The Magic of Plants

Everything around me is growing and I have a hard time remembering it was ever winter, though to be honest, I don’t try that hard. The dandelion and forsythia, the blossoms and pussy willows have all vanished. This happens every year and I get summer amnesia. The spruce trees have inches of fresh growth marked by lovely “newborn” green. The Hosta were merely shoots peeking out of the soil and now they are enormous, as if by magic, and I think if I had put a camera on them the growth would have been captured on film, visible to my eye. The fledglings have flown from the nests, the fawns are up and following their mothers. Life moves on.
Last night, after dark, Gracie and I were doing our end-of-day walk before bed and as I glanced up, a shooting star raced across the sky and it got me thinking. Many of us look skyward for magnificence, for guidance, for warnings, for the superb. But all around our feet, on the ground, breathtaking magic is happening this time of year.
The planet has more than 80,000 species of plants, according to EcoWatch, and yet the majority of us dine on but a mere fraction of those plants. 70,000 plant species provide us with medicines, most of them coming from the rainforests, yet “only one per cent of rainforest plants have been studied for medicinal potential”.
Plants have been studied and records written about them for 10,000 years. Many explorations leading outward from Europe almost always brought with them botanists to gather and name plants and bring them back for attempted cultivation. Plants and their magic have intrigued curious minds longer than we’ve been studying astronomy.
I stumbled upon many interesting plant facts in my reading – caffeine is a natural pesticide for the coffee plant; chemicals released in grass plants can act as a stress reliever to the person doing the mowing, while being a call of distress for the plant; 80 per cent of plant life is found in the ocean. Daniel Chamovitz is a plant biologist who knows plants have the senses of touch, vision, smell, and memory. He published his ideas on the subject in a book, released in 2013, What a Plant Knows.
Anyone who has done gardening at any level are amazed by what a tiny seed placed in the soil and left to its own devices can create, knows how wise plants are. Plants have a multitude of defense mechanisms from the simple thorn or bristles, to the complex release of organic compounds, a warning sent to their compatriots, compounds that ward off the enemy in some plants, or attract the enemy’s predators in other plants.
When it comes to the admiration of plants, beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, and what constitutes a weed to one, may very well be a treasure to another. We could argue all day about the joy of a dandelion, the beauty of the purple head on the Canadian thistle, the friendly nature of the wild daisy. I love a lily pad, floating effortlessly on the water, its stem and roots far below. It’s hard to imagine growth of that kind. My grandson tells me painted turtles eat on the go, while swimming, and would enjoy a lily pad buffet, so I always have my eyes open for turtles when I paddle through the lily pads.
When I see a tree stretching skyward from a tiny crevice in the rocks I am in awe. A shooting star is indeed grand, but a tree inspires me for all the important bits of life.