A field final in ethnobotany

On Wednesday 09 May at 4:20 PM the spring 2018 ethnobotany class went on walkabout on campus. On a mid-morning botanic walkabout I had been trying to get a better look at a Huperzia phlegmaria when the sunlight, dappling through a Mangifera indica tree, lit up a small Psilotum nudum tucked in amid dead leaves and Nephrolepis spp. As soon as I saw the Psilotum nudum I realized this was the price to be paid for the young men riding up in an air conditioned sports utility vehicle and driving past  respected young women in their class on the way to the sakau en enihlap ceremony.

Nemely, Lefreeancy, Myra, and Lavonna on the lead coming down from the Microsorum scolopendria
Psilotum nudum was in the campus flora but not in the species practice tests inside Schoology. Since the plant was in the flora the plant was technically fair game for the final. Difficult and challenging - a student would have had to studied the flora and not just the review tests in Schoolog.

Ethnobotany plant review test

The ethnobotany final included Psilotum nudum by Latin binomial - the students are not expected to memorize the binomial but to pick the binomial from the list which they have during the final examination. These are the papers that can be seen in the above image. The students must also put the local name in their language and a use for the plant from anywhere in Micronesia. This is authentic assessment in ethnobotany - do you know your plant names and uses? Can you walk through the forests and fields and name your green friends?

Ravenala madagascariensis

The day was clear, hot, and sunny, but some of the heat was easing by 4:20 PM and longer shadows provided cover from the sun.

Psilotum nudum item used image from flora composited with plant seen that morning

After the mid-morning walkabout I returned to the office and went ahead and added Psilotum nudum to the review test in Schoology for, if nothing else, future reference. On the final P. nudum was three points all on the Latin name as there does not seem to be a local name nor use, not of which I am aware. I marked Ponapea ledermanniana and the Melastoma malabathricum the same way for the Kosraean students, Mwoakillese students, and the one Woleaian student: all three points rode on the Latin identification.

Araucaria columnaris and an unidentified Cycas spp.

The cycad is producing a cone

Centella asiatica was plant number ten on the field identification exercise

Centella asiatica has a reniform-like leaf shape and is locally used as a medicinal plant

Myra holds Lycopodiella cernua on the left. Lefreeancy, Nemely, Nette, Keona, Lavonna, Ian, Lee Ron, and Rodman. Behind them is a stand of Macaranga carolinensis.

Nemely studies the Lycopodiella cernua, Melissa can be seen between Nette and Lavonna. 

Field finals are a matter of honor and honesty and I note this at the start of the walk. In this photo I can see a couple of people checking their smartphones, which could mean cross-checking notes or other sources. I had not caught this until I saw the photo as I am more often looking forward to find the next plant on my list, and in this case I spun around to grab a picture before looking for the trail to the Melastoma malabathricum.

Keona and Nette having fun, Melastoma malabathricum in front of them

Many of the students misidentified the Melastoma malabathricum (Pohnpeian pisetikimei) for Clidemia hirta (Pohnpeian riahpen roht).

Jay-me, Rayden, Rodman, Nemely, Lavonna, Rosalyn

Cordyline fruticosa variant, often used to marked boundaries

Ixora casei


Selfie with Ixora casei

Grass slide

I suggested that the students might want to back around on the trail rather than take my shortcut down the grass slide. While one student did go back around, the rest followed dutifully along.

LeeRon and Nemely

Turned out that Keona is afraid of heights but also followed along and eventually took the plunge


Lavonna and Nette

Nette and Melissa

The final three were down in the agriculture area

Tedrick Yoma and Rosalyn

Melissa, Keona, Ian


Falcataria moluccana in full bloom at the top, Acacia auriculiformis under, Pterocarpus indicus in the back left

Gorgeous weather brought out the volleyball players

Quiet evening on campus

Late afternoon sun starts to cast golden hues across campus


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