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Posts Tagged ‘plant cell structure’

Around every flower is the sweet fragrance of scented air. This field of fragrance is the flower’s soul. The soul is not just inside the flower. The flower lives inside the soul.  As we do.”  Tom Cowan – Yearning for the Wind.

Flower dreams – by Ellen O’Shea

How is it that flowers can be such powerful healers?  What is in the plant and the flower that creates bio-chemical and vibrational substances that affect all of nature, all of us?

For years I used the Bach Flower remedies for emotional healing.  I often gave them to my children during emotional imbalance.  When they were teenagers they questioned whether these flower remedies did anything at all.  As a parent I did not research how it worked I just told them I knew it worked because I was brought back to balance after ingesting a flower essence.  My children were highly suspect of my “whooy whooy” beliefs.  They wanted evidence that the flower had such power to heal.  I wish now that I would have accommodated them.  I wish that I had done the science.  They were learning discernment and that is a good thing.  I dedicate this blog entry to my three beautiful daughters.  Without them I would not have been compelled to ask the deeper questions about plants, nature and the human connection to all things.  20 years ago there was not access to all the research and ideas that are available now.  Now I do the deep search.

So I venture.  What I am finding is amazing and essential for all of us to know if we are going to heal ourselves and the planet.

Observation: The smell of the flowers stimulates the parts of the brain that produces emotions. How does that happen?

For instance- Citrus helps alleviate depression. Smelling a wild rose causes me to feel more stable and clear-thinking.  How does this happen? My inquiry has led me to many wonderful teachers in the last few weeks.  Some long gone such as Bach and Meeuse.  Some plant teachers I contacted are very much alive and teaching thousands of people to reconnect with the healing ability of the flowers and the plants.

Let us begin…

 “Animals are something invented by plants to move seeds around. An extremely yang solution to a peculiar problem which they faced.” Terrance McKenna (an ethnopharmacologist)

According to Bastian Meeuse, 25 million years ago flowers appeared, they had just emerged from the oceans and had somehow trained primitive fleas and beetles to transport pollen from flower to flower.  The insects and other pollinators craved the nectar and other food produced by the plants.  And (this is very important) the plants and pollinators EVOLVED together.  We humans also EVOLVED with the plants. And these plants including the flower have become our food, our medicine and our evolutionary neurotransmitters.

As the plants evolved and survived many challenges, so did humans. For thousands of years human healing involved bringing awareness to our bodies, to its unique reactions and processes, and to its symptoms and strengths.  This awareness brought us to growthful insight and we pursued this healing in partnership with plants.  In describing this ability to heal, I am describing a human who is at the peak of performance in body, mind and spirit and wellbeing.  This ability to be healthy has always been influenced by plant-based food and medicine.

It has been only in the last 100 years that we humans in the Western world have moved in mass away from a plant based diet and plant based medicine.  During the great purge of Europe in the 1500’s and beyond, millions of healers were killed for what they knew about plant healing.  That mentality was brought to the Americas and is flourishing today in Western medicine.  It is with great effort that the First People’s have kept flower and plant healing alive in the U.S.  Our brothers and sisters to the south in the other America’s have developed great societies of plant healers.  The healing power of the flower is just now being explored by the West through a growing number of herbalists.  More and more people in the US and Europe are exploring plant based nutrition and healing.

Many cultures in the Far east and India still have long-held knowledge of how to heal with plants and how to heal with flowers.  I will explore a couple of those modalities.

How can a flower influence healing? Western Science has just now begun to ask the important questions about how plants heal humans and why the healing mechanism cannot be synthesized into chemical compounds. These questions have been asked and answered in the healing modalities of the East and far-east. Western science has been dissecting the process of how plants heal humans by constructing studies based on the scientific method.

FLAVONOIDS A WESTERN STUDY

One such study looked at flavonoids found primarily as the pigments responsible for the autumnal burst of hues and the many shades of yellow, orange, and red in flowers and food.  These flavonids are found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, stems, flowers, as well as tea and wine.  Over 4000 structurally unique flavonoids have been identified in plants.  Eastern cultures have used these plants high in flavonoids for healing for thousands of years.  According to the study, a resurgence of interest in traditional Eastern medicine during the past two decades, together with an expanded effort in pharmacognosy, has rekindled interest in the flavonoids and the need to understand their interaction with mammalian cells and tissues. (Middleton, Kandaswami, and  Theoharides 2000).

In general these flavonoids must be ingested from plant tissue and then they interact with the bacteria in the gut to affect change in the body.  But some flowers also affect flavonoid changes through aroma and biochemistry. So, merely smelling a flower may cause chemical changes in the body.

Other studies have found that a diet rich in fruits and flowers also cause the brain to develop differently, increase its size, provide high levels of DHA and demonstrate powerful endocrine altering properties such as hormones. This diet may be responsible for the evolutionary changes in brain capacity over millions of years. A move away from this diet in the last 200 years is beginning to produce a human brain that is shrinking. Human evolution in the tropical forest may have strongly affected the development of the human brain (Gynn and Wright 2008).

St John’s Wort flowers

St John’s Wort is a plant whose flower is coveted for its healing abilities. The St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum; Clusiaceae) has been used in traditional and modern medicine for a long time due to its high content of biologically active phenolics.  Hypericum perforatum L. (St. John’s wort) is a representative of the Clusiaceae family with confirmed therapeutic effects on burns, bruises, swelling, anxiety, mild to moderate depression, antidepressant, antiviral, wound healing, analgesic, hepatoprotective, antioxidant and antimicrobial activity.

At first western scientists disputed the ability for this flower to heal.  However recent studies have found that the plant extract contains Naphtodianthrones.   Naphthodianthrones such as hypericin and pseudohypericin are predominant components in St. John’s wort extracts, and most St. John’s Wort phytomedicines are currently standardized according to their hypericin content. These chemicals are localized in dark glandular structures mainly located on the margins of St. John’s wort leaves and flower petals and appear to serve in the defense against insect herbivory.  Although there is some evidence that biosynthesis of St. John’s wort naphthodianthrones involves the polyketide pathway, the production of napthodianthrones in St. John’s wort can be influenced by environmental factors such as light and soil mineral nutrients (Briskin 2000).

FLOWER PHYSIOLOGY AND HEALING BIO-CHEMICAL PIGMENTS

The floral meristem cells  such as those found in flowers can be described as tiny cellulose boxes on the inside and a thin layer of protein plasma that surround the large central vacuoles. The structure holds a mass of water that holds in solution a whole array of chemical compounds such as sugars, plant acids, salts and often pigments. The pigments are very healing to the human body.  Here are three pigments found in flowers that promote health.

  • Anthocyanins – (flower + blue) are water-soluble vacuolar pigments that may appear red, purple, or blue depending on the pH.  Eaten in large

    Anthocyanins- Anthoxantins – Betacyanins flowers

    amounts by primitive humans, anthocyanins are antioxidant flavonoids that protect many body systems. They have some of the strongest physiological effects of any plant compounds, and they are also things of beauty: anthocyanins provide pigment for pansies, petunias, and plums.  Anthocyanins are the active component in several herbal folk medicines such as bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), which was used in the 12th century to induce menstruation and during World War II to improve British pilots’ night vision. Scientists are now discovering how such anthocyanins work and are beginning to appreciate their health benefits.

  • Anthoxantins – are water-soluble pigments which range in color from white or colorless to a creamy to yellow, often on petals of flowers. These pigments are generally whiter in an acid medium and yellowed in an alkaline medium. They are very susceptible to color changes with minerals and metal ions, similar to anthocyanins. As with all flavonoids, they exhibit antioxidant properties, and are important in nutrition. Anthoxanthins may contain allicin which is good for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Betacyanins- Betalains are a class of red and yellow indole-derived pigments found in plants of the Caryophyllales, where they replace anthocyanin pigments. Betalains also occur in some higher order fungi.  They are most often noticeable in the petals of flowers, but may color the fruits, leaves, stems, and roots of plants that contain them. They include powerful antioxidant pigments such as those found in beets.

NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS OF FLOWERS

Flowers have many nutritional benefits for humans and pollinators.  They have nectar, nutritious tissues (yes you can eat many flowers), volatile oils, waxes, resins and perfumes.

Pollen is a highly nutritious well-balanced food and medicinal substance found in flowers.  Pollen contains a sizable amount of protein, starch, sugars, fat or oil, minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins such as thiamin. It is also rich in free amino acids.  Some flowers have food hairs that contain protein and fat.

Nectar- a solutions of readily digested sugars that also contains amino acids, vitamins and minerals.  Most nectar contains glucose, fructose and sucrose in a base of minerals and oil. Pollinators are highly attracted to nectar and for most this is their main food source.  Also there are whole groups of yeasts that thrive in nectar. Some yeasts produce a enzyme, invertase or sucrase, which splits sucrose.  Honey-bees also possess this enzyme and consequently honey contains no sucrose. Now this yeast is very healing to the human gut and is also is the primary substance in the making of Mead.

MEAD-
From the bonny bells of heather,
They brewed a drink long-syne,
Was sweeter far than honey,
Was stronger far than wine.
They brewed it and they drank it,
 And lay in blessed swound For days and days together In their dwellings underground.

