Nature’s Depths

Walking through nature with John Palka, a neuroscientist who loves plants and ponders big questions

Exploration

Cemetery Woods Indian Pipe Cluster

Indian Pipe and the Forest Underground

Exploration

Indian pipe is a ghostly, fleshy, white-stemmed wraith with a nodding white flower at the tip, poking its way up through the duff of the forest floor. It looks like nothing else in the forest and like nothing in your garden. Its life story illustrates the intricate web of life that exists in the forest.

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Shi-Shi Falcon W/Z

The Secret Life of W/Z

Exploration

The Peregrine Falcon W/Z is part of a large, ongoing raptor (bird of prey) monitoring effort being conducted on the southwest coast of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington by a dedicated non-profit group called Coastal Raptors, based in Hoquiam. Here is how we got to meet him.

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Alder Reflection - Earth Sanctuary

Growing Upward – B

Exploration

When we walk through a forest, we are surrounded by trees growing up toward the sky. . . Most are primarily straight. . . Some are twisted in complex ways, but even these  grow mostly upward from the surface of the soil. What mechanisms generate the upward growth that is so characteristic of most trees, and indeed the great majority of all land plants?

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Marjoram Horizontal

Growing Upward – A

Exploration

You can specify the differences among various tree species, but if you focus on properties that they share, rather than on properties that distinguish them, you quickly realize that vertical growth characterizes the vast majority of trees, and indeed the vast majority of all plants. How does upward growth come about?

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Ebey's Landing Nootka Rose

Flower Forms

Exploration

Though flowers affect us deeply, they are the products of evolution and play their own role in the great web of life. This role is independent of human feelings. Flowers are what they are. . .  It seems only right that we should examine them closely on their own terms.

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Swamp Lantern Portrait

Lanterns of the Western Woods

Exploration

Walking in the western woods in springtime, from Alaska to California, you may notice flashes of brilliant yellow coming from what look like big flowers. What you are seeing is Lysichiton americanum, commonly known as swamp lantern or western skunk cabbage. Both names for these spectacular plants are highly appropriate.

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