Take the Scenic Route
ET was a botanist. The mission that brought him to Earth (and into the care of young Elliot and Gertie) was to gather specimens of plant life in a Californian forest.
Who knows the state of his own planet—whether the purpose of the mission was vanity project of curiosity, or whether it was an altruistic journey in the hope of finding a cure for a devastating intergalactic disease. Whatever the case, he was motivated by a desire to learn about something unfamiliar and organic.
When I saw the posting for the lunch lecture and tour of the greenhouses at the University, I leapt. I love greenhouses, and am in desperate need for fresh oxygen and warmth amid the dismal winter slush and smog. And it was a chance to see where and how botanists do their work.
A Living Stone plant was sitting complacently amongst the cacti and succulents in the Arid room. I saw spikes and spires that must have influenced Art Deco and Surrealist periods alike. It was strangely soothing to share space with this bunch of wacky pre-historic organisms.
The Orchid and Fern room felt like a spa. It was beautifully moist, and the air was cool and tender with green, while the Tropical room was full of fronds and wide-leaved beauties. I saw a coconut sitting next to a pineapple, across from a pepper plant, a coffee plant, and a fig bush–what a climate!
These innocuous looking specimens are called Butterwort. Though their leaves look soft and delicious, they should not be confused with buttery Bibb Lettuce. These babies are carnivorous. They will taste you back.
If I were an insect, I admit I’d be tempted too. After the breathtaking Pitcher Plants, we were given a quick tour of the lab greenhouses, where more experimental work is done. Our planet needs some serious help, and these hallowed halls are where the next world-saving botanist may discover a stable and sustainable biofuel, or a clever way to reverse the Earth’s greenhouse effect. Or even just an effective and sustainable way to grow more pesticide-free food locally.
At home, we’ve started sprouting lovely organic alfalfa, sunflower, and radish seeds in a countertop germinator that has us glued to the progress of our fledgling lunches. The darling green wisps emerge from dried out inanimate (dormant, I’ll allow) seeds, with nothing to encourage them but water and the scant February sunlight.
This is miraculous. And tender. The green is soothing and refreshing at the time we most need it. And aside from the incredible nutritional value, these delicious specimens are a fantastic learning opportunity for our own seven-year-old sprout.
We need natural, healthy, virtuous plant life in order to live and thrive on this planet (and, apparently, so do extra-terrestrials). Are there budding botanists amongst us? How do you get your green fix in the bleak mid-winter, Earthlings?