Today I learned about poaceae
In the midst of working on the topo map project I faced a bit of a dilemma naming a few things. Specifically when you are doing rock climbing you sometimes have some routes that start from a sitting start. I couldn't come up with a group of names for some routes I'd found and when I was climbing I noticed that all these routes started from sitting on some grass. This led to me think using names of grasses could be a good way to organize things.
What I didn't realize is just how many different types of grasses there are in Australia. I stumbled across this site for the Royal Botanic Gardens that has a catalogue of the flora found in Victoria and specifically spent some time looking at the listings for taxon for poaceae. This led me down a bit of a research rabbit hole, a nice diversion from lock downs and all the crappy world events of 2020.
There's a number of local grasses that I've seen around Australia many native and some naturalized, from experience I knew that there had to be a lot of different species of grasses, but I massively underestimated the number. There's over 12000 species of grasses of which you can find over a thousand in Australia. A few other things I didn't realize is that bamboo is in the family of grasses as is sweet corn.
Also there's a lot of cereal grains, the history changing importance of which I'd first started to get a sense of when reading Guns, Germs and Steel where a discussion of the roles of grains in shaping world history is discussed. Specifically there's talk about how many of the modern food crops have taken a long time to develop into the current state that they are in. I got a very direct sense of this when looking at the changes that have allowed sweet corn to diverge from the other poaceae. The visual difference between maize and other grasses makes it harder to see the connection, this thought didn't cross my mind even when I lived next to a corn field where the juxtaposition of corn with other grasses was so available. The cob of corn is just a very large seedhead compared to other grasses, the evolution of corn from these other grasses is an interesting read in itself. But I didn't see this connection at the time as I remember my thoughts at the time were more consumed by thinking about the health effects of high fructose corn syrup, something that I worry is being consumed far too often in far too high quantities, especially in the Americas. Just like the story of how corn came to exist at all, modern corn farming remains all about human intervention. But which of the poaceae are healthier to eat? For the most part economics has led us to mostly cultivate based on economic yields that are very isolated to just the costs of farming not the overall costs to our societies including those of consumption and resulting health costs. I can't help but wonder what Australian native cereal grains would be good to eat. Unfortunately for cultural reasons I don't think think this has got anywhere near as much attention as it deserves as what people will consider eating is very much shaped by their cultural heritages and takes quite some time to change.