(It’s Daffodil time in Central Ohio. Lovely to get a lot of sun so early, and get back into The Garden! The plants are responding beautifully. We needed this break in this difficult year. This is a revised post from one year prior; a post from near the beginning of this outburst of viral natural variation. May we soon see the end of it, but recognize our dependence on Things Larger Than Ourselves and our need to Take Care! )
In glorious disregard to the Corona Virus, the Daffodils are in bloom in Central Ohio! An excellent example of how each Design in Nature is oblivious to some things, but very much concerned with others. The daffodils feel the warmth, the moisture. It’s their time. They spring forth and lighten our lives, and their own for a glorious week or two. I mean, It’s Glorious, and Wordsworth liked them, too (1815).
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (1815) I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Least I give you the wrong impression, The Virus is fading here in Ohio. We are experiencing about 1500 new cases a day and it has leveled at that point after consistently dropping for several months. Even better news is that hospitalizations continue to decline, possibly reflecting the increased vaccination of the most vulnerable. Our vaccination campaign seems to be going well and gaining speed. Teachers are vaccinated, my wife and I are, and so are many others. Many schools have just, or soon will, return to all in full time. (That will be interesting.)
And, Spring has come early. Returning to The Garden has been a joy, though the initial work there is rather grueling. What is it about me? I actually like crawling around on my hands and knees clearing out the old insulating mulch and revealing the fresh crop of spring babies. With my face in the dirt, I’m sure they feel my love! Ouch, did I just write that?
More of Wordsworth, ‘Dancing with Daffodils….’
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought.
Harnessing the Power of Chemicals to Serve the Purposes of Plant Design
But how is it, exactly, that the Dafs and other flowers know when to come up and when to bloom? Temperature, moisture, maturity of the plant, and light all play a part. The role played by light is important. Plants contain a protean called Phytochrome which has two states: P(red) and P(far red). Phytochrome is a photoreceptor and when days become longer and nights shorter, the red wave frequencies of light (660 to 730 nanometers) are absorbed more and more rapidly by the phytochrome which changes to a greater proportion of P(f-r). This signals the plant to new growth and new stages of growth, such as flowering. Some plants are short day plants, like the Daf and only need a small shift toward P(f-r) to get them flowering, and so bloom in the spring. Others are long day plants and need much more P(f-r) and for longer periods to develop maturity and then flower, like the Zinnia which is a late summer season bloomer. In the fall, with the shortening of the day, the portion of P(r) increases and the plant prepares for hibernation or the end of its cycle (death).
But before the sun has a direct affect on plant growth it has an indirect affect through Temperature. Hormones in plants are temperature sensitive, particularly the auxins. Bulbus flowers such as the daffodil thrive in a warm-cold-warm cycle. During the cold, winter section of this cycle, the plant loses its resistance to the influence of auxin. Auxin has a growth inhibiting influence and by Spring, the bulb is ready to go. Growth occurs in the form of “an apical shoot”—apical, meaning apex—or a single growth upward from the bulb. At the crown of this shoot is the flower head which produces this growth inhibiting auxin that, at this point, radiates down the shoot preventing lateral growth as side shoots. Up the bulb pushes in the form of this initial stem until it breaks the surface of the soil and becomes available to the more direct influence of sun light.
Back to Bill Wordsworth…
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Yes, “vacant and pensive moods” is what we have these days! But the Dafs, the Hyacinth, the Forsythia and the little baby Columbine are here to help. All in Glorious Disregard to that Virus!
Little baby Columbine