– R.L. Stevenson Heather Ale

Mead is a alcoholic drink long loved by humanity.  The drink is made from honey that has been allowed to ferment.  The addition of natural pollens in the drink has long been known to acclimate humans to their local environment.  Hence fewer allergies.

Nectar is collected by honey bees and is digested. The bees add enzymes, and transfer the nectar to a honey stomach from which it is regurgitated into cells in the comb when they return to the colony. Additional enzymes are added, the cells are hermetically sealed, and the honey is then permitted to “ripen,” meaning that the enzymatic activity occurs which gives the honey its final sugar blend.

INHIBINE

Since ancient times, the antibiotic effects of honey have been recognized by the medical community. – In 1937 Dold[11] and others measured and documented the effect, and called it “inbibine”. 25 years later, Dr. Jonathan White and others isolated the exact cause of the anti-bacterial effect: the glucose oxidase in the honey produces hydrogen peroxide as it acts on glucose to produce gluconolactone (gluconic acid). This enzyme is heat sensitive, and concentration varies with floral type.  Mead and honey also add to healthy human gut flora if brewed correctly. Some flowers offer fatty oils (glycerides) instead of sugary nectars to visiting bees. One such flower is the Vanilla Orchid.

vanilla Planifolia

VANILLA PLANIFOLIA – A FLOWER OF THE GODS

Vanilla planifolia is a species of vanilla orchid. It is native to Mexico, and is one of the primary sources for vanilla flavoring, due to its high vanillin content. The oil found in the Vanilla flower is a powerful healer to humans.  It is an antioxidant, aphrodisiac (This oil stimulates secretion of certain hormones like testosterone, estrogen etc.), febrifuge: The vanilla oil can effectively reduce fever by fighting infections due to presence of components like Eugenol and Vanillin Hydroxybenzaldehyde in it.  Being a sedative, it also reduces inflammation due to fever (Anti Phlogistic would be the right word for it) and this also contributes to reducing fever. It is a known antidepressant, tranquilizer and equalizer for your emotions.

AROMATHERAPY

Aromatherapy uses the olfactory  and skin of the human body to transmit the aroma of a flower.  Each essential oil when administered takes into consideration ones physiological state and physical state, healing both simultaneously.  The path of healing is mostly thought to be biochemical.

THE ESSENCE OF FLOWERS

Now this is all good knowledge of flower healing but what about flower essences?  How do they work?

This one is harder to answer, but because of the work of many healers, the science of quantum physics humanity is getting closer to answering that question.  But we must start with the master of flower essences in the west – Edward Bach

EDWARD BACH AND THE BACH FLOWER REMEDIES

Edward Bach

Edward Bach lived from September 24, 1886 – November 27, 1936.  He was a British physician, homeopath and spiritual writer, best known for developing a range of remedies called the Bach flower remedies, a form of alternative medicine inspired by classical homeopathic traditions.

From Wikipedia:

“Rather than being based on medical research, using the scientific method, Bach’s flower remedies were intuitively derived  and based on his perceived psychic connections to the plants.  If he felt a negative emotion, he would hold his hand over different plants, and if one alleviated the emotion, he would ascribe the power to heal that emotional problem to that plant. He believed that early morning sunlight passing through dew-drops on flower petals transferred the healing power of the flower onto the water, so he would collect the dew drops from the plants and preserve the dew with an equal amount of brandy to produce a mother tincture which would be further diluted before use.   Later, he found that the amount of dew he could collect was not sufficient, so he would suspend flowers in spring water and allow the sun’s rays to pass through them. He observed that certain flower essences affected emotional healing- that is he could reverse strongly negative emotions by prescribing a certain flower essence.  Bach thought of illness as the result of a conflict between the purposes of the soul and the personality’s actions and outlooks. This internal war, according to Bach, leads to negative moods and energy blocking, which causes a lack of “harmony,” thus leading to physical diseases. (Larimore 2004, Robson 2007). ”

FLOWER CRYSTALINE PATTERNS – THEY KEY TO ESSENCES

Just exactly how do the flower essences work?

Edward Bach wondered if the health properties of various herbal remedies might be due more to their radiant energy than to their chemical properties. This led Edward Bach to look closer at the energetic properties of plants and flowers and ultimately led the development of the flower essences and his flower remedies which are homeopathic in nature.  The base of homeopathy is that the essence of the flower, or root, or bark, is transferred to the water or alcohol it is dissolved in. That is to say, the radiant frequency is transferred.

We already know that water can be made to radiate and this property is not lost even at the million to one dilutions of the homeopathic pharmacy. Specifically, the effect of the plant infusion must mimic the symptoms of the patient.

RADIANT WAVE LENGTHS

Of great interest to me is the findings of Andre Simonton, that foods radiate at certain wave lengths depending upon a number of factors, one being the freshness of the food, another being the vitality of the food. Understanding that every particle down to a photon of light has a specific wave length and that these minute wave lengths can be measured by modern methods lets us qualify foods in real time. Fresh milk measures at 6,500 angstroms but loses 40% of its radiation at the end of 12 hours and 90% at the end of 24. Pasteurization killed the radiation completely. The same is true of fruit juices and garlic juice, when pasteurized, coagulates like blood and has no radiation.  Frozen foods retain their radiation when thawed, foods in the refrigerator tend to acquire more radiation as they mature and dehydrated foods are re-vitalized when rehydrated.  Water has the same property. Some water, as that at Lourdes, radiate at 156.000 angstroms and, taken away in a bottle, eight years later still measures 78.000 angstroms. Some vegetables have higher radiation when raw but some, like potatoes, are higher when cooked.

Next I contacted Herbalists that I know and asked them to explain the flower essence healing capacity to me.  Are flower essences active healers because they possess volatile oils of the flower that affect neural pathways in the brain that in turn affect emotional centers found in the brain?

No, I found flower essences act very differently.

According to several different herbalists they act on a energetic level, on the quantum physical level affecting chemical structures found in our bodies.  According to Steven Horne a Herbalist with www.treelite.com. ( I am currently studying with Steven and find his months-long online class on “Botany for Herbalist” to be incredibly helpful to my botanical journey).

Steven says: “Flower essences are homeopathic-like. It is believed that homeopathic remedies work because water forms crystalline patterns (has a crystalline structure) which can hold the “frequency” of a substance.  The body reacts to the frequency of the remedy, which alters the body’s own water structure patterns. It is a physical thing, but not a chemical thing.”

Plant chlorophyll vs human blood hemoglobin life force fluids

The human body is composed of many crystalline substances—the bones, blood, brain and DNA are crystalline in structure; even on a molecular level, our cells contain the same molecular silica as is found in natural quartz crystal. In effect, the human body and the plant body have much the same molecular structure because we evolved, and survived together.  The healing of our bodies is dependent on connecting on the most molecular, energetic level in order to thrive and continue to evolve. The plants are a tuning fork for our own crystalline structures.  A flower essence is the song the tuning fork plays.

AYURVEDIC MEDICINE AND PLANT EXTRACTS

Next, I contacted Nicole Telkes lead instructor at the Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine. Nicole reports that the Ayurvedic philosophy of healing can also explain how the flower essences work. She reports that the Indian medical system of Ayurveda is based on the belief that plants have many medicinal properties. Many medicines are made by combining the extracts of plants to cure many ailments.

Nicole writes: “How the flower essences work…as a vitalist, that is a hard concept to show on paper. It is experiential. How they work depends on your philosophy of healing. Essences are an entirely different ball game than herbal medicine–except in concepts in of vitalism. Strictly speaking, you could say that the plant’s aromatics, mucilage and other constituents create response in the body but many of us believe it is much more than that, especially with essences which use no measurable amount of plant material.

Nicole goes on to explain, “Western Herbalism does have energetics, it just became lost and masked in terminology as herbalism was somewhat absorbed into allopathy. It’s the entire medical system in the U.S. that lost the energetic classification system and humoral system. You can look thru Greek medicine and folks healing throughout the U.S. and the energetic system is still there–you just have to look harder.”

Nicole offered this description of Yurvedic healing: “Yurvedic Concepts: everything in the world is ultimately composed of five Bhutas (elements) – prithvi (earth), apa (water), teja (fire), vayu (air) and akash (ether). Ayurveda strictly adheres to this concept called the Panchbhuta theory. The five parts of plants in Ayurveda show how plant structure is related to five elements. The root corresponds to earth, as the densest and the lowest part, connected to the earth. The stem and branches correspond to water, as they convey the water or sap of the plant. The flowers correspond to fire, which manifest life and color. The leaves correspond to air, since through them the plant breathes and the wind moves the plant. The fruit correspond to ether, the subtle essence of the plant. The seed contain all five elements, containing the entire potential plant within itself.”

In his book “Radical Healing”, Rudolph Ballentine, MD. describes his experiments with the flower essences. He is a graduate of Harvard, a psychiatrist and he studied medicine in India. He has prescribed flower essences and other herbal remedies to his allopathic MD friends and gives detailed accounts of the results plus a great many other detailed accounts on herbs in his book. Dr Ballentine reports that flower essences work on the principle of vibrational medicine and they convey complex informational patterns directly from nature that can be used by the human system to reprogram the body and the mind.

