Darwin’s new understanding of the living universe depicts a world positively burgeoning with crawlers and creepers, swimmers and sweepers, plodders and hoppers, flyers and floaters, divers and flippers, hiders and nabbers, chasers and standers. Millions of life forms present trillions of ingenious living strategies. Even the humblest single-celled organism is endowed with a necessary sense of light and dark, warm and cool, up and down, wet and dry, bitter and sweet – and a repertoire of tactics and abilities. Every creature, however humble its appearance, determines for itself, based on its inherent genius and capabilities, just what it must do.
A simple bean sprout must heroically negotiate its own way from below the earth, around pebbles…show more content… Should it fasten its weight to a near, but flimsy, straw – or journey a little to a firm and steady corn stalk? How far should it go? How far is too far? A lesser sprout, sunk upside down in the ground, might never exert the effort necessary for a chance of success – realizing its true vegetal destiny in the sun and rain and open air.
By systematically applying Darwin’s insights on how plants and animals change under domestication, a transplanted New Englander in California named Luther Burbank (1849-1926) proceeded to work wonders among countless species of vegetation. Exercising an unbounded enthusiasm combined with a keen sense of observation and an uncanny intuition, Burbank simply revolutionized the horticulture business. The sheer volume and undeniable quality of his output beginning in the 1880s easily overwhelmed the criticisms of old school scientists who early on ridiculed Burbank’s highly personalized methods. The secret of improved plant breeding, apart from scientific knowledge, is love,” maintained the plant sage of Santa Rosa. Burbank was often seen go onto his knees in order to befriend his plants. To produce a cactus without protective thorns, he had to endure several years of pulling thousands of needles from his hands…show more content… Burbank took plants into his confidence, asked them to help, and assured them that he held their small lives in deepest regard and affection.”27
As he worked to modify some of the fundamental characteristics of the plants in his care, Luther Burbank maintained a deep respect for their acquired resilience to change.
The most stubborn living thing in the world, the most difficult to swerve, is a plant once fixed in certain habits… Remember that this plant has preserved its individuality all through the ages: perhaps it is one which can be traced backward through eons of time in the very rocks themselves, never having varied to any great extent in all these vast periods. Do you suppose, after all these ages of repetition, the plant does not become possessed of a will, if you so choose to call it, of unparalleled tenacity? Indeed, there are plants, like certain of the palms, so persistent that no human power has yet been able to change them. The human will is a weak thing beside the will of a plant. But see how this whole plant’s