Roger J. Wendell
Defending 3.8 Billion Years of Organic EvolutionSM


Plants, Botany, and Plant Biology

Huge Plant at OKC Hotel - 2006
The inside lobby of an Oklahoma City hotel
I've always loved plants and growing things. I started small gardens and miniture "nature centers" during my pre-teens and have carried that love with me through my 50s when I decided to create this page. My guess, too, is that more gardens and plants around the world would add to Biodiversity, and slow Climate Change but that's another story...

- Roger J. Wendell



YouTube Logo - Small Click Here for my YouTube video of pollen being blown off an Austrian Pine...

"People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us."

- Iris Murdoch

Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for my page about biodiversity...
Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for my page about animals...
Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for my page about insects...
Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for my page on Evolution...

(Click on any this page's "thumbnail" images for a larger view)

Grand Canyon flowers:
These are from my April, 2006 backpacking trip with Doug and his son Bobby.

Grand Canyon Flower - 04-20-2006 Grand Canyon Flower - 04-20-2006 Grand Canyon Flower - 04-20-2006


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In January, 2006 I took a trip through Ecuador
to do a little climbing and hiking around...

Amazonia Rapid Plant Movement - Ecuador, January 2006
Rapid Plant Movement
Rapid Plant Movement
This strange little plant folds up anywhere along the leaf where you touch it!! After a few minutes it unfurls itself and returns to normal. In this particular photo I tried to capture just half of the leaf structure folding up. Either way, it didn't appear that the plant was preparing to "eat" anything (in a way similar to our own Venus Flytrap) - its reaction to touch seems to be some defensive mechanism. I believe this species may be related to Mimosa pudica ("Sensitive Plant") but am not sure...


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In early May, 2006 I took a business trip to Bandera, Texas that included some spare time around the San Antonio airport area and the Alamo. Texas is much warmer than my home state of Colorado so I was fascinated at the variety of green and flowering plants at a time when there was still snow on the ground in my backyard at home!

Plant in Bandera, Texas - May, 2006
Flower and Insect in Bandera, Texas - May, 2006
Plant in Bandera, Texas - May, 2006
Mayan Ranch at Bandera
Plant in Bandera, Texas - May, 2006
Flower in Bandera, Texas - May, 2006
Flower on a Fence in the town of Bandera, Texas - May, 2006
In the town of Bandera...
The Alamo, Texas - May, 2006
The Alamo
Alamo Cactus Garden, Texas - May, 2006
The Alamo
Alamo Cactus Flower, Texas - May, 2006
The Alamo
Alamo Cactus, Texas - May, 2006
The Alamo


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"...it has proven worthwhile for communities to make a public commitment to providing land, horticultural training, soil and compost, and other means of support to enable people who want to garden to do so. Whether people are motivated by the myth of self-reliance, the fear of a cataclysmic event, or simply the wish to make something ugly into something beautiful, society should permit them to stand in humble repose on their own tiny plots of land and to make what magic they can of it. Doing so affords them the opportunity to come together in community to grow plants and to experience for themselves the pulse of the seasons marked by the productions of the earth"

- Mark Winne
Closing the Food Gap (Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty), p. 45


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Barbed Seed Burrowed Into My Skin by Roger J. Wendell - 07-05-2010 Seeds have always fascinated me as well. Sometimes I see them twirling to the ground like small helicopters off a Maple tree while at other times I see them slowly drifting through the breeze like little ephemeral puffs of cotton off a dandelion, milkweed, or cottonwood tree. However, I think July, 2010 was the first time I ever had a seed burrow into my skin! I don't know what plants these seeds are from (photo at left) but they easily went through my socks while hiking near Red Rock Amphitheatre west of Denver. After removing my socks I actually had one that had burrowed into my skin. And, just like a fish hook, refused to reverse its course? Despite the small amount of paint I remained fascinated by the hardened, barbed tip head of this particular seed. And, when a little moisture hit its "tail" the whole thing start to twist and bend - a "burrowing" action to help find its way into the ground I'm sure!


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Yellow Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for my notes on Composting (on my Recycling page)...


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Bird Head Orchid
Bird Head Orchid
"Orchids can be fickle and fascinating plants, and scientists are really only beginning to understand them. Some remain dormant underground for years, presumed dead by those looking for them. Some bloom for only one day each year. And all germinate from seeds as small as dust."
"With an estimate of at least 25,000 species in existence, and new species being discovered regularly, orchids are believed to be the world's most diverse family of flowering plants. They outnumber all mammals, reptiles and birds combined. And scientists estimate that they account for about 10% of all flowering plant life on Earth."
"But, that impressive quantity and diversity have made ensuring their future a costly challenge. Of the 200-odd species of orchids native to North America, more than half are threatened or endangered ins some part of their range."
- text by Jenny Rogers
Nature Conservancy Magazine (Winter 2020)
Secret Garden (Unearthing the mysteries of orchids.), p. 46