We can’t really ignore the fact that living matter is filled with information. It’s an incredible storage medium for information. In fact, I’m told that researchers in the area of computers, the forward-looking people in Silicon Valley, are really looking toward abandoning silicon as a storage medium for computer microprocessors, and are thinking of moving toward living protoplasm – bacterial cultures and so forth, because they can hold such an incredibly larger amount of information.

You see, all living matter is an infinite library of information about life and how to live on this planet. And we’ve barely entertained the possibility of how to harness this information. Natural medicinals have been doing it for a long time but it wasn’t referred to in these terms. Now we’re beginning to realize how sophisticated these ancient techniques are. They’re not just superstition. They’re really quite elegant and quite advanced. I leave you with a beautiful video about Edward Bach created by the Bach remedies Foundation:

The Bach Flower Remedies- The Journey to Simple Healing Part 1

The Bach Flower Remedies- The Journey to Simple Healing Part 2

REFERENCES

  • Ballentine, Rudolph (1999)  Radical Healing: Integrating the World’s Great Therapeutic Traditions to Create a New Transformative Medicine, Three Rivers Press, New York, NY
  • Bach, Edward (1931) Heal Thyself, The Explanation of the real cause and cure of disease. CW Daniels, London – Republished electronically in 2003 by the Bach Flower Research Program at http://bachtherapy.org/Books/Heal%20Thyself%201931.pdf
  • Briskin, Donald (2000) Medicinal Plants and Phytomedicines. Linking Plant Biochemistry and Physiology to Human Health, Plant Physiology October 2000 vol. 124 no. 2 507-514
  • Dold, From Crane, E., Honey, A comprehensive Survey, Heinemann, London, 1979.
  • Ernst, E. December 30, 2002. “Flower remedies”: a systematic review of the clinical evidence”. Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift 114 (23-24): 963-966. Flower essence repertory – P Kaminski  – http://www.flowersociety.org/repertory/repertory.pdf
  •  Gynn, Graham and Wright, Tony (2008) foreward by Dr. Dennis McKenna – Left in the Dark-Tropical forest biochemistry, the driving force in human evolution. Ingrams and Baker & Taylor publisher, London, UK
  • Horne, Steven interview on via email on 6/13/2012  Steven H. Horne, RH(AHG) www.stevenhorne.com www.treelite.com  www.modernherbalmedicine.com
  •  Larimore, Walt; O’Mathuna, Donal (2007). Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, Updated and Expanded (Christian Handbook). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. pp. 293. ISBN 0-310-26999-7.
  • Meeuse, Bastiaan and Morris, Sean ( 1984) The Sex Life of Flowers – Facts on File Publication, Rainbird Publishing Group, London, England
  • Middleton,Elliott Jr. Kandaswam, Chithan and Theoharides, Theoharis C.(2000) The Effects of Plant Flavonoids on Mammalian Cells: Implications for Inflammation, Heart Disease, and Cancer, Pharmacological Reviews December 1, 2000 vol. 52 no. 4 673-751 http://pharmrev.aspetjournals.org/content/52/4/673.long viewed on the internet 6-10-2012
  • Pintov S., Hochman M., Livne A., Heyman E., Lahat E. 2005. “Bach flower remedies used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children – a prospective double blind controlled study”. European Journal of Paediatric Neurology 9 (6): 395-398.
  • Robson, Terry (2004). An Introduction to Complementary Medicine. Allen & Unwin Academic. pp. 184–185. ISBN 1-74114-054-4.
  • Telkes, Nicole – Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine – http://www.wildflowerherbschool.com/
  • Walach H., Rilling C., Engelke U. July 2001. “Efficacy of Bach-flower remedies in test anxiety: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial with partial crossover”. Journal of Anxiety Disorders 15 (4): 359-366. White, J.W.Jr.,et al., Composition of American Honeys, USDA Technical Bulletin #1261, 1962.
  • White, J.W.Jr., Honey, Adv Food Res., 24:287-374, 1978.
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“Beauty and seduction, I believe, is nature’s tool for survival, because we will protect what we fall in love with.”– Louie Schwartzberg, from The Hidden Beauty of Pollination

After I posted the first part of the “The flower in three parts” my current essay series, I received an email from someone who said “The Flower in three parts, sounds like a symphony”.  Yes, I said, that is the energy I have been trying to convey to others that botany, plants, native plants, flowers are all part of a symphony of life. Each part of the flower and its growth processes are important to the whole. The first part or movement was to turn your attention to this fantastic creation sitting at the end of a stem. I hoped to raise your curiosity.  I tried to flood your senses with wonder at the design and substance of flowers. It was a slow movement encumbered by way too much vocabulary but necessary if you are to truly meet the flower in all its wonder.

I have been drawing you into the allegro or opening sonata in order to capture your attention for the second movement the main allegro or scherzo: The pollination cycle or sex life of flowers. And finally in The Flower – part 3: “The Flower as Healer”, I will end with one of the strongest connections between humans and flowers: they heal us – the finale – we are flowers ourselves.  We are they and they are us. What we do to the flower, we do to ourselves. If we kill off the pollinators and clear-cut the plant kingdom, so goes all Eden, of which we are a part.

But now for Part 2: Pollination and The Sex Life of Flowers

The name of the second part “The sex life of Flowers” came from my research on flowers and their ways and means of pollination. While researching I

Sauromatum-guttatum-Voodoo Lilly

discovered a scientist named Bastiaan Jacob Dirk Meeuse.  He was a naturalist and botanist who was a professor at the University of Washington. He lived from 1916 to 1999.  Meeuse was a prolific researcher whose five decades of research on the exotic but stinky voodoo lily resulted in numerous contributions to science.  Dr. Meeuse was an authority on pollination, especially by insects and birds, and wrote the textbook ”The Story of Pollination” (1961).

In the 1980’s his research contributed to a well-known public television documentary called “Sexual Encounters of the Floral Kind” (1983). I have links to segments of the documentary in end of this essay. In 1984 Meeuse co-authored a book along with Sean Morris called “The Sex Life of Flowers”.

Meeuse was a botanist attracted by the exotic, he unlocked the secrets of the voodoo lily (Sauromatum guttatum) a relative of the corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum). The voodoo lily has a very strong smell and generates much heat, up to 108 degrees when it ready for pollination. When it flowers, perhaps once a year, its fleshy purple spike emits waves of heat and an odor not unlike that of rotting meat. The chemicals released by the heat apparently helped to attract pollinators. (see picture).

Meeuse, along with his research team documented the flower cycle and the important relationship between pollinators and flowers. Meeuse and Morris found innumerable examples of mimicry in which the flower part has evolved to resemble a female bee. The male, trying unsuccessfully to mate with the flower, unwittingly collects and spreads the orchid’s pollen.

Here are a few facts about mimcry in pollination: When the male wasp tries to mate with the dummy female, he fails, but the orchid succeeds in getting pollen on the wasp. He flies away, only to be fooled again by another orchid pulling the same trick. In the process, the wasp transfers pollen from flower to flower. Plants that are farther away from each other are more likely to be distant relatives, so mimicry may reduce inbreeding. Posing as a sexual suitor may be a strategy that allows the geographic spread of plants over a wide area — generally, insects will travel further to find a mate than to find a meal.

Here is a link to the BBC documentary using some of Meeuse’s research:Wild Orchid and wasp mimicry – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-h8I3cqpgnA

Another important aspect of Meeuse’s research was to show that flowers develop MANY paths to pollination.  Flowers can be asexual (agamogenesis), hermaphrodites, only male or only female. And then there are the combinations. The only way to learn about a plant and its lovely flower is to sit with it, study it. Learn its entire life path. You just can’t make any broad statements about how flower reproduction takes place.

THE FERTILIZATION PATHWAY OF THE ZUCCINI SQUASH

Female and Male flowers of Zucchini Squash

Let’s look at the squash plant: A Zucchini squash plant has both male and female flowers.  Male flowers usually appear first and have a thin stem. Female flowers appear later and have a small, baby zucchini developing between the base of the flower and the vine. The male flower will usually open in the early morning, attract a certain type of early morning foraging insect, then can die away by the late afternoon.  The female flower will open later in the day and again attracts the same pollinating bee or insect and is fertilized by the pollen it is carrying.  If the small squash rots away then it has not been fertilized.  This can show a lack of garden pollinators. Hand pollination may be the only way to have a good crop of squash.

There is a very fragile dance going on here.  If there are no pollinator bees or other insects, our food will disappear. On most flowering plants there is only one short time frame in which a flower can be pollinated and if the conditions are just right or there are not enough pollinators available, no fertilization can happen. As in many processes in nature, timing is important. The female reproductive part of a flower is receptive to pollen only at certain times of the year. Creatures like insects and birds, which move from flower to flower in search of food, are a fast and often guaranteed way for plants to distribute their pollen.

Not all flowers need to be so cunning. Several angiosperm species including grasses bear inconspicuous blossoms – that use the wind for pollination.

Sometimes drought and disease can cause squash plants to only produce male flowers. Now this lack of fertilization can also be caused by severe weather change, or lack of fertilization in the soil types or pollution that causes mutations of plant or pollinator. Yes, the fragile dance is important to support.

