Nature’s Depths

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

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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Friendship in Science

Rumination

Scientists have a reputation of being solitary and introverted, their labs functioning as isolated silos and their teams driven by competition. However, friendship and collaboration are at least as important, as are shared passions outside the world of science.

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