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Plantgasm - I love plants too much. By Derek Powazek.

I Am Not A Botanist

Months ago, I was in line at Flora Grubb with a handful of succulents. The lady in front of me turned to check out my selections.

“Oh, I love that one.” She said, pointing.

“Isn’t it cool?” I said. “I can’t believe it’s an Aloe. It looks so different.”

“That’s an Agave, dear.”

I checked. There was no tag. But I was certain.

“Really? I’m pretty sure it’s an Aloe.” I said.

“It’s an Agave,” she repeated. “I’m a Botanist.”

She said it like it was capitalized. I couldn’t think of a nice way to respond, and I try to avoid snapping at little old ladies, so I just stared at the plant until she went away.


Photo of me by Heather ChampWhen I started Plantgasm a few months ago and got to the stage where WordPress asked me if I wanted comments on or off, I remembered that conversation and how awful it made me feel. I’ve been growing plants since I was a teenager, but I’m not a “Botanist” in caps or otherwise. I didn’t want to feel stupid on my own site. So I left the comments off.

Since then, I’ve been astounded by the generosity and kindness of my fellow garden bloggers. I’ve received so much support and appreciation, not to mention a few cuttings, from my botanical buddies, I’ve started to crave a little two-way communication here.

So I’m turning comments on. But before you comment, I’d like to ask you to keep a few guidelines in mind.


The Plantgasm Response Guidelines

Sorry if all this seems overly officious. I’ve just learned the hard way to be cautious when it comes to enabling community features online.

This site is a part of the joy of gardening for me. I’m sharing it with you because joy shared is better than joy hoarded. Thank you for sharing a bit of your gardening joy with me.


Later, I checked. The plant in question was a Aloe Plicatilis.

Suck it, botany.

See Also

13 Responses

Good for you! I’m also a “botanist” but being labeled as one as only shown me how much I don’t know about the plant kingdom. I was taught that my knowledge was limited to the time and place I actually studied which was the desert so plant life was already limited. Now that I’ve moved to a more lush part of the country I feel like I need to go to school all over again just to feel comfortable talking about vegetation in public. I know I can BS to my husband but that’s about it.

I’ve been following your blog for a week or so now and I have to say I’m loving it so far. You have such a diverse interest and you really put your ideas and your experiences out there in a way that’s easy and fun to read. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Jenetta on 27 February 2011 @ 7pm

Yeah — I’ve gotten a handful of comments that were rude, a few more that were sort of condescending unsolicited advice that pissed me off a little, and (according to Blogger) about 8,650 comments that were nice, helpful, admiring, queries, my responses, or otherwise positive.

And then like 10,000,000 pieces of spam,[1] but that’s the way it goes.

I’m glad you’ve enabled comments, and more glad that when I stopped here yesterday and saw the “Leave a Response” section and wondered to myself was that always there? Have I been missing the comments all along?, I was in fact actually seeing something new, instead of having been oblivious for however many weeks.

[1] (Exaggeration.)

Posted by mr_subjunctive on 27 February 2011 @ 7pm

Hurrah! Comments! There have been so many times I wanted to comment in the past but have been stymied. I understand why you’ve held off. I don’t think there are enough people who even read my blog to get the rude ones. But, I’m fully aware of the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.

Even if that lady had been right, she didn’t need to be a dick about it. I think some people just have the desire to feel important and it doesn’t really matter if they squash other people in the process. Personally I’d rather share knowledge and promote discussion. More fun that way.

Posted by melissa on 27 February 2011 @ 10pm

Well…in all fairness, even the pros get it wrong some of the time. I agree with your thoughts of basically trying all the time to get it right, but sometimes I’m wrong approach. I know I have had my errors, but you do what you can do. Keep on blogging my friend. Matti

Posted by Matti on 28 February 2011 @ 7am

Congrats on putting yourself out there. Comments can be a pain, but I find they are great too. I love your site, and I am glad I can comment on them now. I wonder if I could maybe send a picture your way one of these days, and you could help me figure out some of my plants. Part of why I came here is because I sometimes feel hopeless. LOL

Posted by Jason Sandeman on 28 February 2011 @ 8am

I’ve got several blogs I read for the nitty gritty expert gardening stuff- what I love about yours is the stories you tell. Don’t get discouraged by negative comments and know-it-alls, keep up the great work!

Posted by Jess on 28 February 2011 @ 7pm

Good for you! I really don’t think you will regret turning on the “responses” for even a second. The knowledge and sense of community that is out there in the blog-o-sphere is unbelieveable. Sounds like you’ve started to experience it but I bet you ain’t seen nothin yet!

Posted by Loree/danger garden on 28 February 2011 @ 7pm

Joining the cheerleading here…even Botanists don’t know everything, and the good ones will admit that. Like you, I am not a botanist, merely a plant geek, and it excites me to learn something new, which is why I enjoy your blog so very much. As with most of those I am very fond of, reading your posts is rather like enjoying a conversation, minus the coffee and kitchen table, of course, but you get my point.

Posted by jodi (bloomingwriter) on 28 February 2011 @ 7pm

I am not even a plant enthusiast, but I find your writing and general attitude about blogging and social media to be refreshing. Thank you for allowing comments, maybe I have hope to grow that garden I always wanted as a kid. Thanks so much!

Posted by Erica on 3 March 2011 @ 8pm

Yay!!!! I’ve been a blog reading slacker lately… I’ll bet you a beer you won’t get any asshole comments in the next year. I was recently called out on our blog for misidentifying a tree fern in a post from a year ago, but they were civil about it. Not so civil on the interwebs site where it was first discussed. They claimed, we claimed we were “experts”. WTF? I thought the whole, “hey we’re Art majors from Wisconsin” blurb on the about us page covered our asses. Love your guidelines!

Posted by Megan on 4 March 2011 @ 8pm

You should’ve thrown the Aloe-not-Agave in the “botanist’s” face, old woman or not! More snotty, entitled SF people, ahhhhhhh!!! (and I still love it here, but seriously)
Yay for comments, let the dialogue continue.

Posted by phyte club katie on 9 March 2011 @ 12am

*laughing softly*

Living in Phoenix, I see a lot of agave. That plant doesn’t even resemble an agave in anything but color.

My. Botanist. I’m glad she KNOWS what she’s talkin’ bout.


Posted by Jenn on 21 March 2011 @ 8pm

On the other hand, if she had said ‘Kalanchoe’ there is a plant that could be confused with that aloe…

or maybe it’s a Bryophyllum… *scratches head* Hmmm. Now that I am looking for it online, I can’t find it. Maybe mine is a aloe. The flowers really look like it’s in the Bryophyllum family, tho.

Posted by Jenn on 21 March 2011 @ 8pm


Plantgasm is where Derek Powazek chronicles his botanical antics and misadventures. More.