Then come the males, spreading their milt – the fishy version of sperm – over the eggs. Raw determination to keep the species alive and thriving
Fertilization. It happens in the nests, it happens in the creeks and streams, and it’s happening right now in the peninsula’s forests.
The trees of course don’t take their eggs and sperm to nests or creeks. Branches and roots aren’t designed for swimming. Rather, they keep their egg-like parts in the same branches that support the eagles’ nests.
But while the eggs are doing their female thing, there are also male parts doing their fertilization thing. It’s amazing too, the similarities among all the plant and animal creatures and how they get it done.
Testimony: Clouds of pollen, like green banks of fog, waving through and along piney forests. Lines of cars waiting to go through car washes. Windshields caked with nature’s version of Dr. Seuss’s oobleck. Fine and persistent as oxygen, but far more irritating. Mr. Natural says: “’Twas ever thus.”
But meanwhile, those pesky and insistent male parts fulfill their role. Cones on the candle-like parts of the pines manufacture and store their dry version of sperm in the cones until the crowding swells them to the point of bursting. Then, it only takes the least disturbance by wind to trigger their explosive release. Some call it denouement. Others call it orgasm.
OMG! Here comes the pollen. Everywhere, making damn sure that enough is produced to envelope and fertilize those gentle eggs for the production, all over the planet, of the trillions of trees generating life-sustaining oxygen on which we depend.
Tiring isn’t it?
Climate change may be intensifying pollen production. That’s according to a recently published study in Nature Communications – at nature.com – from researchers at University of Michigan’s Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering. Through extensive research of related data and studies, scientists found that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere because of our warming planet can be taken advantage of by vegetation, enhancing photosynthetic capacity and “likely increasing pollen production.”
The study reports that over the past few decades the planet has been experiencing longer and more intense pollen seasons. The researchers, with extensive attribution and analysis, conclude that timing and magnitude of pollen production will be altered by climate change. That means our pollen storms may begin earlier in the spring and last longer than the current two to three weeks of peak production we now experience.
And so the circle continues.
This week my neighbor moved a hive of bees to the front of his house, not far from my garden.
As he was unloading the hive from the back of his truck, I saw some of the inhabitants swarming around his ungloved hands. They tested his patience, especially with me trying to glean information from him in the midst of his painful operation.
“I’m glad you’re bringing those bees here to help pollinate my lima beans.”
He didn’t pause; he didn’t skip a beat.
“They’ll pollinate you if you stand still!”
That put me in mind of a scene earlier that day when I watched a waterman sticking his experience-thickened hands into a bushel basket of beautiful new-season blue crabs he caught that morning. Bare-handed sorting. Impressive.
Stinging honey beans? Snapping crabs claws? Not sure how to make that choice.
I’ll stick to pondering pollination and the sweetness of honey and crabmeat.
Dennis Forney has been a publisher, journalist and columnist on the Delmarva Peninsula since 1972. He writes from his home on Grace Creek in Bozman.
Photos by Dennis Forney
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