A tiny plant in a box with its lunch

The pit of an avocado, the black dots in your banana, the gushing of watermelon seeds as you spit them out, the acorn scurrying away in the firm grip of a native red squirrel, or, as an old professor of mine said, a tiny tree in a box with its lunch. Seeds are incredible things.

Seeds, in a nutshell, branched off from its original design millions of years ago. As with the famous question of whether the chicken or the egg came first, the same question can be asked of flowering plants and their pollinators. There are two basic types of plants: (gymnosperms {gymno = Greek for naked} and angiosperms), all somewhat determined by the type of seed it has.

In extremely basic simplified terms, one makes some specific types of evergreen trees and the other is a large category for flowering plants. It would be too much to go further into classification and the different types of seeds and that’s not the point here. Just as long as you can appreciate the long history of greenery is good enough for now.

Seeds and pollinators go hand-in-hand (or, petal in … pollen sack?). The plant makes itself attractive so that another life form can plant its seed for them. Sticky burrs (the inspiration behind Velcro) are really just seed transportation vessels designed to cling tenaciously to a passer-by until they are shed and planted again. Fruit is just a sweet package that will be excreted in some mighty fine fertilizer. The bigger the seed, the bigger the intended pollinator.

The evolution of seeds is utterly fascinating. Animals have devised clever ways to transport seeds. A multitude of birds actually eat stones so that they can break the tough shells of seeds in their gizzards (a pre-stomach sac for better digesting tough foods).

Animals develop specific tastes. Why? Because plants want their seeds to live on! They evolve so that they can flourish. The better looking the “food”, the higher chance there is of transmission.

Pockets of people in different corners of the globe have recognized the uniqueness and importance of seeds and have set up seed banks. This is especially pertinent since there has been a severe, devastating decrease in plant biodiversity since the onslaught of biological tampering. Monstrous corporations such as Monsanto and Cargill have attempted a monopoly on certain crops, making food more vulnerable than it’s ever been.

A healthy ecosystem, even a farming system, needs a healthy amount of biodiversity in order to thrive. It’s like eating peanut butter sandwiches day after day, year after year and expecting to stay healthy and productive.

You need more, or else the internal flora of your intestines will just be coated with sticky glutinous, moldy peanut-bread mash. Seed banks are here to look out for our future by providing healthy alternatives for plant propagation.

Another way to allow seeds to do what they are intended to do is to compost. This permits the plant in question to fulfill its purpose in life, giving it at least a shimmer of a chance to be transferred into a living force.

Placing your discarded seeds, specially if it is from an organic source, is an act that allows the seed to be a creator and do what it was intended to do. A mere tiny seed is all it takes to ward off hunger is the majority of the world. We take it for granted since we don’t see the process and miracle of life.

Another way that seeds can be used is in metaphor. Planting the seeds of a new future is a cheesy, but commonly used term and helps us visualize the reality of what could be.

A great tragedy has befallen one of the poorest countries in the world one week ago today. I hope you will take personal initiative and help sow seeds of healing for the people of Haiti. The CBC has provided a list of organizations on their website through which you can donate money for relief efforts.

This sudden change is devastating, but the wheels of time do not stop. Not for pity, not for vanity. I urge you to help, in whatever capacity you are able. The mighty sequoia began, after all, as just a little nut like you.

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