One of the things about doing geology is that it gets you into the habit of staring at the ground. And when you do that, you notice things. Alas, here in the Puget lowland the things usually aren’t geological in nature. But they’re still pretty.
This cluster of botany was on a little mound, and couldn’t have shown off a nice selection of the local flora better if it had been planned. The brilliant red stuff caught my eye first, of course, and then I spent a moment admiring the progression from moss to scarlet plant to our lovely bittercress.
There’s some complicated chemistry going on in those red leaves. I’m very nearly sure that color is caused by anthocyanin, which is thought to act like sunscreen for baby and other vulnerable leaves. Yes. Even here, some plants slather themselves in sunscreen rather like people worried about skin cancer. I wonder if some of them might be doing it because they’re not locals, and hence evolved for more unfiltered sun than we get here.
I love the little hairs. Those are trichomes, and they’re relatively common, but not always obvious. Hairy plants always look a little strange to me, but there are good reasons for those hairs being there. Here, let Wikipedia tell you about some:
It is likely that in many cases, hairs interfere with the feeding of at least some small herbivores and, depending upon stiffness and irritability to the “palate”, large herbivores as well. Hairs on plants growing in areas subject to frost keep the frost away from the living surface cells. In windy locations, hairs break-up the flow of air across the plant surface, reducing evaporation. Dense coatings of hairs reflect solar radiation, protecting the more delicate tissues underneath in hot, dry, open habitats. And in locations where much of the available moisture comes from cloud drip, hairs appear to enhance this process.
So there you are. If you’re a plant, you’ve got lots of reasons to grow hair. And if I ever get a wild hair (ahaha), I’ll write about sentient, mobile plants that have developed obsessive rituals about their hair, including shaving it off for no apparent reason. Sound like any species we know?