Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Earthless


These plants are like astronauts on my windowsill--way out of their element, but doing fine.  They have no soil, only water.  The onion came from the grocery store, but was forgotten in a bag.  Once I saw how much it had grown, I decided to keep it around.  Eventually I'll pot them both, but for now I enjoy watching them.

I am continually amazed at plants' ability to build their bodies out of air.  They take in  atmospheric CO2 and use it to create more complex molecules like cellulose.  Thus, the spider plant on the right has been able to nearly double in size using only light, air, and water.

Amazing.

Read more about it here.

Photo by Michael McDevitt

2 comments:

Thisbe said...

I love it.
In a recent class, we were told about an experiment in which a 5-pound tree was placed in a container with 200 pounds of soil. After 5 years, the tree weight hundreds of pounds, and soil weighed 199.8 pounds.

Building the world out of sunlight, air, and water.

Michael said...

Yeah. I remember the first time that this really hit me. I was looking at an enormous staghorn fern on my mother's refrigerator. It didn't have any soil at all and never had. Ironically, I had been studying botany for quite a while when I realized. I suppose that's one of the problems with education-- that it's possible to know all the parts and reactions and still miss their significance. I'm glad that a whole crop of authors have sprung up to fill this gap. I'm thinking here of people like Barbara Kingsolver, Annie Dillard, E.O. Wilson, Michael Palin, and Wendall Berry. In many ways, I view their work as more critical for non-scientists than standard science education. The gap between extant knowledge and public awareness is appalling, and it must be addressed if we are going to fully benefit from the effort of our scientists and researchers.