I hear their names in my sleep. I hear them calling, "Remember us,  remember us, remember. . . "

          american ginseng
                   black cohosh

The Geneva 1997 International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission's Red List of Threatened Plants is a six-pound, three-inch thick, book - 8 1/2 by 11 inches, 862 pages long. It lists 33,798 plants of the as-yet-known global flora of 275,000 species. It is heavy, this record of the passing of the Green Nations.
    Franklinia alatahama - Georgia
             Brachystelma perditum - South Africa
                     Ceropegia albistepta - Zaire
                            Cardamine yezoensis - Japan
                                   Scutellaria naxensis - Greece
                                          Lacistema lucidum - Brazil
                                                Oxygonum lobatum - Tanzania
Once we found them wherever we walked. Their songs, heard by deeper ears than the physical, filled the forests. Their smell uplifted us, their medicine healed us, their colors shaped our senses. Where do they go once they are gone? What holes within us will remain unfilled once they are no more?
                 helonias root
                       lady's slipper
                                                slippery elm
Lady's slippers - moccasin flowers - are so uncommon that I have only seen one. The flowers are much the size and shape of a baby's slipper. They shape themselves to embrace bumblebees.

          Echinopanax horridum - Korea
               Gastonia sechellarum - Seychelles
                      Megalopanax rex - Cuba
                           Oreopanax dussii - Martinique
                                 Polyscias cissodendron - Australia
                                         Meryta lanceolata - French Polynesia
                                               Aralia soratensis - Peru

What has it been like to grow, a part of Earth, for 700 million years? How many pollinators have you spoken to in season? How much of your medicine have you sent into the soil and air? What other humans have you seen in your time? Did any of them look like me?

                   true unicorn
                        venus flytrap
                             virginia snakeroot
                                  wild yam
                                                elephant tree

You survived the great extinctions of the Cretaceous. Will you make it through the Homosapien?  When you are disappearing faster than in any other geologic time?

        Gomphostemma grandiflora - Vietnam
            Acrocephalus sericeus - India
                 Acrymia ajugiflora - Malaysia
                      Monardella neglecta - California
                          Arischrada korolkowii - Kazakhstan
                               Acinos corsicus - France
                                    Ballota cristata - Turkey

Embrace me redwood, hold me as if it were for the last time. What will I do out here all alone? Upon what will I rest my eyes when you are gone?

               blue cohosh
                         calamus root
                              cascara sagrada

In the last minute of recorded geologic time we find the visual record of the growing of life over four billion years on Earth. Re-threading the film we begin to run it backward. We watch and see the species removed one by one in evolutionary inversion. Un-Noahs. Unknowing, we check them off the list of life on Earth's ark.

          Hirschfeldia rostrata - Yemen
              Iberis semperflorens - Italy
                  Iti lacustris - New Zealand
                       Xylosma cordatum - Ecuador
                             Xylosma grossecrenatum - New Calendonia
                                 Xylosma nitida - Jamaica

Two-thirds of the evolutionary ancestors of our food crops are endangered. Viruses and transposons intermixed the wild and domesticated genes throughout the past ten thousand years so that our food plants remained strong. But the genes are going now, they are going now, they are. . . maidenhair fern

        pink root
                    yerba mansa

There is only emptiness in the forest where I used to find you. I used to come to you when I was ill; in prayer I would dig you and make you into medicine. On a long couch at home I lie, my coughing worse.

       Lotus kunkelii - Canary islands
              Fosterella alicans - Bolivia
                   Hymenorchis javanicus - Indonesia

In long cabinets your remains lie, pressed, flattened, a map accompanying them shows where you used to grow. A scientist says he can make you live again when "we" learn more. What about your only pollinator - the tiny bee with the long antennae that I used to see? Will "we" make him again as well?  Who are "we"anyway?

               . . . . .

I have never been good at goodbyes.


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