Monday, November 25, 2013

Selaginella Doesn't Smell Like Vanilla

Reply to: a horribly ambitious and terribly long project


The other day my hummingbird tried to cross my bougainvillea with my geranium.  The other day I tried to cross my Psychilis krugii with my Sophronitis brevipedunculata*.

The hummingbird and I are having a competition to see who can create the best crosses.  He's probably winning by virtue of creating far more crosses than I do.  Sure, I can cross more things than he can...but he's got the heart of a champion...while I have the heart of a dreamer.  Plus, he's not limited by minor details such as walls, fences, other people's property...

So if a tree Aloe starts naturalizing here in Southern California...chances are good that the hummingbird can take all the credit...errr...blame.  Same thing with Tillandsias.  And Echeverias...and Aeoniums.  

If an Aeonium would compete with the natives.  Would it compete our Dudleyas out of existence?

We definitely wouldn't have to worry about a Tillandsia competing the natives out of existence.  We have perhaps one native epiphyte...a fern...but I don't think a fern would be completely beat by a Tillandsia.

Should Southern California have only one epiphyte in the wild?  Is that the argument that some are making?  I think we should have 100 different epiphytes completely naturalized here.  Naw, who am I kidding?  I wish there was an infinite variety of epiphytes growing on the trees here.

Not just here of course...but everywhere.  I want to climb our mountains and see Tillandsias and orchids growing on Methuselah trees.  I want to fly to Arizona and see Tillandsias and orchids growing on Saguaros.  And when I fly to Florida I want to be amazed by the diversity of epiphytes on all the trees.  When I'm driving anywhere I should strongly desire to stop the car every 10 feet because I know that I'll be dumbstruck by the variety of epiphytes growing on any tree.  I guess I'd just have to walk everywhere.  It would probably take me forever to go anywhere because every 10 feet I'd look up and say "woah" and use my Google Glasses Go to share the 10 minute video on my facebook page where billions of my followers would all say "woah".  Heathens would wonder what all the "woahing" was about.

How's the argument go?   We have enough species of epiphytic orchids in Florida?  Or is the argument that Southern Florida should have more species than Northern Florida?  Or is the argument that the population size of each species is perfect?  Maybe the argument is that the perfect amount of trees in Florida have the perfect amount of Encyclia tampensis?

Heaven forbid Encyclia tampensis end up in Georgia...right?  I went to infantry boot camp there...Ft. Benning.  I remember eating a wild persimmon before it was ripe enough.  :(  I was always hungry in bootcamp.

So there I would have stomach grumbling...I see a tree with persimmons.  As I grab a persimmon I spot an Encyclia tampensis blooming on the branch.  *woah*   Good thing that never happened.

Good thing it only happened once when I was stationed in Panama.  There we were...struggling, slipping, sliding single file through the dense jungle.  Each of us carrying around 100 pounds...sweat dripping...wait a minute palm spines...crazy caterpillars... and then just one time...right in front of me was an orchid in bloom on a tree.  *woah*  I turned to my buddy behind me, pointed at the orchid and said "woah".  For some reason he wasn't dumbstruck.  It wasn't magical for him.  The jungle wasn't transformed into a cathedral where the holy of most holies could burn his eyes.  He didn't realize he was suddenly in the presence of the sacred.  What a heathen.

What orchid was it?  That's a good question because...some orchids are more magical than others?  How unmagical would it have been if the orchid had been Sobennikoffia robusta?  Maybe at least -100 on the magic scale.  The thousands and thousands of trees I passed without a single orchid on them were far more magical.  The first thing that would have popped into my head was my grandfather saying, "a place for everything and everything in its place".

Me: Hey you!  You're in the wrong place!
Robusta:  What's wrong with this place?
Me: Clearly it's not Madagascar
Robusta:  So?  I'm an epiphyte, my place is on a tree.  This is a tree so this is my place.
Me: But you're crowding out the native orchids.
Robusta:  *looks around*  You think there's a long line for this real estate?

Oh, now I really want to cross Sobennikoffia robusta with Dendrophylax funalis.  If I lived in Florida and did the cross...then heaven forbid the horror show should escape into the wild.  Sobenniphylax would take all of Dendrophylax lindenii's real estate.  Even worse if they crossed?  Heaven forbid I artificially create a fitter monopodial orchid that spread like soft butter over warm bread.  Eh?

The 11th commandment...

Thou shalt not create a fitter monopodial orchid.

God works in mysterious ways?  So does my hummingbird.  I really don't think he's all there though.

If we care about the continued existence of monopodial orchids...shouldn't we be striving to create fitter ones?  Survival depends on fitness and fitness depends on the combination of "inputs".  Therefore we limit fitness by limiting possible input combinations.

Limiting input combinations is putting too many eggs in the same basket.  It's making the argument that a certain combination of inputs provides sufficient fitness.  No, there are always better combinations of inputs.  This is because the earth is always getting hotter, colder, drier,'s always changing.  If we want more, rather than less, orchids in the future...given that we don't have a crystal would behoove us to hedge our bets.

Maybe the future will be too dry and hot for Dendrophylax funalis, Dendrophylax lindenii and Sobennikoffia robusta...but just right for Sobenniphylax?  Nobody can know now whether this is true.  But we can know that we decrease our chances of success by limiting the combination of inputs.

Imagine a tree with many different epiphytes.  It's swarming with many different pollinators.  Each one conducting countless crazy crosses.  Now imagine a myriad of these trees/laboratories.  This is how we hedge our bets.  This is how we try and ensure that the future is as magical as possible.  

So please cross lindenii with...

Aerangis somalensis
Angraecum erectum
Gastrochilus formosanus
Neofinetia falcata
Papilionanthe teres
Pelatantheria insectifera
Phalaenopsis taenialis
Plectorrhiza tridentata
Renanthera imschootiana
Rhynchostylis retusa
Vanda coerulea/tricolor

Attach the crosses to your trees and let's learn which combination of inputs creates the fittest individual.  Whichever one makes it to Ft. Benning first is the winner.  Whichever orchid distracts hungry/tired soldiers the longest is the winner.  Whichever orchid creates the most magic is the winner.

*doesn't taste like an enchilada...and Selaginella doesn't smell like Vanilla

No comments:

Post a Comment