Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Getting Kids Hooked on Botany

 There are hundreds of ways that are more interesting than just standing there looking at flowers.  Here's one.  The above plant is Red-stemmed Filaree, an undocumented immigrant. Known to science as Erodium circutarium.  Different species of Erodium are native all over Europe, Asia, and North Africa.  Many have migrated to the USA, but in the Southwest, we have two native species, the Texas Storksbill and the Roundleaf Storksbill.  The long pointy thing on the left is a bundle of 5 seeds wrapped around a central stork.  When the seeds mature they get dry and brown, and eventually start to curl away from the central stork.  Under the right conditions of maturity and dryness, they literally pop off the stork and curl up into a tight screw.  See below.
If you manage to come across a bunch of filaree many of whose seeds have turned dry and brown but are still on the storks, you can gently pull individual seeds off the plant and set them in the palm of your hand.  They will then curl up, slowly and steadily, before your eyes.  In five minutes or so they can make at least ten complete revolutions and look like a screw with a Fibonacci curve at the end and lots of minute hairs sticking out every which way.  The action of curling in your hand is a wonder to watch.  Hard not to imagine a mind at work.  There's not, of course.  Just physics.  But wonderful physics!  Click on each photo for more detail.  Then go out and look for some dry filaree.

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