I haven’t caught Pokemon Go fever for a few reasons, the first and most practical of which is the reality of my iPhone 5’s battery life. This phone was purchased for me as both refurbished and unlocked two Decembers ago. Applications such as Periscope and SnapChat push it to its limits, the battery lasting mere minutes if something worthy of video footage happens before me. A chronic photographer of plants, scenery, and wildlife, that red fox I’ve seen twice at dusk while out for a run simply will not wait for me to snap even a picture let alone wait such that I might charge my battery. Chasing around cute little Pikachu is simply out of the question.

Enter Pokemon IRL. Asia Murphy has taken Pokemon Go’s concept and turned it into something that I, a self proclaimed botanist and natural history buff, can finally understand. Now all I have to do is learn enough about Pokemon Go to know whether I have chosen the correct Pokemon element for a given species that I can already identify. How hard could it be?

As it happens, there is some actual thought that has to go into it, and in my exuberance I have possibly not put quite enough of it into my #PokemonIRL card. My first attempt at this blending of gaming and nature involves a species I have always heard called bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare), the purple flowered plant currently featured in my Twitter header. I know it well because it was part of our research laboratory’s focus during my time at the University of Western Ontario (now apparently called Western University).

While I know that we in Ontario consider it to be an invasive and unpalatable weed of pasture lands and roadside verges, it is native to somewhere, which gives me pause when I consider what to write about it in the description field. Further complicating the matter, it has not yet been assessed for the IUCN Red List from which to obtain any official global status. Thus, I opted instead to use its status in Ontario, my home province.

In consideration of its specific Pokemon elements, I had to focus on its defensive properties more than its ability to attack. It is not poisonous, it is not a grass, but it is resistant to pesticides, or Poison in Pokemon-speak. Thus, I have chosen Ground for it, because I have learned that a Poison Pokemon is not very effective against a Ground Pokemon. Normal is my second option, because gosh this is tough, and Normal is basic according to the Pokemon elements list. While I consider the bull thistle to be far more interesting than Normal, this will have to suffice for now and I am absolutely open to suggestions.

#PokemonIRL - Cirsium_vulgare

While the rest of the cell phone battery-laden masses are chasing their Pokemon Go dreams and potentially learning about real life species as a side effect, I am happy to chase around real life species and learn about Pokemon creatures as a side effect. As an added bonus, I will gain new conversation starters for use with my seven-year-old son. Thanks for the opportunity to think and play, Asia!