Tunas and purslane

David Wright dcwright at prodigy.net.mx
Fri Nov 4 16:49:06 UTC 2011



As I recently found out, Opuntia identification is a prickly (and slimy)
business. I read of a case where botanists classified the varieties in a
domestic Opuntia garden, then find that the people who planted them counted
more varieties than the scientists. When the fruits ripened it turned out
that what looked like the same variety was in fact distinct. As in other
areas of biology, genetic studies are showing the limitations of traditional
classification based on plant morphology, and the latter system is rapidly
approaching the status of being just another folk taxonomy.


As for purslane, you question is a good one. I don't see an obvious visual
connection between the leaves and obsidian points, but I don't have much
experience with the latter. I think you're right in thinking "edible herbs
of obsidian arrows" when you see the word itzmiquilitl (there is a distinct
-and flawed- etymology floating around). (For pictures, see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portulaca_oleracea.) The otomí word,
ts'utk'ani, appears to be a compound with ts’ut’i, “thin” and k’ani, “edible
herb”. Sometimes plant names in Otomi and Nahuatl are calques, but that’s
obviously not the case here.


There's more on this in another message on this list, in Spanish. Please
excuse the sudden shift in language. Sometimes I don't know what will come
out of my mouth or through my fingers. I guess Roberto's message is what
switched the channel this morning.


Best regards,



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