One common reason to travel is to visit family and friends.

We often view the journey necessary for visiting family and friends as an annoyance, but it can be a positive part of the experience. If you go more than 100 miles, the plants are likely to change because the environment changes. Urban areas and rural areas have different plants (and animals). Rainfall decreases going westward across the United States toward the Rocky Mountains, temperatures decrease going northward. All of these differences cause changes in the plants, the way the landscape looks and the smell and feel of the air.

Ohio forestWhen I moved to California from Ohio and Michigan, I was struck by the lack of overhead trees. I felt exposed! I hiked with a Southern Californian and she liked getting above treeline where she could see the sky. I understood that when I went back to Ohio for a visit and felt suffocated under those big trees (right).


corn fieldA drive across Nebraska is one of the more maligned journeys–open spaces with cornfields, no mountains, few rivers, few cities. But the botanical eye can see the plants get taller farther east as the rainfall increases and note that we have replaced native grassland with planted grassland (corn) but grassland it remains. (See previous blog: link).

When visiting family and friends who live far away, I usually fly. That means I miss seeing the intervening areas, but generally the greater distance means the area visited is more interesting. Miami Florida, for example, is very unlike Denver, Colorado–the moist air feels and smells different, it rains much more often. Plants in my brother’s yard near Walnut Creek, CA include pomegranates (left) and lemons (right), which I cannot grow. Wandering the streets in both places is great fun for the botanist (left and right below.)

Small lemon tree








And of course natural areas in different regions are great. You see quite different plants in suburban and urban environments as compared to natural areas, but both usually differ between regions. What is shared between distant regions? At very least, cosmopolitan weeds like dandelions (link) and popular horticultural plants such as roses.

Clayton, California

palms in Miami








Even when the travel is for reasons having nothing to do with plants or ecology, it will show you different plants and different environments.

Enjoy whatever journeys you take!

New Mexico Christmas

Rocky Mountain winter