This is the intro to secret Life of Plants.
Short of aphrodite, there is nothing levelier on this planet than a flower, nor more essential than a plant. The true matrix
of human life is the greensward covering mother earth. Without green plants we would neither greathe nor eat. On the undersurface of every lear a million
movable lips are engaged in devouring carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen. All together, 25 million square miles of leaf surface are daily engaged in this miracle
of photosynthesis, producing oxygen and food for mand and beast.
Of the 375 billion tons of food we consume each year the bul comes frtom plants, which synthesize it out of air and soil with the help of sunlight. The
Remainder comes from animal products, which in turn are drived from plants. All the food, drink, intoxicants, drugs and midicines that keep man alive and, if properly used, radiantly healthy
are ours through the sweetness of photosynthesis. Sugar produces all our starches, fats, oils, waxes, cellulose. From crib to coffin, man relies on cellulose as the basis for his shelter, clothing,
fuel, fibers, basketry,cordage, musical instruments, and the paper on which he scribbles his philosophy. The abundance of plants profitably used by man is indicated by nearlly six hundred pages in Uphof's Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Agriculture-as the economists agree-is the basis for a nation's wealth.
Instinctively aware of the aesthetic vibrations of plants, which are spiritually satisfying, human beings are happiest and most comfortable when living with flora. At birth, marriage, death, blossoms are prerequistites, as they are at mealtime
or festivities. We give plants and flowers as tokens of love, of friendship, or homage, adn of thanks for hospitality. Our houses are adorned with gardens, our cities with parks, our nations with national preserves. The first thing a woman does to
make a room livable is to place a plant in it or a vase offresh cut flowers. Most men, if pressed, might describe paradise, whether in heaven or on earth, as a garden filled with luxuriant orchids, uncut, frequented by a nymph or two.
aristotle's dogma that plants have souls but no sensation lasted through the Middle Ages and into the eighteenth centruy, when Carl von Linne, grandfather
of modern botany, declared tha plants differ from animals and humans only in their lack of movement, a conceit which was shot down by the great nineteenth-centurey botanist Charles Darwin, who proved that every tendril has its power of independent movement.
As Darwin put it, plants " acquire and display this power only when it is of some advantage to them."
At the beginning of the twentieth century a gifted Viennese biologist with Gallic name of Raoul France put forth the idea, shocking to contemporary natural philosophers, that plants move their bodies as freely, easily, and gracefully as the most skilled animal or human, and that
the only reason we don't appreciate the fact is that plants do so at a much slower pace than humans.
The roots of plants, said France, burrow inquiringly into the earth, the buds and twigs swing in definite circles, the leaves and blossoms bend and shiver with change, the tendrils circle questingly and reach out with ghostly arms to feel their surroundings. Man, said France, merely thinks plants motionless and
feelingless because he will not take the time to watch them.
Poets philosophers such as Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe and Rudolf Steiner, who took the trouble to watch plants, discovered that they grow in opposite directions, partly burrowing into the ground as if attracted by gravity, partly shooting up into the air as if pulled by some form of antigravity, or levity.
Wormlike rootlets, which Darwin Likened to a brain, burrow constantly downward with this white threads, crowding themselves firmly into the soili, tasting it as they go. Small hollow chambers in which a ball of starch can rattle indicate to the root tips the direction of the pull of gravity.
When the earth is dry, the roots turn toward moister ground, finding their way into buried pipes, stretching, as in the case of the lowly alfalfa plant, as far as forty feet, developing an energy that can bor through concrete. No one has yet counted the roots of a tree, but a study of a single rye plant indicates
a total of over 13 million rootlets with a combined length of 380miles. On these rootlets of a rye plant are fine root hairs estimated to number some 14 billion with
a total length of 6600 miles, almost the distance from pole to pole.
As the special burrowing cells are worn out by contact with stones, pebble, and large grains of sand, they are rapidly replaced, but when they reach a source of nourishment they die and are
replaced by cells designed to dissolve mineral salts and collect the resulting elements. This basic nourishment is passsed from cell to cell up through the plant,
which constitutes a single unit of protoplasm, a watery or gelatinous substance considered the basis of physical life.
The root is thus a waterpump, with water acting as universal, solvent, raising elements from root to leaf, evaporating and falling back to earth to act once more as the medium for this chain of life. The leaves of an ordinary sunflower will transpire in a day as much water as a man perspires. On a hot
day a single birch can absorb as much as four hundred quarts, exuding cooling moisture through its leaves.
No plant, says France, is without movement; all growth is a series of movements; plants are constantly preoccupied with bending, turning and quivering. He describes a summer day with thousands of polyplike arms reaching from a peaceful arbor, trembling,
quivering in their eagerness for new support for the heavy stalk that grows behind them. When the tendril, which sweeps a full circle in sixty-seven minutes, finds a perch, within the hour has wound itself like a corkscrew and in so doing raises the vine to itself.
A climbing plant which needs a prop will creep toward the nearest support. Should this be shifted, the vine, within a few hours, will change its course into the new direction. Can the plant see the pole? Does it sense it in some unfathomed way? If a plant is growing between obstructions and cannot see a potential
support it will enerringly grow toward a hidden support, avoiding the area where none exists.
Plants, says France, are capable of intent: They can stretch toward, or seek out, what they want in ways as mysterious as the most fantastice creations of romance.
Far from existing enertly, the inhabitants of the pasture- or what the ancient Hellenes called botane-appear to be able to perceive and to react to twhat is happening in their environment at a level of sophistication far surpassing that of humans.
The sundew plant will grasp at a fly with infallible accuracy, moving in just the right direction toward where the prey is to be found. Some parasitical plants can recognize the slightest trace of the odor of their victim, and will overcome all obstacles to crawl in its direction.
Plants seem to know which ants will steal their nectar, closing when these ants are about, opening only when there is enough dew on their stems to keep the ants from climbing. The more sophisticated acacia actually enlists the protective services of certain ants which it rewards
with nectar in return for the ants' protection against other insects and herbivorous mammals.
is it chance that plants grow into special shpes to adapt to the idiosyncrasies of insects which will pollinate them, luring these insects with special color and fragrance, rewarding them with their favorite nectar, devising extraordinary canals and floral machingery with chich to ensnare a be so as to release it through a trap door only when the
pollination process in completed?
Is it really nothing but a reflex or coincidence that a plant such as the orchid trichoceros parviflorus will grow its petals ito imitate the female of a species of fly so exactly that the male attempts
to mate with it and in so doing pollinates the orchid? Is it pure chance that night-blossoming flowers grow white the better