Patsy Porco

Posts Tagged ‘plants’

Plant Sex

In Humor, Sex on August 5, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Sex confuses me. Not human sex. My husband and I have a son, so we figured out the basics on that.

Not animal sex, either … except for those species that reproduce without a mate, through parthenogenesis, also known as virgin birth. That’s just crazy.

Plant sex, however, is beyond my understanding, even though I took a botany course in college. What I mainly remember from that class is getting accused of smoking pot with other students during our break. We were smoking a plant, but it was the tobacco plant, not the marijuana plant. (This was in the 1980s when smoking was allowed in the hallways. Ashtrays were outside of every classroom.  Oh, the good old days, when everyone wasn’t so uptight.)

I also recall learning that there are female and male plants. There are also some plants that have both male and female flowers. Then there are plants with perfect, or bisexual, flowers (perfect = bisexual? There’s food for thought), containing both male and female organs. Bees, insects, birds, bats, or the wind take pollen from the male and deposit it in the female. Regardless of what kind of flowers a plant has, in order for a vegetable (called fruit) to grow from the flower, plant sex must occur.

I have a friend whose asparagus plants weren’t producing vegetables. She researched the subject and discovered that the male plants and female plants weren’t getting together. She then instructed her husband to take a Q-Tip and rub it inside all of the plants’ flowers. His hand-pollination worked. She got asparagus. The irony is that she couldn’t pick the vegetables that her husband helped create because you have to let those plants mature for a few years before harvesting them. The bottom line was that they bought their asparagus that year.

I once heard a priest tell us that his mother always wanted peony bushes along both sides of her front walkway. His father dutifully planted peonies. While the plants flourished, no flowers appeared. His mother figured out that the males and females weren’t mixing it up, so his father dug up every other plant on each side of the walk and moved them each to the opposite side. The next year, there were flowers. (I think the lack of flowers had to do with how they were planted, but I kept mum when I saw him.)

This year, I’m faced with a similar situation with my eggplant plant. It has lovely purple flowers, but no fruit (vegetable, actually). I looked up eggplants and found that they have perfect (bisexual) flowers, containing both male and female organs. Even though they have all they need to produce fruit, there’s still a chance that they could use a little help. (Really? You just know that the male part won’t put down the remote for even one second.) Therefore, humans need to use a fine brush, a Q-Tip, or his/her breath to get things stirring … but sex is most fruitful between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. Occasionally, afternoon nookie works, too.

So, if I want to grow eggplants, I’m going to have to get up early and assist in eggplant sex. Apparently, even bisexuals don’t have sex all the time.

eggplant 1

Weeds

In Humor on August 21, 2012 at 2:35 am

Over the course of my mid-length and mostly unvaried life, I’ve occasionally been asked, “What the hell is wrong with you?” Until now, I didn’t have a response.

Today, while I was in my garden, staking tomato plants that should have been staked a month ago, the answer came to me: I can’t identify plants to save my life. That’s what’s wrong with me, and it’s been going on for a long time.

Because I can’t tell one plant from another, I only have tomatoes in my garden. Back in June, I planted cucumbers, beans, peppers, onions, lettuce, spinach, and God only knows what else. I even wrote what I planted on little plastic sticks and planted them alongside the plants. My dog, Rudy, decided the identifiers were toys, or food, so they were gone immediately.  I didn’t worry too much, reasoning that once the plants bore fruit, I’d know what they were.

I didn’t count on the damage I would wreak with my weeding, however. Even though I covered my garden with black plastic before planting, weeds and morning glories managed to sneak in. Weeds I can handle, but morning glories are the bane of my gardening existence. While they’re pretty, they’re a major nuisance. They grow on long vines and twist themselves all around every plant they can reach. I tried to pull them up as soon as I saw them, but their leaves are identical to the leaves of young cucumber and bean plants. Therefore, I must have torn up all of the cucumber and bean plants along with the morning glories. I also ripped up the peppers, onions, lettuce, and spinach in my haste. Somehow, though, the morning glories survived and are on a mission to strangle the remaining tomato plants.

I should know a little about plants. After all, I took a botany class in my last quarter at The Ohio State University. I learned all about the identifying qualities of leaves and how they indicated what plant they belonged to. My crowning achievement in that class was being able to identify a plant by looking up its leaf serration and flower attributes in my botany book. That was my final, and my correct identification probably meant the difference between my graduating or having to repeat the class.

The class met twice a week, in the summer quarter, from 8 a.m. to noon. During one break, I came back with several of my classmates and we were laughing about something or other. The teaching assistant, who was probably only a year or two older than I was, was not amused. He pulled me out into the hall and asked, “What the hell is wrong with you?” Unfortunately, stressful situations always make me laugh. I just looked at him while attempting to suppress my laughter. He turned a frightening purple color and said, “If you and your friends ever smoke on break again and come back in this state, you will all be automatically flunked.”

I was confused. This was, after all, a time when smoking was a college prerequisite. I just looked at him. “Why can’t we smoke on our break? There are ashtrays in the hallway.”

“You know that I’m not talking about cigarettes,” he yelled at me.

“What are you talking about?” I said between laughs.

“Pot,” he spit out.

“We weren’t smoking pot,” I said.

“Then why were you all giggling when you came back from break? And why do you stink of pot?” I didn’t answer him. I can’t recall, 28 years after the incident, why we were laughing, but chances were good that we were laughing at him.

“Get back in the class and tell your friends what I said,” he commanded. “This is your only warning. I would think that a graduating senior would not jeopardize her graduation by doing something so stupid.”  I didn’t say anything else, for fear of making the situation worse, and returned to my seat.

After the class, far from the classroom, I told my classmates what had happened and they laughed uproariously. “What kind of botany teacher thinks tobacco smells like marijuana?” they asked.

Anyway, that was the end of my botany career. I thought I’d never need it again in real life, like algebra, but it turns out I did.

Too bad I was smoking weed at the time, instead of paying attention. (I’m kidding.)

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