A PLANT FROM OUTER SPACE?
Two major living things dominate the planet earth—the animal and the plant kingdom. Man, of course, belongs to the broad category of animals (even if Boy Abunda and Vice Ganda had objections to it.) Plants include the tiniest algae up to the giant trees of the Amazons.
My special interest here is on plants.
There are plants with special features helping them cope and repel predators. Other plants can survive and even thrive in hostile environments, such as cold, drought, salty waters, high altitude lands and rocky Mountains. However, I have yet to see a plant subsist in an environment without AIR! Real plants and not the plastic or resin ones.
And this is the tale of what I have discovered lately. Retirement gave me that precious period to use time in a manner which would satisfy my curiosity.
Sometime ago while loafing near the church yard, I noticed a beautiful swarming plant near the grotto that I could not resist in plucking a stem. Knowing that it is one of those succulent plants, a hardy and enduring herb, planting it anywhere would not in any way make it wither. It is low maintenance and ideal for busy bodies like me.
The plant looks ordinary, a common succulent plant and endemic in tropical countries. I googled the plant to check its name. I got some names like Agavoideae, Cactaceae, Crassulaceae, so on and so forth. I almost choke in pronouncing them. Anyway, I tried to look at the pictures of the succulent species, their family and sub family but I could not get one, even something familiar.
Botany is Greek to me but I love plants. I probably inherited my father’s green thumb and fetish for gardening. And so when I saw that the succulent which I placed atop the soil of a potted palm plant, in just a couple of weeks, grew and branched out quite profusely, I was impressed. I thought it would not survive and if at all it lives, it would just protrude in one corner. It did not. It literally covered the entire vacant space of the big pot where I laid it down.
I plucked a few stems and introduced it on smaller pots and after a few days, it grew healthy even if I simply arranged it in one corner of my garage. I thought of plucking a few shoots and bring it in my library to contribute oxygen to my book congested library. The plant seems to enjoy humidity anyway. To my mind, the plant might enjoy further its stint because of the continuous smoke from my cigarettes.
One day, out of boredom, having read three books already, I tried to be a little punishing, much like my schedule before I retired. I produced a sealed bottle, placed dried white sand and along with the plant, gave it company, a couple of pesky winged ants which would oftentimes fly over my computer monitor, attracted by its radiation. And so, I made an accidental experiment just for the kick. It was not to torture a living thing but merely to observe if only for a few hours.
Eyes need relaxation after a rigorous reading spree.
And there it was a terrarium of sort.
Unfortunately, I have forgotten the whole experiment. I got busy with my facebook posts, writing blogs and reading a number of books I have missed for a time. Time flew fast. I never realized that I had one research going on. I placed the sealed bottle near my book shelf, in a corner I almost would pass through without noticing.
It was after a week when I was about to clean my room that I realized my botanical folly. The sealed bottle where living things were kept has been there all along. I lifted the bottle and saw the winged ants splayed lifeless while the plant, the succulent , still hale, ascendant, stiff, as in proud, and hearty. It is as if I just placed it inside the bottle a few seconds ago. I felt pity to the poor ants but the plant, how come it is still alive when for more than a week, there was no air in that seal compartment. It was weird.
I checked the internet if there is a plant that can live without air. There was none.
I cancelled all my appointments that day to browse on botanical books and references I could get my hands on. I could not believe that there is a living thing in my room which can endure a long period without air. Of course, the plant has no nose and lungs but surely its petals or probably its stems and roots have some kind of a mechanism where air is trapped for its purpose.
It has been said that succulents are drought resistant plants in which the leaves, stem or roots have become more than usually fleshy by the development of water-storing tissue. Other sources exclude roots as in the definition “a plant with thick, fleshy and swollen stems and/or leaves, adapted to dry environments.” Like any dessert or highland plant however, they need bright light and fresh air, and they need a cool, dry weather to rest as well.
Well, that was the most I could find on the net and in my library.
The problem with pseudo scientists like me is that we seldom know what to do given a specific unnatural situation. Well, the most that I could do is merely to observe the object, give it some time to gestate, react or develop some kind of response or any form observable. I could not make something out of my findings. I could not even brag to my neighbor that I have a plant that can survive in outer space. The problem there is that my neighbor might not greet me anymore. Worst, those who take interest in what I was doing might think I am a cookoo already!
But seriously, I have this strange plant growing in my backyard which is as perennial as the grass. But unlike grass that turns brown when it has not been watered for days, this plant takes everything in stride. It flourishes without water and alive without any atmospheric assistance at all.
All that I know is that without enough carbon dioxide in the air, ALL plants can’t survive. Now how do I classify this “thing” now?