“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” -Baba Dioum

When I first read this quote painted across a wall of the South Carolina Aquarium, I stopped dead in my tracks. I was struck by how much this quote described my life not only as an environmentalist striving to protect ecosystems I had learned about and grown to love, but also as someone who just loves to learn. Think about it… anytime you invest money, energy, time, whatever, don’t you hold a greater interest in the outcome? I can think of many times I’ve been places (forests, museums, aquariums) where I had no clue what I was looking at. But then I opened a field book, read a placard, listened to a talk, and it completely changed the experience from walking around blindly to knowing and, more importantly, caring what I was looking at.

So here’s a little challenge! The leaf below is that of a red maple. A red maple is a common tree species in the United States. Its leaves have five points (the bottom two of which are much more subtle) and red stems. Florida isn’t known for it’s fall colors, but this particular tree’s leaves turn red at this time of year.

Red maple (Acer rubrum)

I know this little piece of knowledge seems insignificant and even silly, but I am confident that, in some small way, it will change the way you look at the world around you. So next time you are driving down the road and see a red tree amongst all the green and brown (in Florida at least), you will KNOW. You can only imagine what a dorky car ride it is when Jacque and I are pointing out plants!! And we love every minute of it :)

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