PLANT CELLS AND THE MERISTEM-FLORAL

Floral-Meristem Physiology

For the last few months I have been leading you on a journey from the root to the stem to the branch and now on to the flower. All the while following the adventures of the meristem cell.  At the point of developing the flower, the meristem cell morphs into a meristem-floral cell and begins to produces cells that will become the structure of the flower.Plants produce 2 types of reproductive cells.  The first is the spore – found on such plants as ferns. The second is formed during sexual reproduction – a process where a population is divided into male and female members or distinct male and female structures on individual plants. The DNA of the plant, stored in these specialized flower cells will begin to build the structures and organelles that will become the flower. Flowers give rise to fruit and seeds.

BASIC SEXUAL PARTS OF A FLOWER

Flowers are short branches bearing specially adapted leaves, and reproduction is the sole function for which flowers evolved (Capon 2010).  Both the male and the female reproductive parts of a plant are in the center of the flower. The male, pollen-producing part is called the anther, held aloft by a stalk called a filament. The entire male apparatus is called a stamen. Each pollen grain is unique to its species. The female reproductive part of a plant, the stigma, sits on top of a style, or stalk, which leads to an ovary at the base. The entire female plant mechanism is called a pistil. This is the illustration of a perfect flower having both female and male parts (some do).

Flowers have figured out a way to do the amazing things they do while taking care of the place that will take care of their offspring.  They are focused on having their genetic material here 10,000 years from now. Plants seduce pollinators with fragrance, hue, platform structure and a promise of sex with another of its own kind and ensure return visits with the promise of nectar.

Some flowers attract with scent, some with color. Most offer nectar as an enticement to visitors and as a way to ensure repeat visits. The chemical ecology of plants seeks not only to attract pollinators, but keep predators away. The complexity of floral odors mediate interactions between flowers and pollinators to guarantee reproductive success (Carde and Ring 2004).

Return business is particularly important for plants that encase many seeds in a single fruit—raspberries, for instance, or melons. A poorly pollinated raspberry will have many shrunken, dry drupelets. A melon blossom that doesn’t attract enough pollinators may produce a melon that is small, lopsided, and not very sweet.

A few varieties of plants have adapted the shape of their flowers to favor certain pollinators—tubular blossoms attract hummingbirds, for instance, but the nectar is often inaccessible to bees.

Lady Slipper Orchid

Other plants aren’t choosy. They’ll do business with birds and bees, and also with wasps, beetles, rodents, and even humans if that’s what it takes to move the pollen.Many flowers have a distinctive bull’s-eye color pattern or a throat of a different shade from the outside petals, to help insects and birds find the payload of pollen.

Plant structures, too, are designed to attract specific pollinating partners. The Queen Anne’s lace flower places its nectar right at the base of its tiny flowers where pollinators with a short proboscis (nectar-gathering appendage) such as honeybees, ants, wasps, flies, and beetles can reach it when they crawl on the flower. On the other hand, bumblebees, butterflies, and moths have long proboscises, which enable them to reach nectar in less accessible places. For example, the long shape and curve of the columbine flower complements the long tongue of a bee, butterfly, or hummingbird. By concealing the nectar deep within its trumpet-like blossoms, the columbine prevents animals who are not its pollination partners from taking the nectar and transferring any pollen.

WHY ARE HUMANS ATTRACTED TO FLOWERS?

Are humans also pollinators?  Michael Pollan, author of “Botany of Desire” writes in his 2002 article called “Border Whores” that some evolutionary psychologists have proposed an interesting answer. Their hypothesis goes like this: our brains developed under the pressure of natural selection to make us good foragers, which is how humans have spent 99 per cent of their time on Earth. The presence of flowers is a reliable predictor of future food. People who were drawn to flowers, and who, further, could distinguish among them, would be much more successful foragers than people who were blind to their significance. In time the moment of recognition—much like the quickening one feels whenever an object of desire is spotted in the landscape—would become pleasurable, and the signifying thing a thing of beauty.

Humans have danced with the flowers, written poetry, songs and spent endless hours nurturing their flower gardens.  The flower is etched into our psyche- we are changed by the floral scents, the structure and the nectar.  Humans have used flowers for food and medicine for thousands if not millions of years.  It has only been recently that we have become “plant and flower blind. It has only been in the last 100 years that we have begun to call certain flowers “weeds” and have conducted a chemical warfare on our beloved inspirers.

We humans have lost the ability to love the plants and their flowers. We cannot see the connection between life on earth and the need to pave over paradise. We need to grow and protect fertility.  In ensemble that is what ecosystems do, it creates more and more opportunity for life. We need to create conditions conducive to life the same way flowers and plants do. Ban all the dangerous chemicals and stop making war on the natural world.  We need to make peace with the flowers and the plants and all species. Namaste.

CASCADIAN NATIVE PLANTS THAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT

Oceanspray-Pacific Ninebark-Spirea

Matthew Shepherd of the Xerces Society reports that there are approximately 900 species of bees and approximately 200 species of butterflies in the Cascadian bioregion.  Native plants are the forage of choice by these pollinators. Some native plants attract a great many pollinators.  Cascading plants such as Pacific Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus), White Spirea (Spiraeabetulifolia), and Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor) could be attracting hundreds of types of pollinators.  They often grow near wetlands, stream banks and moist forest lands.  They should be included in all landscaping projects where ever possible. These essential native plants will bring wildlife into any garden or natural area and guarantee the pollination for many flowers.

Another extremely important indigenous plant is the Willow. The Willow species are the basis of a vital food web for insects, birds, small mammals, larger animals; many soil organisms, bacteria and fungi. They are a very important habitat.  In particular Apis mellifera, (the honey bee) an insect belonging to the Hymenoptera Order use the early blooming Willow flowers (catkins) to survive long wet, cold springs. These insects are not damaging to the willow leaves or flowers, but are feeding on nectar and are helping to pollinate other early blooming plants (Aliner 1992).

The flowers of the Willow are inflorescences, taking the form of catkins, which develop in a familiar way, through the loss of the bud scale and the revelation of the silky hairs of the ‘Pussy Willow’. Eventually, however, the anthers surmount the filaments of the stamens and reveal a vivid display of pollen from pale yellow through gold to shades of red and purple depending on the species.

BEE COLONY COLLAPSE – A CANARY IN THE MIND SHAFT?

And finally I leave you with this little video called “The Beauty of Pollination”.  The speaker is director and producer Louie Schwartzberg.  He is presenting his work as part of the TED TALKS.  His deep concern for the present bee colony collapse that is decimating pollinators worldwide caused him to take all his film making skills and present a dire message to the world.  “The destruction of the bee is like a canary in the coal mine- once the bees are gone, then the flowers will disappear. Once the flowers are gone – then we will be gone.” You cannot truly love the flowers if you do not love the pollinators. Feast your eyes on this TED TALK on

The Hidden Beauty of Pollination:

VOCABULARY

  • Anther: The anther is part of the stamen and produces the pollen.
  • Articulation: Another term for articulation is internode. Articulation describes the space between two nodes (joints).
  • Calyx: The whorl of sepals on the outside of a flower is referred to as the calyx.
  • Corolla: The whorl of petals is called the corolla.
  • Filament: The filament provides support for the anther in the stamen.
  • Floral Axis: The floral axis is the stem holding the reproductive flower parts.
  • Microsporangium: The microsprangium is located in the anther and produces microspores, which become male gametophytes. These male gametophytes will later be used in forming the pollen grains.
  • Nectary: The nectary produces nectar, a sweet liquid that attracts insects and birds for feeding. As they drink the nectar, the nearby pollen sticks to them and is transported to other flowers.
  • Ovary: The ovary houses the ovules and will become the fruit after pollination.
  • Ovule: The ovules contain egg cells and become the seeds after pollination.
  • Pedicel:The pedicel is the flower stalk.
  • Perianth: The perianth is the collective term for the calyx and corolla.
  • Petal: The petal is designed to attract pollinators to the flower and protect the stamen and pistil. Many have patterns that can be seen in ultraviolet light by bees and other insects. These indicate where the nectar is located.
  • Pistil: The pistil is the female reproductive part in the flower. It includes the ovary, style, and stigma.
  • Sepal: Sepals are found on the outside of the flower in a whorl. They are usually green. The group of sepals is called the calyx.
  • Stamen: The stamen is the male reproductive organ in the plant. It consists of the anther and filament.
  • Stigma: The stigma is the sticky surface where pollen lands and is collected to fertilize the ovules.
  • Style: The style is part of the pistil and holds the stigma above the ovary.

REFERENCES

Ailner, J. Edward (1992) The Tree Book Collins and Brown Ltd

Capon, Brian (2010) Botany for Gardeners, 3rd edition, Timber Press, Portland, Oregon

Carde, Ring T. and Millar, Jocelyn G:  Editors (2004) Advances in Insect Chemical Ecology – Cambridge University Press

Elpel, Thomas J. (2006) 5th Edition, Botany in a day. The Patterns Method of Plant Identification, Hops Press LLC, Pony, Montana

Meeuse, Bastiaan and Morris, Sean ( 1984) The Sex Life of Flowers Faber & Faber, London.

