Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Nature rejuvenates, in person and virtually: Part 2

I had so many wonderful titles to share on the topic of yesterday's post I couldn't fit them all in. So here's Part 2 of our illustrated nature books, a balm to the spirit and an inducement to sally forth at the first opportunity. The first two stay close to home: Call to Love: In the Rose Garden with Rumi and A Field Guide to Your Own Back Yard: A Seasonal Guide to the Flora & Fauna of the Eastern U.S.
I was prompted to obtain Plants: Why You Can't Live Without Them (by B.C. Wolverton & Kozaburo Takenaka) after perusing a mesmerizing article in the New Yorker about plant intelligence written by food guru Michael Pollan. Here's a passage:
Indeed, many of the most impressive capabilities of plants can be traced to their unique existential predicament as beings rooted to the ground and therefore unable to pick up and move when they need something or when conditions turn unfavorable. The "sessile life style" as plant biologists term it, calls for an extensive and nuanced understanding of one's immediate environment, since the plant has to find everything it needs, and has to defend itself, while remaining fixed in place. A highly developed sensory apparatus is required to locate food and identify threats. Plants have evolved between fifteen and twenty different senses, including analogues of our five: smell and taste (they sense and respond to chemicals in the air or on their bodies); sight (they react differently to various wavelengths of light as well as to shadow); touch (a vine or root "knows" when it encounters a solid object); and, it has been discovered, sound.
In a recent experiment, Heidi Appel, a chemical ecologist at the University of Missouri, found that, when she played a recording of a caterpillar chomping a leaf for a plant that hadn't been touched, the sound primed the the plant's genetic machinery to produce defense chemicals. Another experiment, dome in Mancuso's lab and not yet published, found that plant roots would seek out a buried pipe through which water was flowing even if the exterior of the pipe was dry, which suggested that plants somehow "hear" the sound of flowing water.
Just an aside, but I still can't believe the New Yorker continues to spell out all of their numbers!
Let's end on a grand note, with My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir (The 100th Anniversary Edition, illustrated with color photographs by Scot Miller). The black-and-white images are from the original edition by Muir (left), the founder of the Sierra Club.


  1. Beautiful photos for the year's end. Thank you. And may your coming year be even better than this one!

    1. The same to you. I just followed my own advice and took a drive in horse country around Middleburg VA ... so beautiful!