Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Travel Log of a Seed

            In traditional gardens and farm fields, one expects to find plants growing in tidy rows or circles. We prefer our plants in natural setting so we don’t get upset to find purple phlox or sheep sorrel growing amidst the buffalo grass.

However, I do have a distinctly planned area for flowers and another for vegetables.  Imagine my surprise when I looked out the front door to discover schwartzenberrry plants under our big pine.  

            I did not plant schwartzenberries! These obviously arrived via feathered-friend-carrier, an event that occurs more than we realize.

            A quick scan of the yard revealed a number of such deliveries--mulberry trees sprouting from the middle of cedars--golden currants grow under elm and hackberry trees.   The draw behind the house and  our creek bank are natural sites for wild fare, but mulberry trees growing beneath landscaped cedars and schwartzenberry plants beneath pines and cedars are out of place.

            It didn’t take long to understand why I have these vegetative oddities sprouting.  My next close look revealed hundreds of birds, flitting and hopping from branch to branch.  Thrashers sang their wake up songs as chickadees, robins, finches, jays, grackles, sparrows, blue birds, and cardinals added to the ruckus. 

            These visitors that brighten my mornings leave dietary deposits behind, which result in surprise landscaping.  I don’t always appreciate their largesse.  I recently found poison ivy growing under a nearby tree. Some bird ate ivy berries before resting in my whispering cottonwood.

            Figuring out the mystery of the surprise schwartzenberries left me marveling plants reproduction. Cottonwood and the thistle seeds float like little dust motes on spring thermals until they find a new home.  Elm trees reseed in a similar fashion with the help of the automobile to spread those saucer shaped seeds farther than nature intended.  I never leave my drive without elm envelopes waiting to be deposited along my path.

            Who can miss the trail of the mulberry splat?  Like imported pheasants, imported mulberry trees adapted to the plains better than the immigrants who brought them here.  The dream of a silk industry is gone, but mulberries remain and spread, thanks to feathered friends who spread mulberries and schwartzenberries.

            Other plants adapted more tortuous means of reproducing.  For instance, consider the devil’s claw, which grows in pastures and ditches.  These plants, deceptively delicate and  beautiful, look harmless until that seedpod matures in late summer.  Porcupine eggs are just as painful. They are seeds shaped like small bird eggs covered with Velcro-like projections. I don’t know their real name, but it is easy to see how they acquired the nickname porcupine eggs.  These latch onto dogs and other furry creatures to be transported into new territory.

            Nature has done her best to guarantee her creatures’ survival.  When I think of how seeds transfer themselves from the mother plant to receptive soil, I marvel at this plan’s perfection.  Sometimes wind does the job.  Other times, creatures, including humans, serve as unwitting transportation.

While I will destroy the invading poison ivy, I will encourage the invading schartzenberry plants so we can look forward to a tasty kuchen.  I hope I beat the birds to the berries. 

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