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Plant Evolution
From Lee Billings' Five Billion Years of Solitude
(The Search For Life Among The Stars)

"Two evolutionary innovations spurred the colonization of land, each involving the harvest and transport of water. Land plants 'vascularized,' developing roots to draw water and nutrients from the earth, and they also began building their bodies from lignin, a durable carbon-rich macromolecule strong enough to bear water's heavy weight. The resulting vascular, lignin-rich plants propagated across the continents. They doubled the planet's photosynthetic productivity and dramatically altered the planet's carbon cycle. Once again, life and its environment were shaping each other in a powerful, world-changing feedback loop." p. 131

"A lucky few anaerobes, by dint of mutation and natural selection, adapted to tolerate the newly oxygenated atmosphere and ocean. Some of these new breeds of aerobic prokaryotes, in fact, took revenge on their conquerors by engulfing the cyanobacteria into their bodies as cellular slaves, making oxygenic photosynthesis their own. This process, called endosymbiosis, was what gave rise to the first eukaroyotes, cells with centralized nuclei and specialized cellular structures. Modern plants are green because their cells contain chlorophyll-filled 'chloroplasts' - structures that are scarcely distinguishable from cyanobacteria. The cells of modern plants and animals alike also contain enclosed structures called mitochondria, which ware the cellular components that allow all eukaryotes to draw metabolic energy from oxygen - that is, to breathe. Chloroplasts and mitochondria each carry DNA independent of their host organism, confirming that both are captive descendants of prokaryotes incorporated into eukaryotic cells sometime in the latter half of the Proterozoic." p. 143


Fossil Plants
From Theodore Delevoryas' Morphology and Evolution of Fossil Plants

"The most convincing evidence of plant evolution is the record of fossil plants. Documented deep in the earth's crust are the progressive changes and modifications undergone by various groups of the plant kingdom through millions of years. Every year, students of fossil plants unearth new specimens that help piece together what paleobotanists hope some day will be a continuous story of the development of the plant kingdom from an age of more than one billion years ago to the present time. During that long period of time profound changes have occurred in the plant world. Groups have arisen, flourished, and become extinct; without the fossil record present-day botanists would be unaware that such groups of plants ever existed."


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History of Grass
From Nicolette Hahn Niman's Defending Beef
(The Case For Sustainable Meat Production)

"To fully appreciate the importance of grass, we must go back much further in time, even before the appearance of Homo sapiens. Prehistoric earth was not, as is commonly believed, thickly carpeted from ocean to ocean with damp ferns and towering trees. Ancient flora was highly varied, and from at least 65 million years ago, it included grasses. Probably not coincidentally, and likely due to climatic changes, grasses emerged around the time of the disappearance of dinosaurs, which had previously populated the earth for 160 million years.

"From approximately 20 to 10 million years ago, grass began to proliferate in earnest. Changes in the earth's climate are again likely responsible. Initially, carbon dioxide levels dropped, followed by a period of time in which atmospheric carbon dioxide sharply increased, to about 400 ppm (similar to today's level). Amid such fluctuations, grasses had a photosynthetic advantage over other plants. Around the same era, forest-clearing wildfires became common occurrences on the earth. Into these newly opened spaces, grasses (along with forbs, other non-woody vegetation) filled the voids. Resulting from some combination of atmospheric changes and forest fires (scholars debate which factor was more significant), grasses carpeted the globe." pp 57-58

"There are substantial scientific evidence both that humans influenced the way grasses evolved and that grasslands were a major factor in the way humans evolved. Born to Run, Christopher McDougall's fascinating best-selling book about traditional people who engages in long-distance running, expounds on the idea, known as the Running Man theory. It argues that it is the human's capacity to run extremely long distances (not just 26 miles, but 50, 75, and more) - farther than nearly any other animal - that was the secret to our ancestors' hunting success. Not speed but endurance was the species' trump card. However, hunting based on outlasting your prey only works if there are vast open ranges where the prey can be spotted and followed even after a burst of sprinting to escape. Thus, the theory argues, open, grassy areas were essential to humanity's success as a species." p. 59


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The Sexual Selection and Evolution of Plants:
From Bill Nye's, Undeniable (Evolution and the Science of Creation) pp. 58-59

"In fact, lilies, like every other sexual organism on the planet, work pretty hard to produce a means to mate. If you haven't already, stop and think about how much energy a plant puts into creating a flower. In general, a green plant such as a lily, rose, hickory tree, Ponderosa pine, or bull kelp, has leaves, needles, or fronds to collect sunlight. And in general, the other structures such as stems, trunks, or stipe serve to support the leaves in an efficient or efficient-enough fashion. What else does a plant do besides look to soak up light? The answer is simply: make more plants, which is not easy.

