“What’s in a name?
A fun part of having babies born on the farm is choosing their names. Most of the animals we have on the farm came named already, but lately we've had some baby animals on the farm and were able to name them ourselves. Missy has given some of the chickens names based on their personality or appearance - like Miss Daisy the leghorn hen and Cock-a-Doodle-Blue the blue laced red Wyandotte rooster. Wes named the angora goat brothers after beer ingredients - Barley and Hops - since he's a home brewer.
Beginning this summer - on the Summer Solstice in fact - we had our first cria (baby alpaca) born on the farm. This was significant in the realm of baby naming here at Root Down Acres, LLC because Missy thought long and hard about how she would name the alpacas. The alpacas will be registered (there's an Alpaca Registry, Inc.) and a lot of alpacas have long or fancy names - like race horses - on their registration certificates. For instance, our alpaca that we call Artie is actually named TDF Accoyo King Arthur - a real mouthful! Some alpaca farms have themes for their alpaca names, like naming them after their dam and sire (A Forest Moon came from Aussie Hill's Moonstone and Black Peruvian Royal Forest) or after alcoholic beverages (Hot Buttered Rum came from the same farm as Rumm Runner [that's his sire actually - see the connection?] and CCAP's Principio Pale Ale).
So back to the Summer Solstice...and our first cria. Guess what we named her? RDA's Summer Solstice - and we call her Summer for short. So did Missy pick a celestial theme? No. However, Missy picked a theme straight from nature and when our cria was born on a day as significant in the natural cycles of the Earth as the first day of summer, well it was a no brainer. So cria born on the Summer or Winter Solstice and Spring or Autumnal Equinox will be exceptions to the theme.
What theme you say? We've decided to name our cria the names of rare native Ohio plants, taken from the most current list maintained by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. This includes threatened, endangered, and extirpated (no longer present in the state) plants that grow naturally in the state of Ohio. Sounds boring, right? No, not at all you say! Exactly!
Missy has always loved nature and went to college to study ecology. Now she's a farmer. Not just a farmer though - she fancies herself an ecologistand a farmer - and a goal of hers is to educate people about the natural world and farming and the relationship between the two as well as our relationship as a species (Homo sapiens that is) to both. So when we name a cria we're going to give it the name of a rare native Ohio plant and introduce both the animal and its namesake to raise awareness of the importance of native plants (and native species in general).
Why care about native plants, rare ones in particular? To paraphrasePaul Ehrlich, author of Native Plants: Relationship of Biodiversity to the Function of the Biosphere, removing native species from an ecosystem is like taking rivets out of an airplane wing; it is impossible to know which one will be the last one that was holding the whole thing together. Biodiversity is the diversity of species in an ecosystem or habitat. Some people can't see the forest for the trees, but what about the lichen and forbs and shrubs and vines and...well, you get it. Forests (and all other ecosystem types) are made up of all sorts of organisms, and all of those organisms interact with one another in a variety of ways - some we can see and others we can't - and that's why biodiversity is important. What happens if a plant disappears? Or an insect? What if a plant depends on an insect for pollination or an insect depends on a plant for nectar? Those relationships are called plant-pollinator mutualisms and there are hundreds of thousands of them!
So we're proud to introduce our newest cria: RDA's Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) aka "Pip"!
Pip is a white suri male and was born on August 4th to Soleil - one of our white suri females - and weighed 16.2 pounds.
Pip's namesake, pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata), is a small evergreen plant with small white or pink flowers that bloom mid-summer. Pipsissewa grows in dry, shady woods throughout the U.S. and Canada and spreads out across the forest floor with shallow modified stems called rhizomes from which new plants grow. Pipsissewa is derived from the Native American name pipsiskeweu meaning "it breaks into small pieces”. Other common names include prince’s pine, bitter wintergreen, fragrant wintergreen, groundholly, and king’s cure.
Pipsissewa derives some of its food from fungi in the soil. These are nutrients that the plant can't extract from the soil itself, but the fungi can. This type of interaction between species is called a symbiosis, and in this case it's a parasitic symbiosis because the plant derives nutrients from the soil through the fungi but the fungi receives nothing in return from the plant. This is in contrast to a mycorrhizal relationship which is a more common mutualistic symbiosis - both species benefit - between a fungi and a plant whereby the plant derives nutrients from the fungi that it extracts from the soil and the fungi derives carbohydrates from the plant that it makes during photosynthesis.
Other interesting facts about pipsissewa is that it is used to make root beer flavoring for candy and soft drinks and it has medicinal properties. Among other medicinal uses, pipsissewa has long been used to treat urinary and kidney problems and rheumatism and also has antimicrobial properties.
So that's the story behind our "au naturel" alpaca naming process. We have more cria on the way so keep an eye out for the next new cria and rare native Ohio plant name that we choose. In the meantime, take time to smell the flowers - especially the native ones.