Nature’s Depths

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

Exploration

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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Layers of Life

Exploration

Living things are almost never found in isolation. Rather, life occurs in communities and ecosystems. By no means all the members of a biological community are apparent to the naked eye or to the camera lens, but I find it rewarding to look for moments when the way a community functions reveals itself in a visible way.

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Water Rising

Exploration

Water enters a plant through the roots, but it is needed by all of the plant’s living cells. The leaves (or the needles of a conifer) can be several hundred feet above the soil. Trees have no pumps analogous to an animal heart. How, then, does water get to the top of a Doug fir or a redwood? Read and find out!

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