In early 2012, a group of Russian scientists discovered a seed cache of Silene stenophylla — a flowering plant native to Siberia — that were radiocarbon dated to be approximately 32,000 years old. The team carefully extracted the tissue from the frozen seeds and successfully germinated the plants. They grew, flowered, and, after a year, created seeds of their own.
Whether one year or 32,000, the fact that a seed grows at all is miraculous.
A few weeks ago, my wife and daughters painstakingly removed unwanted grass and weeds (plants in the wrong place) from a small planter area designated for strawberries and raspberries. A few seedlings had already emerged from unpicked fruits that seeded the soil at the end of last season.
Yesterday, I knelt on the cool grass by the planter area and carefully removed newly emerging grass and unwanted vegetation from the area. With a small shovel, I disturbed the soil enough to remove the roots of the invasive species. Worms busied themselves burrowing back into the damp soil and a few garden spiders scurried away from my hands as I broke clumps of dirt.
I lifted the dirt in my fingers, examining the minute details of the dark, rich earth. My wife has, in particular, gone to great lengths to nourish the otherwise rocky, sandy soils typical of our region. Year after year, she had added top soil and fertilizer to ensure things grow well. Unfortunately, much of the time the plants that grow are not the ones we want.
Kneeling there, I contemplated the significance of the strawberries and raspberries of the previous year returning as new plant this year.
Gardening is an exercise in optimism. Sometimes, it is a triumph of hope over experience. — Elizabeth Murray
A seed is a remarkable thing. It can lay dormant on a shelf for hundreds of years yet remain viable. During the proper season, as soon as the seed is placed into the ground and provided with needed nourishment, it will grow. The seed knows what to do: absorb water, begin metabolic activity, respond to light, and undergo division and continue metabolic processes. The embryo axis eventually becomes a seedling which, with needed nourishment, will turn into a seed-producing plant of its own.
So many parallels in everyday life can be drawn from planting and nurturing a seed, but I want to focus on the face value aspect. Whether you believe intelligent design or biological lottery-winning, the fact that a seed grows is a miracle!
Just think about it for a moment. Any one of hundreds of thousands of plant species reproduce in essentially the same way: at some point in their life cycle, the plant produces seed. Sometimes, they are few in number. Sometimes, they number in the tens of thousands. A seed falls to the earth or is transported away or harvested intentionally. Then, when conditions are favorable, the seed springs into action and begins the entire process again.
This is awe inspiring.
A significant portion of the earth’s land area is compatible with growing vegetation. Vegetation grows in even inhospitable places. It often grows uninvited and unattended. So, what follows should be an easy experiment for many people. Get a small cup and fill it almost to the top with dirt. Then, take a seed of any kind and push it into the soil. Place the cup somewhere that sunlight will hit the soil for at least part of the day. Give it a little bit of water every day for a couple of weeks. While you can’t see what’s happening beneath the soil, if you watch closely you’ll start to see the soil rise before the seedling breaks the surface. (GPhase 25-day time-lapse video of a kidney bean plant)
Without doing much, you become a participant in creation. Enjoy!