Do you believe in Magic? No, not the kind where some overly pompous, caped-wearing illusionist cuts a buxom beauty in two and puts her back together while performing this miraculous achievement to choreographed explosions in sync with dramatic music. I am talking about the real magic: plant magic. Take a cactus, for example. It is a stationary living organism that collects the sun’s energy, using chlorophyll and other processes to feed and sustain itself. Through chemicals and physical deterrents, the cactus protects itself from hungry and thirsty predators. Able to sit in baking hot sun with temperatures of 112 degrees Fahrenheit and tolerant of extended periods of severe drought, the cactus is capable of quickly absorbing enough moisture and nutrients during a passing thunderstorm to sustain it until the next uncommon event occurs. Astonishing!
Here’s another example: ferns reproduce by spores that grow and develop into tiny heart-shaped, pre-fern growths called gametophyte or prothallus where sperm or eggs develop. With sufficient moisture in the environment, the sperm cells swim to find an egg. With fertilization, a sporophyte develops, which is what we know as a fern. Consider all of the things that have to happen, in close proximity, to produce one fern. The magic grows when we look at the xeric fern group, which is able to somehow reproduce in areas where there is very little rainfall, developing on rocks or substrates where precious moisture is found.
Throughout the plant kingdom there are many examples of magic. Here are a few more of my favorites:
- Spruce species can survive horrendously long winters of sub-zero temperatures near the Arctic Circle.
- Taxodiums and certain other trees can survive and grow in standing water for long periods of time.
- Coconut palms drop their seeds into a salty ocean which distribute the next generation of palms to locations thousands of miles away.
- Amorphophallus flowers produce a foul odor that mimics rotting flesh in order to attract flies and insects for pollination.
The processes and activities of plants are just so wondrous and complex as to be magical, aren’t they?
Scientific and analytical types of personalities may only see these activities as simple biological processes with “no magic” involved, but they are missing the wonder and awe of the natural world. I maintain that the processes of life will always have inexplicable aspects that are magical! The Creator made all things to have purposes and meaning, which we often do not, and may never truly comprehend. Aren’t things that we don’t understand often considered magic?
Recently we have been exploring the Chaco region of South America. Located in parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Brazil, this subtropical climatic area is known for its spiny forests and scrublands. Rains comes during a short rainy summer followed by a dry fall, winter and spring. Because of the prolonged dry season plants of the Chaco are notoriously spiny in order to protect themselves from the abundant wildlife.