Meesue, B J D (1961) The Story of Pollination, Ronald Press, New York, NY

Meeuse, Bastiaan contributior – Documentary “Sexual Encounters of the Floral Kind”  part one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Qi7Pnth_t8

Pollan, Michael (2002) Border Whores, The Times London, March 9, 2002 Viewed on the internet May 18, 2012 http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/border-whores/

Shepherd, Matthew (2012) Xerces Society, Portland, Oregon http://www.xerces.org/ from a private email on 5-18-2012

Shepherd, Matthew, et al. Pacific Northwest Plants for Native Bees, Xerces Society, The invertebrate Conservation, viewed on the web on 5-12-2012 http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/pacificnw-plants-for-bees-xerces3.pdf

Weiss, M. 1991. Floral colour changes as cues for pollinators. Nature 354:227-229.

WEB RESOURCES

Websites:

  • The sexual encounter of the floral kind. A 12 part series produced by public television and based on the research of Bastiaan Meeuse. Part 1 -Video on how flowers attract pollinators.  The male wasp and the flower.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv4n85-SqxQ&feature=relmfu

  • North American Pollinator Protection Campaign – The best website available for resources on pollination, projects for classrooms, organizations affiliated with the Pollination Protection Campaign and more. Detailed lesson plans for in the classroom with teacher guides and student guides available for printing directly off website. Availability to order posters and materials for the classroom. http://www.nappc.org/
  • Xerces Society –The invertebrate Conservation organization located in Portland, Oregon. A very valuable organization and website. Lots of resources and education material.  – http://www.xerces.org/

Next time: The Flower:  Part 3 – The Flower as healer

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The Leaf

“Oh leaf, you must surely have found strength to force the branch to burst open so that you could emerge. What did you do to become free from the prison? Speak, Speak…” -Rumi

A leaf is like a flag unfurling.  The emerging leaf from the stem announces the beginning of the metamorphosis from stem to flower, from winter to spring.  It is the opening up of the new leaf that announces new life. Humans and animals begin to notice a plant once the leaf emerges.  It is our food and it is our hope for spring and the first harvest. Leaves provide brilliance in the spring and shade in the summer. They are perfect food containers and provide food for many species on the earth.  Later when the seasons turn to winter, the leaves that have fallen on the ground provide protection and fertilizer to the creatures of the forest and other environments.  Leaves provide more than half the human food needs.  Another large portion of leaves are used for the feeding of livestock.  Without leaves, humans would starve or die from malnutrition.

THE PRIMORDIAL LEAF

When last I wrote I told you about the mersistem cells and the apical cap or bud that is growing up toward the light. 

It is also, at precise intervals, creating appendages that will become branches and possibly leaves. The apical bud is involved in making the stem growing longer, initiates the orderly arrangements of leaves on the stem, and makes provision for the eventual development of branches.  This early period of leaf production in the mersistem bud is called leaf primordia. A primordium, the nascent leaf, forms at the least crowded part of the shoot meristem. The leaf cells fold over the meristem bud to protect it from sun and other weather. At just the right time, when the days are longer and the air temperature is warmer, the leaf begins to grow larger and then finally opens up.  At the base of the leaf primordia a bulge appears and it is called “axillary bud primordium” and is the beginning of a branch.   A branch forms at the axil or angle between the leaf and the stem.

Now the meristem cells are following the DNA blueprint of this plant whether it will be at maturity a tree or a sunflower.  And as the meristem cells formulate the stem it is remembering the specific design and pattern of this plant. It “remembers” at what interval to place the leaf nodes or the branch nodes.  The branch node of course can grow leaves as it extends its growth.

The cellular structure of the leaf is all about meristem cells, stomata, glucose storage and photosynthesis.   In review, the stomata’s main function is to allow gases such as carbon dioxide, water vapor and oxygen to move rapidly into and out of the leaf.  Stomata are found on all above-ground parts of the plant including the petals of flowers, petioles, soft herbaceous stems and leaves.

Leaf Stomata

Stomata are the main “food manufacturing” organs of the leaves. They make food from carbon dioxide and water in the presence of light during a process called photosynthesis. As stomata open in the presence of light, carbon dioxide will diffuse into the leaf as it is converted to sugars through photosynthesis inside the leaf. At the same time, water vapor will exit the leaf along a diffusive gradient through the stomata to the surrounding atmosphere through the process of transpiration.

Another very interesting thing happens at the point that the meristem cells decide to create a leaf.  The cells start to create new chemicals.  One such chemical is chlorophyll.  And, cell tissue that is filled will chlorophyll will turn green. Leaves receive their green color during the process of trying to absorb energy from the sun. The sunlight strikes the leaves, which contain chlorophyll, and the chlorophyll reacts by emitting the green color. Likewise in the autumn some plant leaves turn color because as the days shorten and leaves absorb less light, the leaves prepare for autumn by stopping the food-making process. Consequently, the production of chlorophyll drops off, turning some leaves orange and yellow in the fall.

Colors, like yellow and orange, are in leaves all summer, but the powerful green chlorophyll overwhelms them. Once the cold shorten days come on in the fall, chlorophyll disappears and the leaf’s other colors shine through.

THE PATTERN IS THE KEY

Each plant has a pattern for growing stems, branches and leaves.

  • A leaf is connected to the stem by a structure called the petiole.

▫         The base of the stem where the petiole connects is called the node

▫         Where the petiole connects to the leaf is called the axil

▫         The axil is where we happen to find buds, clusters, and emerging leaves.

Leaves appear on the stem in a set pattern.  Learning the leaf patterns will help you identify the plant and help you use plant keys

Leaf Morphology: Shape and arrangement, margin and venation

Studying the different shapes and designs of the leaf will also help you to identify a plant.  Each plant has a pattern of growth.  Identifying the overall shape of the leaf, the outer edge of the leaf (margin) and the pattern of leaf veins will help you to identify or key the plant type. Developing a keen eye for observation will help.  I actually draw the leaf so I can more fully study it.

Overall Shape of the leaf

Many plants have adapted leaf shapes that help water drip off the plant to avoid too much moisture, which might make bacteria and fungus grow.  The leaf shape and arrangement on the stem will funnel water to the root. The leaf shape may provide a platform to collect the sun’s rays or keep wind from blowing the plant apart.

Arrangement of the leaf on the stem

Leaf arrangement types on the stem

In botany the word “phyllotaxis” is a word used to describe the study of the arrangement of the leaf on a plant stem. .  There are four primary leaf arrangements:  Alternate, opposite, whorled and rosulate. (Please see illustration).

  • Opposite      leaves are positioned across the stem      from each other, with two leaves at each node.
  • Alternate (spiral) leaves are arranged in alternate steps along      the stem, with only one leaf at each node.
    Whorled leaves are arranged in circles along the stem.
    Rosulate leaves are arranged in a rosette around a stem with      extremely short nodes.

Leaf Margins

Leaf Morphology Chart

The leaf margin is the outer edge of a leaf. There are many different margins.  Here is a list of margin types listed on Wikipedia .  Learning these types of margins will help you to key a plant.  (Please see illustration on left. CLICK TO ENLARGE -also found on Wikipedia -thank you Wikipedia!).

  • ciliate: fringed with hairs
  • crenate: wavy-toothed; dentate with rounded teeth, such as Fagus (beech)
  • crenulate finely or shallowly crenate
  • dentate: toothed, such as Castanea(chestnut)
    • coarse-toothed: with large teeth
    • glandular  toothed:  with teeth that bear glands.
  • denticulate: finely toothed
  • doubly toothed: each tooth  bearing smaller teeth, such as Ulmus (elm)
  • entire: even; with a smooth margin; without toothing
  • lobate: indented, with the indentations not reaching to the center, such as many Quercus(oaks)
  • palmately lobed:  indented with the indentations reaching to the center, such as Humulus (hop).
  • serrate: saw-toothed  with asymmetrical teeth pointing forward, such as Urtica (nettle)
  • serrulate: finely serrate
  • sinuate: with deep, wave-like indentations; coarsely crenate, such as many Rumex (docks)
  • spiny or pungent: with stiff, sharp points, such as some Ilex (hollies) and Cirsium (thistles).

Design of the veins found on the leaf

There are two subtypes of venation, namely, craspedodromous, where the major veins stretch up to the margin of the leaf, and camptodromous, when major veins extend close to the margin, but bend before they intersect with the margin.

  • Feather-veined, reticulate arise from a single mid-vein and subdivide into veinlets. These, in turn, form a complicated network. This type of venation is typical for (but by no means limited to) dicotyledons.
  • Palmate-netted or fan-veined; several main veins diverge from near the leaf base where the petiole attaches, and radiate toward the edge of the leaf, e.g. most Acer (maples).
  • Parallel-veined      or parallel-ribbed– veins run parallel for the length of the leaf, from the      base to the apex. Commissural veins (small veins) connect the major      parallel veins. Typical for most monocotyledons, such as grasses.
  • Dichotomous – There are no      dominant bundles, with the veins forking regularly by pairs; found in Ginkgo and some pteridophytes.

