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Professor X
Intermediate Herbology: African Savanna
Thu Sep 21, 2017 12:46

Nathan smiled as his intermediate students began to arrive at Greenhouse One. It was early October and the Arizona air was just starting to chill after a late September heat wave. He liked this time of year, when it was cool enough to warrant a light jacket but not so cold that you'd freeze to death if you forgot it.

"Here's yours," Nathan said, handing back a quiz the students had taken last week. "Good job. And yours, excellent work. Hello, here's yours."

Once everyone arrived and got their quiz back, Nathan moved away from the door and took his place near his desk at the 'front' of the greenhouse, inasmuch as the greenhouse had a front. It was a fairly arbitrary designation when the whole place was overrun with greenery, with only just enough space around the middle tables for the students to move about to take their seats.

"Now that we've finished the review unit and got everyone back up to speed - overall I was very pleased with your quiz results, but if you feel you should have done better don't hesitate to swing by my office hours, which I hold all day on Wednesdays - we're going to dive into the African savannah unit, which I believe is new to most of you." The fourth and fifth years may have gotten a few bits and pieces as he sped through an overview for CATS prep for last year's fifth years, but this was the first time he'd really had a chance to go over the unit in depth. The current third years were the first class to begin Herbology as first years, so Intermediates was only now starting to slow down to the pace it was supposed to be covered.

"Savannas are largely open grasslands, with isolated trees spreading out some welcome shade for the animals. The climate is marked by a rainy season that lasts about six months, though that can vary by about a month in either direction depending on local environmental factors, followed by a long season of drought. During the rainy season, they can get up to 25 inches of rain a month, but in the dry season they could see only four inches of rain the whole time. And the soil is very porous so it drains quickly. Many of the plants in this area are therefore adapted to survive on very little water for about half of the year."

"Additionally, very few seeds reach maturity due to a combination of the water scarcity duryalmost half the year, and the variety of large animals like elephants and giraffes stomping about and crushing them. That's what keeps the savanna a grassland instead of developing into a more forested region."

"One particular kind of tree has developed an interesting response to giraffes in particular. The acacia tree produces a poison when giraffes start eating the leaves from the top of the tree. The giraffe takes a few bites, then moves away because the leaves rapidly become inedible. More impressively, the tree then takes things one step further by emitting a chemical into the air that indicates to nearby acacia trees that they should also start sending the poison into their leaves." His voice had become excited as he explained this point, and it clearly delighted him that the trees were able to communicate with each other.

"What we're going to do for homework tonight is a bit of research. Everyone should select one plant that grows in the savanna, and write a short essay - it only needs to be about four paragraphs, give or take - about what it is, what its adaptations are that make it special or able to survive better, what eats it, and whether or not it has any magical properties. There are a few books on each table to look through, and borrow for reference, or you could go to the library to look for something there." (He'd made sure the book in braille with embossed drawings had ended up on Nevaeh's table.)

"For the rest of the class period, you'll find samples of savanna grasses in front of each of you. Those same books should help you identify what kind of grass they are. Please do so, and trade the different grasses around so everyone has a chance to handle each type. There should be six different species of grass. When you finish that exercise, you can start working on the homework."

OOC: some notes on the grasses (and other savanna plants) can be found here: or

    • This sounds boring. - Arianna Tate, Crotalus, Wed Oct 25 18:50
      Contrary to most of her other classes, Arianna preferred theoretical Herbology to practical. Practical Herbology involved... gardening . Gardening was rather beneath her. It was for house elves and... more
    • I wasn't expecting something colorful. - Joe Umland, Teppenpaw, Tue Sep 26 14:58
      Joe had not been nervous about the review quiz Professor Xavier had given them, but it was always a relief to see a good result on paper, official. Herbology was not the most mentally taxing subject... more
      • Pretty sure one of them is a very famous type of straw... - Raine Collindale, Teppenpaw, Wed Sep 27 00:42
        Raine took her quiz back from Professor Xavier, trying to tune out the positive feedback that the preceding two students received. They got excellent and very good. She merely got And here’s yours.... more
        • Joe was not - altogether - unfamiliar with being yelled at. When Stephen and Paul had been teenagers, they had bellowed at him to leave them alone often enough, and John's immaturity had always been... more
          • Raine actually took a glance over the grass in front of them. Part of her sort of saw Joe’s point but it was still hard to let that filter through the blind fog of panic that said she was too stupid... more
            • Looks like it, yeah. - Joe, Sun Oct 8 14:49
              Well, Raine was clearly not okay, but knowing this proved less helpful than Joe could have hoped. He still, for instance, had no idea what to do to fix the problem. The last time he’d been party to a ... more
              • “No. I mean, sort of…. But it’s not just the test,” Raine tried to explain. It wasn’t the test, or Joe or Professor Xavier or anyone or anything else’s fault that she was thick. “It’s me… I can’t do... more
                • Whatever works, I guess? - Joe, Sun Oct 22 10:16
                  That it wasn’t just the test sparking a near-breakdown was, Joe thought, a simple enough concept to grasp – it rarely was, he thought, ever really just one thing, even if one thing was the thing that ... more
                  • I just need some way to unwind... - Raine, Sun Oct 22 11:57
                    Raine watched Joe’s little note wing its way to the Professor. It was not met immediately with rage at their sheer presumption and the barring of the greenhouse door. Again, this was difficult to... more
                    • Professor Xavier was a concern, but not a large one, really. The Head of Teppenpaw was mild-mannered - the sort of person Joe tended to assume would not strongly oppose anything remotely reasonable... more
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