Education and Fun in a boxful of seeds

Children in Oregon can enjoy giant redwood forests… but here in the holy land a semi-arid climate and millennia of human abuse force us to make do with less. Still, the humble grasses, weeds, wildflowers and thorny shrubs that we do have make an exuberant comeback every spring; and they remind me of an unforgettable nature study assignment given us by my elementary school teacher long ago.

The idea was simple: we had to collect as many different fruits of wild plants as we could find. These we had to pack in small cellophane sachets and bring them to class. Sounded trivial… until, a few weeks later, I had close to 100 different specimens, enough to fill a shoebox (the universal storage solution in those pre-Ikea days). That box is long gone, but I stopped at a nearby field and shot two photos of species that must’ve been in it back then.

Plant fruitPlant fruit

In addition to the obvious fun of having to hunt through the fields, we learned two lessons: that there is a huge diversity of plant life (after all, we filled our boxes within walking distance of our homes); and that plants were fascinating! We were afforded a first hand look into nature’s manifold ingenious ways to solve the problem of seed dispersal; you can bet we also took the time to open the fruits and see how they worked…

In case you doubt this is interesting, here is a section through the fruit of the unremarkable-looking plant in the left photo. See the burrs that attach to passing animals (or kids!); the skin that is designed to break open when dry; and the seeds that would spill out at that time. Fascinating – yes, even for an adult!…

Seed pods

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