For a full discourse on every leaf shape possible check out Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaf_shape

LEAVES FOR FOOD AND MEDICINE

For as long as humans have been on the earth, the leaves of plants have been used for food, medicine, shelter and utility.  Green has been a sacred color to those cultures who understood the important relationship between humans and plants. Leaves were used in ceremony, clothing and decoration.

Children learned rhymes and axioms that taught them to identify the helpful and not so helpful plants around them. Here are just a few:

  • The leaves of three, Leave it be. The leaves of four have some more. (a song to teach a child to identify Poison oak or Ivy)
  • Hairy vine? No friend of mine!
  • Berries white, danger in sight!
  • Red leaflets in spring are a dangerous thing.
  • Side leaflets like mittens will itch like the dickens!
  • Berries of red will soon be dead!
  • Berries of black, caution for that. Or ”Berries of black, ask about that.”

Nutrition of plant leaves

Humans have been able to survive the long months to the first harvest by storing food and by harvesting early spring plants.  Roots are important through the winter months. But the early green leaves of Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica), Miners lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), Dock (Rumex patientia L,) Dandelion (Taraxacum) and hundreds of other species have allowed humans to survive until the next great harvest.

Nutritional – Medicinal

There were a number of plants that were known by the First Peoples of Cascadia that helped humans survive starvation and nutritional imbalance. Known by Europeans as “Spring tonic” plants, these plants with their new shoots are full of nutrients that are helpful to our well being. For instance- Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) when picked young, can be steamed and eaten in February and March. This plant has been known to alleviate muscle pain, depression and tiredness. It truly is a spring tonic. Stinging Nettle is often found in semi-wet well drained areas.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) and the Spring Potherb

Stinging Nettle (Urtica diocia)

Stinging Nettle is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant, native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and North America,and is the best-known member of the nettle genus Urtica.  It was a survival plant for First Peoples and others who moved here to live. It is a key ingredient in the Spring Potherb. This is a soup where early plants are steamed and cooked into a broth and drunk to get one’s body ready for spring and summer. It wakes up the body, mind and spirit. The greens are also consumed.  The greens contain vitamin C, iron and many minerals.

Recipe for the Spring Potherb

Bring a big pot of water to boil, turn down the heat.  Place plants into the water and turn off heat.  Season to taste.

Stinging Nettle
Chickweed
Clover
Dandelion leaf and root
Great Burdock
Lamb’s Quarters

The fresh leaves of Stinging Nettle contain vitamins A, C, D, E, F, K, P, and b-complexesas well as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B-6, all of which were found in high levels, and act as antioxidants. The leaves are also noted for their particularly high content of the metals selenium, zinc, iron, and magnesium. They contain boron, sodium, iodine, chromium, copper, and sulfur.

Stinging Nettle is a versatile plant. The plant is not only eaten, but as the plant matures the fibers of the plant were used for making many useful things. The fibers have been used for thousands of years for shoes, hats, fabric for clothes, fishing line, and was woven into twine and rope. The use of Nettle fiber worldwide is the similar to the use of Hemp or Flax. Used to weave fabric of all kinds, it is has also been used to press into paper. The nettle fiber is usually mixed with other paper-making plants as it does not possess the gluey substance needed to allow the paper fabric to hold together.

The Sting of the nettle is said to be a cure for Arthritis and other diseases of muscles, joints, and some organ tissues.

The antidote for being stung by this plant is the juice found inside the stem or Dock (Rumex patientia) which usually grows nearby. A Plantain (plantago macrocarpa) or (plantago lanceolata) poultice can also be used as antidote for the sting.
NEVER COLLECT THESE PLANTS ALONG POLLUTED WATERWAYS, ROADS OR INDUSTRIAL AREAS. This plant, as well as all plants, is adapted to uptake dangerous heavy metals (bio-remedial). Always harvest in safe areas.

“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” – Henry David Thoreau

Vocabulary

Axillary bud primordium – An immature axillary bud. An embryonic side shoot. A point on a stem, at the node, and between the stem and leaf, where a new shoot can develop. Growth is usually inhibited at these buds.

Leaf primordia – A lateral outgrowth from the apical meristem that develops into a leaf

Petiole – The stalk that joins a leaf to a stem; leafstalk

Photosynthesis – The process by which green plants and some other organisms use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water. Photosynthesis in plants generally involves the green pigment chlorophyll and generates oxygen as a byproduct.

Transpiration – the emission of water vapor from the leaves of plants. Water loss that occurs through the open plant stomata (tiny pores primarily on the underside of the leaf). Rate of loss is determined by wind and atmospheric humidity conditions.

References

  • Capon, Brian (1990) (Revised 3rd edition,      2005) Botany for Gardeners, Timber Press, Portland, London
  • Gunther, Erna. (1945) (Revised 1973) Ethnobotany of      Western Washington. Knowledge and use of Indigenous plants by      Native Americans, University of Washington Press.
  • Pojar & McKinnon, (1994) Plants of the Pacific      Northwest Coast, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska,      Lone Pine Publishing, Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Wikipedia – viewed on the internet April 2012.

NEXT TIME:  THE FLOWER

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As they presented the herb to me they told me to drop it on the earth and when it hit the earth it took root and flowered. You could see a ray of light coming up from the flower, reaching the heavens, and all the creatures of the universe saw the light. – Black Elk (in DeMaille, The Sixth Grandfather)

Apical Meristem Cell tissue - the God force

Ok, being the total plant nerd that I am; I get very excited about teaching about parts of the plant.  I mean it blows my mind that all you have to do is cut a branch, place it in water, and watch it grow roots.  How does that happen?  What would happen if humans could do the same and just grow new parts?  (clue: stem cells)

And, a second amazing fact about stems and branches is that you can graft a branch of one plant on to another plant  and promote new and interesting growth and fruit.  Pure magic! (More on grafting later).

What is happening here?  It all goes back to the most magical part of a plant-the “meristem cell”.  You know, the God-particle magical cell that stores all the DNA of the plant and allows parts of the plant to regenerate, accept cells from other plants, and grow itself from an injured part.

Let me explain in more detail. (Now don’t get bored with all this plant physiology facts, in the end it all is just amazing and your knowledge of living with, growing and ingesting plants will grow exponentially!)

Meristem tissue in most plants consists of undifferentiated meristematic cells. With the apical meristem cells the tissue either heading downward and becoming roots or heading upwards and becoming stem, branch, leaves and flower are considered to be indeterminate or undifferentiated, in that they do not possess any defined end fate. The meristem cells “remember” that they are going to grow into a tree, a shrub, a wildflower etc, but allow a variety of changes to happen to the tissue.  Where ever these cells appear in the plant, there can be new growth, including growing new parts. These types of cells seem to store the DNA of any part of the plant. The apical meristem, or growing tip, is a completely undifferentiated meristematic tissue found in the buds and growing tips of roots in plants. Its main function is to begin growth of new cells in young seedlings at the tips of roots and shoots (forming buds, among other things). Meristem cells cause the plant growth to take place in a very organized yet adaptive process. Now, meristem cells can become differentiated after they divide enough times and reach a node or internode.   As the plant grows upward driven by apical meristem cells the tissue begins to organize itself into stem, branch, leaves and flower.  These cells divide rapidly and are found in zones of the plant where much growth can take place. That is why you can graft one part of a plant to another part of the plant if it is in the right zone or node and if the two plants share the same type of DNA. Plants must be closely related for grafting to be successful.

For tissues to knit successfully, the cambium layers (full of fast dividing meristem cells) and rootstock must be brought into firm contact. The cambium – a continuous narrow band of thin-walled, regenerative cells just below the bark or rind – grows to form a bridge or union between the two parts in days. The same cells are found at the joint of a branch which allows it to grow new roots at the cut.  Now, not all plants can grow roots from a branch.  You need to study each plant for its particular characteristics.

SEED TO STEM – THE JOURNEY BEGINS

The stem begin its journey with the seed opening up and a dicot or monocot leaf revealing itself.

A monocot (a flowering plant that produces an embryo seed with single cotyledons) will produce only one leaf.  A dicot will produce two embryonic seed leaves or cotyledon.  The cotyledon is a seed leaf – the first to appear as the seed sprouts. It appears at the same time that root tissue appears.

Next a shoot appears (new stem) and sends out growth. The apical meristem cell structure is leading the way. We assume that the stem is heading upward toward light but  a contradiction to this rule would be stems that spread downward or sideways like potatoes, tulip bulbs and other tubers. A strawberry plant will create a “stolon” or sideways stem to propagate new growth. A vine has a long trailing stem that grows along the ground or along anything it can attach to.

 The three major internal parts of a stem are the xylem, phloem, and cambium. The xylem and phloem are the major components of a plant’s vascular system. A cambium is a lateral meristem that produces secondary tissues by cell division. The cambium area is located just under the epithelial (outer most area of the stem) and is very active in cell growth.  It is this area that is tapped into when attempting grafting.

Stem tissue is actually organized into pipe-like vascular bundles held together by pith and cortex tissues. These tissues are used for pipelines of fluid transport, connecting leaves, stems and roots. They also serve as a supportive structure for the stem.  The stem is also made up of other substances that allow it to remain flexible so that it will not break easily. Depending on what kind of plant is growing, a great tree or a wildflower, the stem may become a thick trunk with layers of vascular cambium, cork and hard bark or a more herbaceous plant.  The trunk of a tree is its main stem.  And, yes plants can have more than one stem.  The stem that branches is called a branch.

