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.
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.
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.
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.
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!