Thursday, October 15, 2015

Go Forth and Multiply

Queen Anne's lace, Daucus carota
Flowers extend a plant's reach to further niches and generations. They are the beguilers and begetters of progeny. Ultimately they become seeds.
Queen Anne's lace seed head
They fulfill  their mission in prodigious numbers because their method, finally, is random. They cannot guide the seeds to optimal locations nor nurture their optimal growth.

Spotted jewel weed, Impatiens capiensis
Jewel weed  engineers a broadcasting plan like its Impatiens garden relatives, flinging seeds impatiently far and wide when its coiled capsules explode at maturity.

Common burdock, Arctium minus
Burdock hooks its seed pods onto animal transports to reach distant pastures.
Devil's beggar-ticks, Bidens frondosa
Bidens frondosa seeds stick to clothing, provoking names like 'Devil's beggar-ticks.'

Bull thistle, Cirsium vulgare
Stout, thorny Bull thistle re-invents itself to parachute seeds into prospective fields.

Black swallowwort, Cynanchum louiseae
Plumy seeds of the Black swallowwort vine have criss-crossed the land after reaching America from abroad.
Sour-gum or tupelo, Nyssa sylvatica
Tupelo trees bargain with birds in their propagation plan by surrounding their seeds with edible fruit. For some plant species the bird's stomach acids are a necessary agent for seed germination.

Privet, Ligustrum obtusifolium
Privet shrub fruit looks like diminutive tupelo fruit, with similar method and purpose. Privet is a useful shrub imported from Asia. It  has sallied forth from domestic plantings to colonize extensively at Halibut Point. It may be the reason that robins can now live there year-round.

Crabapple, Malus sp.
Apples have a popular history at Halibut Point. They have naturalized since introduction by horticulture, popping up in old fields and new woodlands.

Bittersweet, Celastrus scandens
At a certain stage bittersweet fruits resemble miniature crabapples. European bittersweet colonizes so successfully that it's termed an invasive species. Like humans it can alter environments quickly. We opened the door and now we legislate against it. Defenders of indigenous plants would like to eradicate it from Halibut Point, which would involve full-spectrum warfare in the State Park with no chance of permanent success.

Beach pea, Lathyrus japonicus
Two species from Japan have received fonder appreciation than bittersweet at Halibut Point, although one of them is at least as rambunctious.

Beach pea seed pods
Beach pea seeds floated over the oceans of the world to establish a global presence. The seeds are so well insulated from the brine that their germination requires abrasion by waves against rocky shores to break through the protective shell. Beach peas do not proceed inland because their specialized advantages do not serve them there.

Wisteria floribunda - Japanese wisteria seed pods
What the beach pea has achieved by mechanisms wisteria has matched by charm. They have both gained a foothold at Halibut Point. In the family photo album they look alike.

Wisteria in flower
Wisteria enlists humankind in its leaps around the continent. It pleases people with its pretty flowers. People oblige by gardening with it ubiquitously. Now wisteria luxuriates through the treetops of Halibut Point, thousands of miles from home.

Countless plants have occupied this land in the long dynamic of ecology. The most rapid and radical changes have resulted since the occupation by European settlers and their descendants through phases of agriculture and industry and recreation. Always the seeds of plants are waiting to follow their own code of increase into openings. Every single success initiates an ecological shift.

Our human consciousness has always wondered about our own species' origins and advances, our privileges and responsibilities. We sanctify our own legitimacy. We ponder our exercise of  power. We ourselves come from seeds stored innumerably in wombs.
The floral universe embraces its colonizing potential without the complication of conscience. It goes forth prodigally, innocently, unwaveringly to multiply. It accepts the miniscule odds of individual success and the certain fate of composting into the biological humus that supports the web of life.
Scarlet oak seeds, Quercus coccinea

No comments:

Post a Comment