Stems may be long, with great distances between leaves and buds (branches of trees, runners on strawberries), or compressed, with short distances between buds or leaves (fruit spurs, crowns of strawberry plants, dandelions). All stems must have buds or leaves present to be classified as stem tissue.

An area of the stem where leaves are located is called a node. Nodes are areas of great cellular activity and growth, where auxiliary buds develop into leaves or flowers. The area between nodes is called the internode. Nodes are protected when pruning back a plant. Destruction of the nodes can result in long non-fruiting branches.

MODIFIED STEMS

Although typical stems are above-ground trunks and branches, there are modified stems which can be found above and below the ground. The above-ground modified  stems include crowns, stolons, and spurs and the below-ground stems are bulbs, corms, rhizomes, and tubers.

STEM FUNCTION

  • Stems serve as conduits (pipelines) for carrying water and minerals from the roots upward to the leaves utilizing the xylem tissue and for carrying food from the leaves (where food is manufactured through the process of photosynthesis) down to the roots utilizing the phloem tissue.
  • Stems provide support for the leaves and reproductive structures (flowers, fruit, and seeds) of the plant.
  • Stems are also used for food storage (as in potatoes and onions) and in plants with herbaceous (green-colored) stems they help manufacture food just as the leaves do.

NATIVE PLANT PROPAGATION BY CUTTINGS.

Taking cuttings from native plants to propagate them is especially helpful in preserving what is left of many species. There is no digging or destroying plants. Forest communities are not damaged.

The process of removing a plant part then having that part grow into a genetically exact replica of the original plant is called cutting propagation. It is a plant cloning technique. The plant part that is removed is called a cutting.  Plants can be propagated from root cuttings, leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, etc.

  • The mother plant or “stock” plant should be at a stage of growth most likely to have stem cuttings root. Old, mature plants are often more difficult to root than young, vigorously growing plants. Using new growth on a mature plant may not root.  Always try to use young plants.
  • Always place cuttings in water as soon as it is cut. You can wrap the cut end of a cutting in wet paper towels and place in plastic bags if you do not have a tub of water.  If the cutting wilts it may not fully recover and may not develop roots.
  • Always take cuttings when the temperature is above freezing. Research has demonstrated that cuttings collected when temperatures were above freezing and stored in plastic bags or moist burlap in a refrigerator rooted in higher percentages than fresh, unstored cuttings taken when shoots were frozen.
  •  For all types of stem cuttings, the cuttings should be removed with a clean, sharp (don’t crush stems) knife or pruners and placed into a container that will keep the cutting from losing more moisture.

Some amazing Cascadian bioregion native plants that root from branches are: Pacific Willow (Salix lucida), Hooker’s Willow (Salix hookeriana), Pacific Ninebarks (Physocarpus capitatus), and Snowbush (Ceanothus velutinus).  All are great attractors of important pollinators and Snowbush will fix nitrogen in the soil.

The first peoples of Cascadia built summer fishing and hunting huts along marshes and streams by placing freshly cut Willow in circles.  The Willow would root and grow into a shelter and  hunting blind. Today, some wonderful garden trellis have been erected using live Willow.

VOCABULARY

  • Angiosperms – A plant that has flowers and produces seeds enclosed within a carpel. The angiosperms are a large group and include herbaceous plants, shrubs, grasses, and most trees.
  • Budan undeveloped or embryonic shoot and normally occurs in the axil of a leaf or at the tip of the stem. Recognizing buds is important under two circumstances when trying to identify plants. 1) When you need to distinguish a bud from a “stipule”, and 2) When you need to determine whether a leaf is “simple” or “compound”.
  • Cotyledon – A seed leaf. A leaf of the embryo of a seed plant, which upon germination either remains in the seed or emerges, enlarges, and becomes green.
  • Crowns – is a region of compressed stem tissue from which new shoots are produced, generally found near the surface of the soil. Crowns (strawberries, dandelions, African violets) are compressed stems having leaves and flowers on short internodes.
  • Dicot –comprising seed plants (angiosperms) that have two cotyledons in their seed. Examples of dicots flowering plants are (more 300 families) sunflowers, peas, geranium, rose, magnolias, maples, oaks and willows.
  • Internodethe part of a plant stem between two of the nodes from which leaves emerge.
  • Monocot – comprising seed plants that produce a seed embryo with a single cotyledon and parallel-veined leaves: includes grasses and lilies and palms and orchids; divided into four subclasses or super orders: Alismatidae; Arecidae; Commelinidae; and Liliidae. flowering plant; the stem grows by deposits on its inside
  • Nodethe part of a plant stem from which one or more leaves emerge, often forming a slight swelling or knob. Something special happens at a node that tells the plant tissue to start forming leaves and flowers.
  • Pith – The soft, spongelike, central cylinder of the stems of most flowering plants, composed mainly of parenchyma (in higher plants, any soft tissue consisting of thin-walled, relatively undifferentiated living cells)
  •   Spur – is a   compressed fruiting branch. Spurs are short, stubby, side stems that arise   from the main stem and are common on such fruit trees as pears, apples, and   cherries, where they may bear fruit. If severe pruning is done close to   fruit-bearing spurs, the spurs can revert to a long, nonfruiting stem.
  •   Stipule One   of the usually small, paired appendages at the base of a leafstalk in certain   plants, such as roses and beans.
  •   Stolon – is a horizontal stem that is fleshy or semi-woody and   lies along the top of the ground. A runner is a type of stolon. It is a specialized stem that grows on the soil surface and forms a new plant at one   or more of its nodes. Strawberry runners are examples of stolons. Remember, all stems have nodes and buds or leaves. The leaves on strawberry runners are small but are located at the nodes which are easy to see. The spider plant also has stolons.

REFERENCES

  • Capon, Brian (1990) (Revised 3rd edition, 2005) Botany for Gardeners, Timber Press, Portland, London
  • Gunther, Erna. (1945) (Revised 1973) Ethnobotany of Western Washington. Knowledge and use of Indigenous plants by Native Americans, University of Washington Press.
  • Pojar & McKinnon, (1994) Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska, Lone Pine Publishing, Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Toogood, Alan (1999) Plant Propagation, American Horticultural Society, DK Publishing, Inc. New York, NY

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stem cellular structure of the water Milofoil

“Plants are all chemists,  Tirelessly assembling the molecules of the world.”  -Gary Snyder, Introduction, *Pharmako/poeia

Why should you, the aspiring naturalist be concerned with the cellular design of plants?  One answer might be – It is in this beautiful design that you will draw closer to plants and their ability to heal humanity.  Another reason might be that it is in the cells of plants that knowledge of the evolutionary past and future genetic path are stored.  It is also in this knowledge that you will come to know how at risk the earth is because of the efforts of a few who are attempting to genetically modify and capture the cells of plants.  The genetic material of cells store the combined ancestral knowledge of plants and no one has a right to destroy our link to our ancestors or our future.

By understanding the cellular structure of plants you will come closer to being able to identify plants very fast and also learn the medicinal, nutritional, utilitarian, and social connection between plants and humans.  You will hopefully join the movement to educate yourself about plants and move native plants out of sanctuaries and place them in all our environments. This knowledge was fast slipping from us, now there is a movement to end “plant blindness”.

Come with me on a voyage to learn the basics of plant cellular biology.  Before I begin, one story (because I am a Celtic woman – a story at the beginning, a story at the end of each lesson).

A couple of years ago I was very lucky to have spent time with a retired botany professor who loved to teach “newbie’s”-  or plant lovers who know very little about plant identification.  The man was very patient and had considerable knowledge of plants from my part of the world.  He fully understood that when most people go out in the forest they see plants of the same species as pretty much looking all alike  One weekend he taught us about conifers.  Identification of the many conifers in my part of the world can be quite confusing. They do look somewhat alike.  Unless a tree has a very different looking bark or shape it is hard to identify them.  That is unless you get very close- I mean on a cellular level of closeness.

Our teacher taught us about cell physiology and plant organelles before we went into the forest.  He was especially keen to teach about STOMATA BLOOMS which would allow us to identify many different species of conifers. The stomata are minute pores in a plant organelle in which gas exchange occurs.

Stomata cells up close

A stoma (pl. stomata) is a microscopic pore on the surface (epidermis) of land plants. It is surrounded by a pair of specialized epidermal cells called guard cells, which act as a turgor-driven valve that open and close the pores in response to given environmental conditions.

Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere enters the stomata and oxygen produced by photosynthesis diffuses out of the stomata. Water molecules also escape through the stomata, especially in hot, dry weather. Water loss through the stomata is known as transpiration. If the plant loses too much water it will wilt and eventually die. To cope with this dilemma, plants have evolved paired guard cells on each side of the stoma.

Each tree (plant) expresses the design of stomata blooms differently.

