Peppy Plants

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January 31, 2008

One of the ridiculous things you might hear someone say about your vegetarian diet goes something like this: “Eating plants has got to make you wimpy, I mean, they’re so passive.” Passive, how? Tuning in to my local PBS station the other night, I was transfixed by what I saw on the TV screen. Like a living firecracker, a plant was exploding seeds into the air. A Nature program, “The Seedy Side of Plants” also showed plants hitchhiking in their relentless pursuit of survival, getting us, and other animals, to work for them in transferring their seed to fertile ground: The burrs of the burdock plant, for example, resolutely stick to hair and fur—this tenacious herb inspired the invention of Velcro. Then there are wild oat seeds, which forcefully drill themselves into the soil where they land. We could do worse than fuel ourselves on such dynamic, resourceful organisms.