Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for March 3rd, 2023

Texas mountain laurel

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From February 26th in our part of Austin comes a flowering Dermatophyllum secundiflorum, known colloquially as Texas mountain laurel. That common name often leads the uninitiated astray. Let’s start with the last of the three words: true laurels are plants in the botanical family Lauraceae. The Texas mountain laurel isn’t in that family. Neither is the mountain laurel, a shrub that grows in the eastern United States and that belongs to the heath family, Ericaceae.

Texas mountain laurel differs from both of those; it’s in Fabaceae, the botanical family that includes peas and beans. Therefore it’s false to drop the first word and claim that this tree is a mountain laurel, and likewise false to drop the first two words and claim that this tree is a laurel. The first two words are required qualifiers; dropping them distorts reality.




Let’s see how the principle of required qualifiers applies to a news story in The Guardian on February 22nd: 


Soy, oat, almond and other drinks that bill themselves as milk can keep using the term, according to draft federal rules released on Wednesday.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials issued guidance that says plant-based beverages do not pretend to be from dairy animals — and that US consumers aren’t confused by the difference.

Dairy producers for years have called for the FDA to crack down on plant-based drinks and other products that they say masquerade as animal-based foods and cloud the real meaning of the term “milk”.


The dairy producers’ argument is disingenuous, a ploy to keep up sales of milk. If companies selling soy milk dropped the word soy and labeled the drink as just plain milk, then the dairy folks could legitimately claim fraud because soy milk isn’t actual milk. But no seller of soy milk drops the word soy; when I buy that product—which I do—the package always conspicuously lets me know I’m getting a beverage that comes from soybeans, not from a cow, and which therefore isn’t real milk. Once again, the qualifying word soy makes all the difference.

And that’s why, if we segue from botany and beverages to the culture wars, the slogan “trans women are women” is false. To drop the qualifier trans is to commit a biological fraud. I’m free to enjoy soy milk, but not to claim that it’s actual milk. Trans women are free to live as if they were women, but they aren’t actual women and don’t have the right to claim they are.



© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 3, 2023 at 4:29 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

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