Western Red Cedar Stomata cells - butterfly pattern

The design and color of the stomata help us plant lovers to more easily identify the plants.  For instance the underside of the Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) needles has a butterfly pattern which is actually a stomata bloom.   You cannot actually see the guard cells without a microscope, on most plants they’re totally invisible to the naked eye. But you can see the STOMATA BLOOM. Depending on the species and the growing conditions, there are 100-1000 stomata per square millimeter on the underside of a leaf.

Plant cell biology is as complex as human cell biology. Understanding the healthy plant cell physiology can help the naturalist, gardener and plant lover to live closer to the plant world and understand their needs. Understanding this physiology will also keep you from being pulled into the propaganda and lies of big pharma, genetically modified corporates, and other scientists gone mad. There is no easy or fast way to teach you everything there is to know about these cells. So, I am just going to share a few things that I found very interesting about plant cells and plant organelles. Then at the end I will have links so you can further your education in plant cell physiology (blessed be to wiki-links).

CELLS WITH A PURPOSE

Both plants and animals have cells that reflect a genetic purpose. The kindom Plantae purpose IS NOT to take care of humans.  Their purpose is to be part of a global interactive, biological, energetic community that cooperates to create balance in all things. This means developing systems of survival.

But as for plant/human cooperation – Plants take CO2 out of the environment and exhale it as oxygen. This important transaction happens both on the cellular and organelle level.  This is probably the most well-known reason for plant/human appreciation.  We need oxygen to survive.  Humans use plants as food because plant cells store nutrients, carbohydrates and chemical compounds that keep us well.

Looking at a plant cell and an animal cell you will see some things are the same, and some things are very different.

At the smallest scale of plant cellular biology are molecular interactions of photosynthesis and internal diffusion of water, minerals, and nutrients. At the largest scale are the processes of plant development, seasonality, dormancy, and reproductive control.

The cells of plants have evolved differently from animals because plants cannot move.  Plants defend themselves chemically from herbivores, pathogens, and competition from other plants. Their cellular composition supports these interactions. The cells also produce compounds that defend against disease, permit survival during drought, and prepare plants for dormancy.  There are even compounds used to attract pollinators or herbivores to spread ripe seeds. (Yes, we humans are often used by plants to spread pollen and seeds). And in exchange we humans have learned to use those compounds to heal ourselves – as in plant medicine,food and for utility.

I read a couple of research reports on plant plasticity and adaptation some years ago. In these reports scientists and a plant specialist wanted to know how plants interact with threats from herbivores and environmental dangers.  They wanted to know if the reaction to threat was immediate or slow-reactive.  For a long time scientists and the rest of us saw plants as nonreactive.

In both studies the scientist collected information on plant reaction to threats including humans and found that the reaction happened on the cellular/chemical level and that change was almost immediate.  Plants changed their own chemical biology to release bitters, poisons, and chemicals to protect themselves.  The plant cells were designed to offer different mechanisms for different situations.  This process sometimes also inadvertently caused humans and animals to change physiologically for the better. Human involvement in plant medicine and in some cases mind-altering physical changes have occurred for millions of years.  I have listed links to this research at the end of this article.

Plant cells are mostly oblong in shape, animal cells are mostly round  Compared to animal cells, plant cell walls are tough.  They are strong enough to withstand osmotic pressure. Up to three strata or layers may be found in plant cell walls.  Plant cells have a cell wall that restricts the shape of the plant cells and this is what limits its flexibility and mobility. Cell walls in most plant tissues also function as storage depots for carbohydrates that can be broken down and reabsorbed to supply the metabolic and growth needs of the plant.

Up to three strata or layers may be found in plant cell walls:[5]

  • The middle lamella, a layer rich in pectins. This outermost layer forms the interface between adjacent plant cells and glues them together.
  • The primary cell wall, generally a thin, flexible and extensible layer formed while the cell is growing.
  • The secondary cell wall, a thick layer formed inside the primary cell wall after the cell is fully grown. It is not found in all cell types. In some cells, such as found xylem, the secondary wall contains lignin, which strengthens and waterproofs the wall.

For instance the bark of a tree is actually layers of live and dead cells arranged in layers. One layer that lies next to the heartwood of a tree called Sapwood, or xylem, carries water up from the roots to the leaves.  As the cells of Xylem age, they turn to heartwood. The next layer out, the cork cambium, covers the tree from twig to root. The cambium which is also called the phellogen, is normally only one cell layer thick and as the cells divides it creates the outer bark layer called cork or phellem.  The outer layer of bark on most trees helps keep out water and weather and insects. It acts as an insulation layer and is the product of mass cellular division.  The cells of the cork layer produce a substance called suberin, a waxy substance which protects the stem and trunk against water loss, the invasion of insects, and prevents infections by bacteria and fungal spores. Now, understanding this plant cellular biology you probably see why stripping the bark off trees can cause tree death or disease.  We humans have forgotten valuable information that would help us to better steward the earth and live harmoniously with plants, especially the great trees.

What is the same and what is different

Plant Cell Structure - click for larger view

Both plant cells and animal cells have: Cytoplasm, Mitochondria, Endoplasmic Reticulum (Smooth and Rough), Golgi Apparatus, Microtubules/ Microfilaments, Flagella, and a Nucleus.

In plants the nuclear and cell division are mainly localized in special regions called meristems. This information is important to know if you will be working with seeds, grafting, or hybridization.  This rapidly dividing region will either elongate the tips of stems and roots or expand the girth of the plant.  In animals, cells divide everywhere, all the time. The division process is essentially the same for plants and animals. The main difference comes when it is time for cytoplasmic division. A plant cell builds a new cell wall to divide its two daughter cells, and an animal cell will pinch in two, or cleave.

Both plant and animal cells have plasma membranes. Plant cells have cell walls; animal cells do not.  Plant cells have cell walls in addition to plasma membranes, not instead of plasma membranes.  The cell wall of a plant is made from cellulose and is much tougher.

Plant cells have chloroplast for photosynthesis whereas animal cells do not. Animal cells are round whereas plant cells are rectangular. All animal cells have centrioles whereas only some lower plant forms have centrioles in their cells.  Plant cells have one very large vacuole in the center and animal cells have a very small vacuole.

Plant cells have both mitochondria and chloroplasts.  The chloroplasts turn the sunlight into glucose. The mitochondria turn glucose into energy (ATP).

Plant cells contain chlorophyll, a chemical compound that interacts with light in a way that enables plants to manufacture their own food rather than consuming other living things as animals do.

A plant cell has plasmodesmata –  which are narrow channels that act as intercellular cytoplasmic bridges to facilitate communication and transport of materials between plant cells. Plant cells are eukaryotic – A eukaryote is an organism whose cells contain complex structures enclosed within membranes.

“Man sees the morning as the beginning of a new day, he takes germination as the start in the life of a plant, and withering as its end.  But this is nothing more than biased judgment on his part.  Nature is one. There is no starting point or destination, only an unending flux, a continuous metamorphosis of all things.”

–       Masanobu Fukuoka, The Natural Way of Farming

References

Cells alive – interactive animal and plant cell website – http://www.cellsalive.com/cells/cell_model.htm

Differences between plant and animal cells – http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Differences_between_animal_and_plant_cells#ixzz1lqkl5zMS

Biology online: a site to teach you biology, botany, cellular biology and other useful biological and botanical science.  http://quizlet.com/5551829/biology-test-1-flash-cards/

Plant cell physiology – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plant_cell    viewed on the internet 2/7/2012

Karban, Richard, Agrawal, Anurag A., Thaler, Jennifer S. and Adler, Lynn S.. Induced plant responses and information content about risk of herbivory, Tree – Ecology and Evolution  vol. 14, no. 11, pages 83-86 November 1999

Buhner, Stephen Harrod, (2002) The Lost Language of Plants: The Ecological Importance of Plant Medicines to Life on Earth, Chelsea Green Publishing, White River, VT

Vocabulary

  • Organelles – mean little organs.  They are located inside the cell structure and have specific roles to play in how cells work.
  •  stoma (pl. stomata) is a microscopic pore on the surface (epidermis) of land plants. It is surrounded by a pair of specialized epidermal cells called guard cells, which act as a turgor-driven valve that open and close the pores in response to given environmental conditions.
  • TurgorTurgor pressure pushes the plasma membrane against the cell wall of plant, bacteria, and fungi cells as well as those protist cells which have cell walls.
  • A vacuole is a membrane-bound organelle which is present in all plant and fungal cells and some protist, animal[1] and bacterial cells.[2] Vacuoles are essentially enclosed compartments which are filled with water containing inorganic and organic molecules. They have multi-functions including:
  •  isolating materials that might be harmful or a threat to the cell,
  • holding and exporting waste products
  • contain water in plant cells
  • Maintaining internal hydrostatic pressure or turgor within the cell
  • Maintaining an acidic internal pH
  • Containing small molecules
  • Exporting unwanted substances from the cell
  • Allows plants to support structures such as leaves and flowers due to the pressure of the central vacuole
  • In seeds, stored proteins needed for germination are kept in ‘protein bodies’, which are modified vacuoles.[4]

  NEW UPDATE !   New Friend and Sponsor of Radical Botany:  Thanks farmers! 

Daggawalla seeds and herbs.  Open pollinated seeds and many specialized herbs.

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