Everyday Miracles

Every single day is filled with horticultural miracles. Many of these are small and you may never notice them. Others tower over us and we can’t help but see them. I’m speaking of the miracles that are soil microorganisms, trees, shrubs and other plants. Think about it. A soil is full of bacteria, fungi and other organisms that break down organic and mineral matter turning it into building blocks for plants. A plant makes its own food, using these nutrients from the soil, a little sunshine, water, some carbon dioxide and a bit of chlorophyll. I find this process of photosynthesis astounding, definitely a miracle. Plants actually clean the air for us while absorbing the carbon dioxide we breathe out. They transpire some of the moisture they absorb from the soil out their leaves and needles, which cools and moisturizes the air around them. This contributes to the water cycle almost every day. How often do you thank a tree?

Have you ever stopped to think about the plumbing in a plant, particularly a tree? It’s a miracle of engineering. Plants have to pull the water they need out of the soil. It’s similar to sucking water up through a straw. For plants that are only a few inches tall, this may not seem like a big deal. However, think about a redwood tree. It sucks water up hundreds of feet —first through root hairs, then through roots and finally up the vascular system of the plant. Plants also have the ability to close off the pores on their leaves in times of water stress to conserve moisture.

Another horticultural miracle is the ability of plants to adapt to their surroundings. Look at a cactus. It has modified its leaves to thorns and moved the chlorophyll normally housed in green leaves to the body or trunk of the plant. This conserves water and allows it to survive in the desert. Another cactus adaptation is the ability to store water inside its trunk to tide it over during often long, spread-out rain events. Gray-green plants such as sagebrush are more adapted to hot sunny environments. Their lighter color keeps their leaf surface cooler. Plants also have adapted to fire, developing thick bark, shielded buds or resprouting mechanisms.

Gardeners often appreciate plants for their beauty, food or fruit. They are grateful in the summer for shade. Sports enthusiasts appreciate their golf greens and sports turf. But, the day-to-day miracles of plants are often overlooked.