Updated: Aug 12
We all know that seeds from plants blow in the wind, fall from a flower head, get carried by birds etc, somehow designed by nature to help generate more plants. Firstly thats amazing on its own. Nature or 'something else' decided that it has a 'will to live'. We are used to this instinct in humans, it sort of makes sense as we have a consciousness, whether its subconsciously or otherwise, there is an in built urge to make more humans. This is now cleverly masked, and marketed as wanting to create a nice little family unit, because I want a little Johnny or a little Jane to nurture and take to the football matches or to become a 'mini me'. But at the core of it, its still a basic instinct to populate our species. So, the will to make more humans sort of makes sense. But how on earth did plants get this will to live? They dont seem to be able to make decisions or have a traditional consciousness, yet every year, multiple times a year they put all their efforts into making little seeds, and getting them spread far and wide as possible. Insert a whole load of theories on how that one started! What came first, the plant or the seed.
So I had a look at one of these seeds a bit closer, the conker, from the horse chestnut tree (Aesculus Hippocastanums). I dont have to go far to find loads of conkers in autumn, I photographed them again, as I do most years, I cant help it, they look amazing. I played with them, kicked a load of them down the road, across the park, in to the hedges, giving Mother Nature a little helping hand....
In a non technical way, I looked a little closer, trying to imagine what goes into the process of perpetuating the Horse Chestnut tree.
The green conker casing is padded with soft pulpy stuff with a harder outer green skin, peppered with needle like security spikes (which are surprisingly sharp and well spaced). Nature certainly didn't want animals getting to the seeds before they were fully developed. Then the dark brown harder case of the conker protects the inner softer 'seed' of the horse chestnut tree. To top it all, another layer of protection, they are also poisonous to some animals, They are apparently not poisonous to horses, and used to be ground up and given to horses to relieve a cough (dont try this at home!). After all this, nature also considered when and how the case will split open just at the right time, scattering the conkers, hoping some of them will eventually sprout a new shoots. I didn't cut the case in the picture above, that how it was designed to open.
I would have thought Horse Chestnut trees would have been around for thousands of years in the UK, but it looks like they have only been in the UK for about 400 years.
Trying to get your head around how this all started in the first place, just blows your mind. How did it know it needed spikes? How did it know what chemicals would be poisonous to some animals? How does it make weak joints in the casing so it splits open when the seeds are developed?, and a hundred other questions.
I can sort of imagine how humans started off (depends on what theory you believe of course), but you dont need two trees to make a baby tree. So the first tree or first Horse ChestNut tree anyway, had to grow up, with the ability to protect and produce seeds from day one, otherwise it would have died out straight away. Maybe nature got lucky with this tree, and in the distant past there were hundreds of new trees that didn't make it past tree one because its seed protection was rubbish. These days I'm sure scientists can 'design' a new tree and get it out there, by splicing all sorts of plant DNA together, but I'm sure hundreds of years ago that didn't happen by humans. Maybe aliens had a hand in covering our earth with new plant species until they self populated? hmmm.....