a cute little button to add. maybe a botanical print or something.

  2. Melissa Wiley says:

    Yes, I was thinking about a vintage botanical too! I just found a site full of them, but it’s swimming lesson time, so I’m out of here.

    Glad you’re in, Monica! Can’t wait to learn about some Romanian flora. 🙂

  3. Theresa says:

    Ya know, I’ve thought about doing this for awhile. Like you, my encyclopedic knowledge of Eastern flora just became obsolete. I hate not knowing what it is I am looking at and I’m making an effort to learn about my new green “neighbors” and we’ve learned quite a few so far, but…I am just soooo lazy about recording it all! I’ve never been much of a list keeper so if I start it I know I will forget to update it. Pathetic, right?

  4. Melissa Wiley says:

    Theresa, you will have one awesome list! I’m a bit envious of what you’ve already seen after such a short time in Alaska. Do join in!

  5. cloudscome says:

    This sounds like a fun project. I am wondering if the plants need to be native species or just whatever grows locally. Since I’ve been living here on the East Coast most of my life I probably do know over 100 species. I can’t commit to doing the challenge systematically but I will be watching your posts with interest. Most of your plants will be new to me.

  6. Angi says:

    I am in, though it may take me 100 years to do it. We bought a new house last September and there are many many many plants that came with the house. None of which I can name.

  7. Kathryn says:

    I’m in. I should know 100 different plants – after all, I’ve lived here forever 😉 – but I’m already having fun finding out stuff about them that I never knew. Now to add your pretty button to my posts …

  8. genevieve says:

    Okay.. maybe this is a silly question but how do go about learning about plants? We are surrounded by some beautifully landscaped areas but I have no clue how to start. The Peterson’s and Golden Guides are for “wild plants”. I seem to in the mood of firing off questions at your blog, Lissa. 🙂

  9. Sandra Dodd says:

    I’m working on #6. I just made a separate blog for mine, and used your first piece of art there.

  10. Sandra Dodd says:

    I started a separate blog for mine and am working on #6:

  11. Anna says:

    Within walking distance? That would be… tumbleweed. There, I’m done!

    Well, it *feels* that way sometimes! There are a few more than that, so I may give it a shot.

  12. monica says:

    ok, i did my first post!! i decided to make it a collaborative project with my 5 yo, so i let him list first and then i listed. we just did our yard today and will venture out to the neighborhood and beyond later. i am doing a no frills version right now. just names and sometimes just notes to find out the proper name. i may add pics and details later, if my son is into it.

  13. fiddler says:

    Melissa, your blog is a source of inspiration to me! Thanks for posting about the 100 Species Challenge–I don’t know that I would have found out about it otherwise. I’ve also enjoyed checking out some of the participants’ entries from your blog and Sandra’s. It’s wonderful to read about and see photos of flowers, trees, and more from around the world!

    Here in (currently) rainy New England it won’t be hard to find a hundred different species of flora, but identifying and cataloging them will be the challenge. I’ve already found out more than I wanted to know about Purple Loosestrife, which I have admired for its glorious color alongside rivers and ponds, but now know how invasive it has become in this area. I’m looking forward to learning more and getting my kids out into the woods with a purpose in mind.

  14. Love2learn Mom says:

    I’m gonna try it too. Just the sort of post we need and we should be able to come up with 100 species in our own backyard (especially since it we seem to be losing the war with weeds). I think I’ll start by posting the pics to flickr, then learn to identify them as we can, then post them on the blog as they become part of an official list.

    Thanks for the tip and for the enthusiasm!

  15. MacBeth says:

    OK. I’m in. 😉

  16. Phyllis says:

    I think I’ll start a Ukrainian list. . . . (Monica in Romania sent me over here. 🙂

  17. Sarah N. says:

    We’re in the Blue Ridge Mountains (Asheville, NC) and we’re joining in the challenge. I just made my first post with 3 species from our garden.

  18. Sarah says:

    Thank you for joining in the challenge!!

    You are such a lovely writer, and I can’t wait to read more!

  19. Faith Alterton says:

    Hello, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for a while now but never commented before. What a great idea the 100 Species Challenge is! We are new to our home too and have no idea what the local plants are named. This would be a nice addition to nature study. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Andy Henry says:

    What an excellent blog, I’ve added your feed to my RSS reader. 🙂