Amazing blueprints

The other day I was reading an article on efforts to cultivate plants in space, with various experiments having been conducted on Russian Saljuts, the Space Shuttle or the International Space Station, with species ranging from Arabidopsis thalinana, a small edible flowering plant, to wheat, tomato, cress, salad, lettuce, snow pea, potatoes or radish.

The interest behind these experiments being to see how longer manned exploratory missions in space could become self-sustaining – or at least to a greater degree. One fact that I found especially striking was that it is possible to grow plant in the regolith of a carbonaceous, or c-type, asteroid.

Which once again illustrates how extraordinarily versatile plants are…

You cannot help but marvel at the range of conditions plants can grow in , from lichen clinging onto rocks in the frozen Antarctic wastes or the giant Coast Redwoods on the US West coast to amazing sprawling tropical rainforests – but it is not only  climatic variability they are able to handle, but also vastly different environments.

From an evolutionary point of view, a number of plants we know today evolved millions of years ago yet continue to thrive in today’s modern cities. Take the Ginkgo for example, a tree that was equally at home in a Pleistocene swamp as in the chasms of modern-day downtown Manhattan. Talk about a success story. I do not see our technology lasting such a long time. Consider a five year old computer, for example… almost time to replace it, as the tech has become out-dated. Not to mention a couple of millenia!

All of this versatility emerging from a seed that fits in the palm of your hand according to an ancient blueprint I find quite humbling and it puts us humans solidly in our place as a bunch of noisy, parvenu upstarts just recently emerged out of the savannahs of Africa.

Humanity! Go to the back of the class and do better next time!