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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The amazing lifestyles of some plants and trees

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Some plants have been observed to grow under very harsh conditions. Some times one may spot a plant growing under completely dry conditions and may wonder about how the plant is surviving without water. On some other time one may see a plant emerging out from a thin crack of a rock and may wonder to see it looking quite happy. The explanation behind all these wonders may be that the conditions remain really not as harsh for these plants as they appear to us.

Some small plants growing under harsh conditions

Some plants appear to be growing under driest conditions but it does not stand true in all such cases. The plants appearing so, usually have developed tremendous capacity of growing their roots up to the water where ever it may be. Once, when I happened to peep down into a water tank built to store water in the campus of my house I was surprised to see numerous long filaments extending across the water of the tank from one side to the other. I could not guess about what those filaments were and to confirm I dared to take the risk of putting down my right hand up to the shoulder and touching those strange filaments with my fingers. By chance I became successful in catching some of them firmly, breaking them and bringing up out to see closely. When I crushed some filaments with the help of my toe and fore finger and smelled it deeply the smell lingered in my mind for some time and occupied a place there so deeply that I could compare the same with the smell of the roots of the Jack tree standing far away from the tank, in the opposite corner of the campus. I was astonished to guess that the roots of the Jack tree standing at fairly a long distance for this incident to happen, had travelled to the only source of surface water. Now I can guess that this is the way the roots of some trees travel deep down up to the water level of the earth.Supporting roots of banyan pierce into walls in surch of moisure which they absorb either from the driest soil or from air.Air, in fact contains lots of humidity at certain places.These powerful roots get attached to a wall, even though it may be built of cement, and absorb moisture and nutriens from it.It has not been confirmed yet whether these roots contain some types of symbiotic bacteria like those of cacti.

Amazing roots of a Banyan tree

Plants growing on dry walls penetrate their roots deeper and deeper into the plaster between the two rows of bricks and exploit as much of the moisture as they can. Such cases are more visible during rainy seasons. But to my surprise I have seen that while many plants get vanished after rains, some still stand growing happily, extending their branches in all useful directions to capture maximum quantum of sunlight, bearing flowers to attract most of the greedy insects to collect nectar out of them, and some even bearing fruits in view of dispersing their seeds to keep up some or the other law of nature, almost very religiously or “Very cleverly”- if you wish to say.

Haven’t you seen peepal trees growing on walls of some old buildings in many cities of India? You may wonder for sometime about why these trees haven’t been uprooted by the owners of respective buildings as trees growing in these conditions damage the building considerably and create very awkward scenes. You might have seen banyan trees also growing in more or less similar fashion and style. Roots of banyan remain so powerful that they can penetrate into a hard brick wall through its tough plaster or can creep up to many meters while remaining attached to the wall surface. These moisture seekers often create amazing scenes for strangers who often do not become able to trace the origin of these roots.
Some ferns like the general ferns that grow on the floor of a forest under shady conditions develop roots that wander upto lond distances in search of moisture and nutrients. If by chance they donot get these, they give birth to a new plant when in cintact with good soil, moisture and nutrients.Here is a fern grown in a pot.Though there is plastered floor all around, it is sending its wandering roots even on the well plastered floor.In this case too, we have no record of the presence of any symbiotic bacteria in roots.

Wandering roots of fern

We can regard peepal a saprophytic plant as it often grows on some dead portion of an old tree that was living sometimes ago, or whose remains are still existing inside the soil. What ever the case may be, it is true that its roots remain powerful enough to remain alive for years and to suck moisture and nutrients from even a hardest substratum.Many times when this plant is cut with a portion of root remaining inside, it again grows in the next rainy season and develops itself as an evergreen tree.Such trees a potential problems for our historial monuments and buildings of residential, official or religious importance.Here in this case too we don't have any research record of the presence of any symbiotic bacteria inside the roots of a peepal tree.

A small peepal tree(Ficus religiosa) growing on a plastered surface

The only reason behind the existence of the trees mentioned above, causing damages up to a level we observe, comes to my mind may be some religious belief of being sacred and being attached to some or the other traditionally mythological streams of thoughts. These might have been the streams of thought that might have been keeping in discipline even the greediest wood smugglers against smuggling the wood of some of the like trees. What ever the reason may be or might had been, we have no aim of talking about conservation right now.

The aim of writing these words is just to show wonder on the abilities of some plants and trees to survive under even the harshest conditions. Many species of cacti have been spotted to grow on hard rocks and they have been reported to be getting support from specific symbiotic bacterial strains in their venture. These bacteria have been reported to live inside the plant body endophytically and even to occupy their places inside fruits and seeds. Scientists like Dr Yoav Bashan, a biologist at the Northwestern Center for Biological Research in La Paz, Mexico; are of the opinion that the specific entophytic bacteria start dissolving a portion of rock where the seed of the plant starts sprouting up. Since the rock dissolving bacteria are found inside the seed, the seed has no difficulty in growing on a hard habitat like that. Further, as the cactus plant ones becomes able to penetrate its roots inside the crack or pit engineered by the symbiotic bacteria, it becomes able to convert the rock into soil bit by bit to provide chances of colonization to the secondary colonizers.

Walls of old houses are damaged further by numerous verieties of small plants who possess better survival skills. These plants usually grow in rainy seasons and remain in hurry to complete their life cycles within the same rainy season. These plants have been known to have powerful roots to absorb moisture and nutrients as per their requirements.These plants produce numerous seeds that are disseminated here and there by the agencies of wind, insect, or human beings.Seeds of these plants bear different types of structures that help them in their dissemination up to long distances.If by chance some seeds of these plants are destroyed, no matter. Other seeds are there to produce new plants.Some plants of this category grow at the same place again and again in every rainy season. They die there and their body parts are decomposed there to mix into the soil and to prepare fertile soil for other species of plants to colonize , survive and develop. Thus the succession goes on to end into a rather bigger and evergreen plant to occupy the habitat permanently it human or animal interference does not come to disturb at all.

Wall flora-1

Wall flora -2

Wall flora -3

Wall flora -4

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