A journey into the eyes and mind of a naturalist.

A Year in My Yard: Strength in Diversity

When we look at each other we can very quickly pick out the subtle differences between individuals, our brains are hard-wired to identify faces and pick up on the minuscule changes in facial muscles.  We can apply this ability to detect differences in individuals in other familiar species like dogs, cats and horse as well.  However; our ability to detect those same differences between two individual plants does not exist.  A white oak is a white oak and we don’t see the individual traits that make it an individual.  We group plants into a single label when, like us, each individual has their own traits and variation in their genetic code.   One way to see these traits is in the visible differences in the color of their flowers.

However; our ability to detect those same differences between two individual plants does not exist.  A white oak is a white oak and we don’t see the individual traits that make it an individual.  We group plants into a single label when, like us, each individual has their own traits and variation in their genetic code.   One way to see these traits is in the visible differences in the color of their flowers.

Look at the following pictures of two individual daffodils from April 17, 2016.  They share the same structure and shape but are very different in color.  This is equivalent to a blonde and a brunette hair color in humans.

 

So why all the variation?  The more diversity in the individuals the more resilient the species is for survival.  If a disease or predator targets a specific trait the other will still survive.  This is the foundation of the principle of natural selection; those individuals who have the most advantageous traits live to produce the most offspring.

Humans have taken advantage of this variation to produce the myriad of “breeds” of flowers, animals and other plants that we call domesticated.  We have exploited that variation for our own needs and have transformed the world around us as a result.

Here are some updates of other flowers blooming in my yard:

April 16, 2016

 

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Little Leaf Buttercup:  It looks like a weed but has beautiful little flowers before the grass is green

 

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White Trout Lily:  For a very brief moment I thought I had a rare variety of trout lily but alas I have the “common” variety.  Although looking at this tiny flower is anything but common.

 

 

 

 

 

April 17, 2016

 

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Periwinkle:  This spread like fire and is used for ground cover in the landscaping in my front yard.

 

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White Hyacinth:  In my never ending battle against deer and rabbits I have to spray my new shoots with a mix of egg and water.  This one got nipped before I got out there.  You can see the snipped leaves, thankfully it didn’t snip the flower buds!

 

 

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Brunnera:  This delicate little flower is right outside my front door and adds a little splash of color to the browns and grays of spring. 

 

 

 

Final thought:  Looking at the diversity of all the different shapes, shades and sizes of flowers present in my own yard I cannot help but see them all as variation within one common ancestral flower that bloomed millions of years ago.  The diversity found within that species lives on in each new bloom.

Up Next:  Why flowers?

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