Glowing Green Emerald: Bowiea volubilis

Do you know how you’re fond of someone because of various shared experiences?  No other plant has kept me on my toes more than Bowiea volubilis.  For the past two years, it’s been a rollercoaster ride of surprises, wonder, devastation, stress, and hope.  We’ve gone through thick and thin- itself more literally.

Informally known as the sea/climbing onion, Bowiea volubilis is a succulent plant comprised of a translucent green bulb where nutrients and moisture are stored.  The outer layer, usually covered in dead skin becomes a treat when pealing it away to reveal a glowing green gem.  It occasionally grows a rubbery vine that looks like a flame, latching onto anything near it.  I built a trellis after my first vine mess.

Despite the many troubles I’ve had with Bowiea, it is a forgiving plant and will bounce right back when cared for properly- it took me a while to understand its rhythm of living that the research didn’t fully prepare me for.  The intrigue, enchantment, and drama this plant dishes out, I will never grow tired of-  such wondrous and cool plant to behold in all its phases and transformations.

Photosynthesis: The Foundational Pillar

Plants seem to be idle and not up to much when we look at them- don’t fall for that illusion!  Under the guise of their stationary appearance, there’s a powerhouse factory going on, and one of these mechanisms is the ancient process of photosynthesis.  It’s in this procedure that plants paved the way for diverse life and the ability for us to call Earth, home.

Before we begin, let me introduce to you my good pal and helper throughout this blog- Khorn!  He likes to practice tap dancing (though still kind of shy), drawing different kinds of birds around the neighborhood, and his mom just got him a microscope that he’s obsessed with which he’s kind enough to let us use for next week’s post.  Also appearing alongside Khorn is an aloe plant his grandma gave him that he’s been taking care of very diligently (it helps that they’re easy to care for).

Simply put, plants require three essential elements in order for photosynthesis to kick in- sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide.  Once acquired, the exchange of molecules/elements can begin, and this occurs in an organelle within the cells of plants called the chloroplast.  Sunlight is absorbed by a green pigment in the chloroplast called chlorophyll that causes the reaction to start.

In this molecular rearrangement and exchange, sugars/glucose/carbohydrates are produced which a plant uses to feed itself, and oxygen becomes a byproduct and is released into the atmosphere (think of it as plants farting).  Plants are able to produce their own food, yet animals like us require mobility to feed on other organisms to get those nutrients.  One of my favorite botanists mentioned that a good reason why plants aren’t mobile like us is because they have all they need being rooted to the earth, which also saves them energy because plants are all about efficiency in every way.  They get their resources by reaching towards the sun above and digging through the ground below with their roots.

I’m only an amateur observer but I find it a wonderful exchange that plants take in carbon dioxide, a waste product from the environment and give in return their waste product- oxygen!  I’d say that’s a pretty good deal and both parties benefit.  We take breathing for granted most of the time as it’s automatic- but can you believe in the olden days of earth, oxygen didn’t exist until the arrival of organisms harnessing the power of the sun and farted out so much oxygen that creatures like us are able to enjoy the sweet nectar of breath!?

Along with the miracle of oxygen comes another major asset that plants have bestowed upon us- food!  Whether it be fruit, seeds, greens, tubers, and the list goes on…the time plants spend building these sugars and nutrients to feed themselves and to continue their species, animals and humans are privileged in partaking of those spoils.  The diversity of edible things and how different cultures work with them appeals to me greatly.  It’s a communion like ritual when I eat or cook- a connection with history, science, and the natural world (currently crazy about watercress in stir fries and dying for some guacamole right now).

Plants are really amazing creatures- the more I find out about them and as mine are growing along with me, I realize that we’re all on the same playing field- each organism, now matter how strange or different from us, is built in the name of efficiency.  I’m kind of in awe of the interdependence of every organism on this planet, and I may sound kind of crazy being amazed by things like breathing or eating (which I’ve been doing everyday since being brought into this world), but I think the research and the contemplation has made me appreciate and acknowledge the creatures that have made those basic necessities possible for you and me.

Botanical Introduction: “Just Me and My Plants”

Hello!  I’m Peter Pa, a young storyteller crazy about botany/horticulture and the inner workings of the natural world.  I hope my other interests and past experiences will help me interpret and discover new insights from the amazing processes the organisms on this earth have been up to- particularly plants.  We owe a lot to these seemingly quiet green beings all around us- providing us with food, oxygen, temperature regulation, raw materials, eye candy, the list goes on.  They’ve pretty much made Earth habitable for us.  There’s so much I’ve yet to discover, so take hold of my forming green thumb and let’s explore!