Report From PIA – February 3
I’m attending New England Grows, a green-industry trade show in Boston. I heard Bill Cullina speak this afternoon, and attended a tweet-up this evening, and once again find that almost magically events come together for this blog.
I took notes at Bill’s talk, and one of the things I jotted down was his mention of a study done on how jewelweed grows roots. The bottom line of this work, done by Guillermo P. Murphy and Susan Dudley of McMaster University, is that when this Impatiens’ roots touch the roots of other plants, they can tell if those neighboring roots are their siblings or not, and they grow accordingly.
When jewelweed is growing in the same pot with siblings, they grow a bit thinner so that foliage on all the plants can get enough light. But when growing with plants that they aren’t directly related to, they grow thicker foliage…when it’s the survival of the fittest, it’s OK to shade the neighbors.
Every plant is on a mission to replicate its genetic material, usually by making seeds, and this is why we deadhead to make sure that a plant keeps blooming. It makes sense, therefore, that after germination each plant would favor its own kind as well. Produce seeds, and then protect the offspring.
Extending this knowledge from plants to humans, however, I wondered if people too have some sort of molecular response that makes them favor their own. It’s good if this helps us protect our babies, but not as desirable if this means we are predisposed to work against others that aren’t related to us.
Which brings me to the tweet-up. There we were, about a dozen people, who were mainly connected through quick posts of 140 characters or less. The key word in last sentence is, of course, connected.
This gives me hope for the human race. If we can celebrate the fact that our roots touch in digital spaces like facebook and twitter, and this alone can bring us together to support each other, than there is indeed hope that we can nourish each other’s growth and someday create a peaceful, verdant world.