"Plants go to great lengths to reproduce. It takes a lot of a lily's energy to produce flowers. It takes a great deal out of an oak tree to make thousands of acorns. In that case, the tree is, in turn, counting on squirrels to forget where they hid a few acorns, so that a new oak tree might grow nearby. Apple trees and orange trees go to all kinds of trouble to grow fruit, so that some guy like me or my local Los Angeles 'citrus mice' (rats) will wander off with a piece and spit out the seeds on suitable moist soil. Palm trees grow coconuts the size and toughness of cannonballs, so that they can float their seed to another island. Just consider how much less energy it would take a lily or a cornstalk to grow and thrive if it didn't have all these seeds to sow.

"And there is more. It's not just that these organisms are growing viable seeds. It's also that these organisms are growing structures such as flowers, pistils, stamen, eggs, and pollen to get a mix of genes, before the seeds are sent off. It's all sexual.

"A rosebush has woody canes to give it structure. It has thorns to discourage animals from climbing on the canes or perhaps using them for a nest. Producing canes takes energy. But just look at the resources and energy rose plants expend creating elaborate blooms and hips (roe seeds). They produce attractive flowers not to avoid germs or to make it through a cold tough winter, but to get their genes mixed with the genes of other individuals that are selected on account of sex. They do it to attract pollinators, like bees and birds, that stop by for some nectar and carry some pollen when they fly away."


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A Sterile Earth
From Donald R. Prothero's, The Story of Life in 25 Fossils
(Tales of Intrepid Fossil Hunters and the Wonders of Evolution) pp. 68-69

"We look at the amazing forests and grasslands of Earth and glorify in the 'green planet' that grows so much plant material that can sustain so many different kinds of animal life. But it has not always been this way. Earth was a hostile, barren place for most of its 4.5-billion-year history. There were no land plants that could live on its harsh surface, so bare rock was exposed to intense chemical weathering, releasing all its nutrients into the ocean without any marine organisms to absorb them. The only photosynthesizing organisms for the first 1.5 billion years of life's history were blue-green bacteria (cyanobacteria), which lived in the shallow waters of the oceans and formed stromatolites. Then, about 1.8 billion years ago, we the first evidence of algae, which are true plants with eukaryotic cells (having a discrete nucleus for their DNA, plus organelles such as chloroplasts for their photosynthesis). Both cyanobacteria and algae continued to grow huge mats of slime on the shallow seafloor."

"The extremes of heat and cold, the intensity of rainstorms and runoff without the protection of plant cover, plus the absence of an ozone layer (because of the lack of free oxygen in the atmosphere) meant that few plants could venture out of the water and onto land. As long as there was no ozone layer, both plant and animal cells would be bombarded with high levels of ultraviolet radiation, which causes mutations in genes and eventually kills cells. Only the protection of being immersed in water screens most life from ultraviolet light without the protection of the ozone layer.

"Based on chemical evidence, it appears that about 1.2 billion years ago the first organisms began to colonize land. They were probably very simple associations of algae and fungi called cryptogramic soils, which are very similar to the crusts of organic material found on the desert surface when it is not disturbed. The lichens that break down bare bedrock are an example of this because lichens are not an organism, but a symbiotic association of algae and fungi. The cryptogamic soils would have been the only life on Earth's surface and would have served to help bind and stabilize the land against erosion by wind and rain, even as they helped marine algae and cyanobacteria pump more and more oxygen into the atmosphere.

"Naturally, with no significant plant resources to consume on land, there was no animal life on land, either. Animal life needs not only food to eat, but also enough free oxygen in the air to breathe - which apparently did not accumulate in the atmosphere until about 530 million years ago. The combination of extreme heat and cold, lack of shelter and food, and unchecked erosion made the land a dangerous habitat that most creatures could not yet exploit."




Plant Animation Links:
  1. Amazonia
  2. Animals and wildlife
  3. Ant Web
  4. Backyard Wildlife
  5. Biodiversity
  6. Biology
  7. Biomimicry
  8. Bioneers
  9. Climate Change
  10. Colorado Native Plant Society
  11. Colorado Natural Heritage Program
  12. Crop Trust - Svalbard Global Seed Vault
  13. Deep Ecology
  14. Ecological Footprint Calculator
  15. Evolution
  16. Extinction
  1. Fossil Fuels
  2. Game of Life by John Conway (1970)
  3. GMOs and Cloning
  4. Game of Life by John Conway (1970)
  5. iNaturalist.org - Connect with Nature
  6. Insects
  7. iPlants - Index of all the world's plant species
  8. Life
  9. Paleontology
  10. NIISS - National Institute of Invasive Species Science
  11. North American Orchid Center
  12. Science Stuff
  13. Travel and Travel Two
  14. USDA - Plants database for the U.S. and its territories
  15. WIPS - Western Interior Paleontological Society
  16. World Charter for Nature - United Nations
Plant by Roger J. Wendell - circa 1964
Drawn by me at about age 9




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