Classifying Wonder: One Approach on Getting to Know the Greenway

30, May, 2014 Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy

I am not a biologist.

I’m not a horticulturalist, a botanist, a dendrologist. I can only tell you so much about the pH levels in soil, or the bug crawling around in that soil, or the delicate relationship between the two.

But I still really, really love Nature.

staff new Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of joining the Greenway’s Horticulture Tour, led by our incredibly knowledgeable and talented Horticulture Staff. As our group of 55 visitors gathered on the lawn of Dewey Square, I started to get excited for my introduction to taxonomy, getting to know all the names of the amazing plants, flowers, and trees we have growing in our parks. Being a new staff member on the Greenway team, I wanted to rise to the expertise of our interpretive guides Alaina, Anthony, Darrah, Keelin, and Stu, and gain the ability to casually ramble down the path of the Ft. Point Channel Parks, saying things like “Oh that’s the  Amsonia taber-whosit-whatsit and that Echinacea thinger-ma-bober is coming in quite nicely!” Yes, these are the goals Nature Nerds dream of realizing.

As I walked with our group, hailing mostly from Cape Cod, I came to understand the diversity of their own interests. One woman’s late husband had worked in a nearby building and watched the beginnings of the Big Dig. She was here to see the fruits of what he witnessed. Another tour guest jotted notes of plants on her Greenway map, taking details down about which plants thrived next to other species. A young man stood silently, intermittently crouching to take photos of plants and flowers on his iPhone. Another woman and her husband simply came for a nice stroll in a beautiful open urban space. It seemed to me that everyone had signed up for different reasons, but the underlying thread was still the same: these people were inherently drawn to, and fascinated by, the wonder of natural spaces.

people and plantsDid Darrah, Stu, and Anthony tell us some scientific names on this tour? They sure did. Did we remember them? Maybe some. But what stuck with me the most about witnessing this group enjoy the Greenway yesterday was their sense of curiosity; the way they asked questions, the way they knelt down and looked up, the way they reached out to touch green leaves and bent over to smell purple flowers up close, the new ways they saw and interacted with each other. By the end of our tour, I didn’t feel the need to introduce myself or ask anyone’s name as we chatted. In place of those formalities, I was reminded of a passage from Joseph Cornell, environmental educator and author, about the different ways we can classify our nature experiences:

Don’t feel badly about not knowing names. Just as your own essence isn’t captured by your name, or even by your physical and personality traits, there is also much more to an oak tree, for example, than a name and a list of facts about it. You can gain a deeper appreciation of an oak tree by watching how the tree’s mood shifts with changes in lighting at different times of day. Observe the tree from unusual perspectives. Feel and smell its bark and leaves. Quietly sit on or under its branches, and be aware of all the forms of life that live in and around the tree and depend on it.


I’m not a biologist, a horticulturalist, a botanist, or a dendrologist. You don’t have to be either to really, really love Nature.

 -Meredith Lobsinger, Communications and Outreach Coordinator


Join us on our next Horticultural Tour, Thursday, June 19th from 10-1pm

You can do so by registering here

See more photos from the tour on flickr