Sunday, 29 March 2009

Hoping for new life

I already told you about my struggle on growing Mediterranean tree species in Austria. Well, our orange trees are doing pretty well, but I am starting to loose my faith on the survival of the pine tree. I think it might have frozen as we were in Spain last Christmas.

I'm afraid the day will come when I'll have to accept the evidence and throw my little pine away. Knowing that I will be very sad about it, I decided to make up to myself for it by letting new life sprout before the day comes. Just in case.

It all started in the Paleoproterozoic, around 3000 million years ago, as the ice cap of the Makganyene glaciation (which might have covered the whole planet) retreated and left space for a vast ancestral ocean.

Two types of living organisms survived under the ice and rapidly populated this ocean. Archaea, which used several sources of energy such as sulphur or ammonia and produced methane as waste product, and a new kind of bacteria, the Cyanobacteria, able to obtain their energy through photosynthesis, a process that converts sunlight and carbon dioxide (CO2) into energy, releasing oxygen (O2) as a waste product.


These cyanobacteria were so successful at reproducing and colonising the ocean that they actually changed the composition of the atmosphere and were going to shape the world for the next 3000 million years. Before cyanobacteria existed, there was not much oxygen in the atmosphere. Free oxygen in large amounts was in fact poisonous to most of the living creatures at the time, especially to archaea. Most life on Earth vanished in what is known as the Oxygen Catastrophe(*).

But serious stress factors like this great oxidizing event are notably the source of big evolutionary pushes: a whole new kind of bacterial organisms evolved, aerobic bacteria, which used oxygen (now available in huge amounts) as a source of energy, producing carbon dioxide as a waste product. And that's not all. By an outstanding touch of genius, some Archaea, facing a serious problem in this new and poisonous oxygen-rich environment, incorporated cyanobacteria or proteobacteria (a kind of aerobic bacteria) through the cellular membrane into their cellular bodies and used part of the energy produced by them to keep themselves alive. This brilliant trick, known as endosymbiosis, would be the origin of the eukaryotic cells, which contain several membrane-bound structures, each one specialising in a different function.

Those Archaea that associated with aerobic bacteria (which needed oxygen) were the basis for the fauna, to which we humans (**) belong as well. From Archaea that associated with cyanobacteria (which produced oxygen through photosynthesis) would originate the flora, that is, multi-celled living creatures able to obtain energy from sunlight through photosynthesis.


I've been thinking about this long story, this long evolutive path, as I was sowing orange and lemon seeds to give plant life another chance. Now wake up!, you little seeds. Wake up from your long sleep, let sunshine and water put you in alert and consummate once again the miracle of life for me!

(*) This Oxygen Catastrophe in the Paleoproterozoic raised the atmospherical oxygen concentration to 4%. To reach the current level of 21% a colonisation of the land masses by plants and woods would be needed.

(**) Not all Archaea disappeared in the Paleoproterozoic. In fact, a great number of them are alive and well, living in the most incredible places. Big colonies of Methanobrevibacter smithii, for instance, live in the human gut and help us with digestion.

Taronger is the Catalan word for "orange tree".


Gitta said...

Interessanter Post,.
Ich habe heute Nachmittag auch meine Zitronenbaeumchen zurueckgeschnitten.Die Abschnitte bis auf das letzte Paar von Blaettern befreit und gleich wieder nebenan eingesteckt.So habe ich festgestellt wurzeln sie am Besten an.Selbstgezogene aus Kernen werden zwar wunderschoen und gross aber bluehen nicht,hab ich festgestellt.Ein Gaertner hat mir einmal verraten,dass man die alle "veredeln" muesste,um Blueten und Fruechte zu bekommen.
Zu deinem Pinienbaeumchen moechte ich Dir sagen ,ich hatte auch eines.Ein kleines Schwarzkiefernpflaenzchen aus einem Kleinen Samen gezogen.Es war ca 2 J.alt,dann fing es nach den Wintermonaten zu kraenkeln an.-Es starb.
Heute weiss ich ,dass ich es duengen haette sollen mit klein zusammengeschnittenen Kiefernnadeln,die im Erdreich vermischt werden sollen.Ausserdem darauf achten ,dass sich ueber den Winter nicht irgend eine Sitka oder andere Laus an den Nadeln
festgesetzt hat.Ausserdem halt ich es nicht mehr auf meinem Fensterbrett im Haus, sondern habe es vor dem Fenster in einem Blumenkasten eingesetzt.Ueber den Winter mit Kiefernadeln schoen zugedeckt aber so dass es noch gut atmen kann.Ich hab mir vorgenommen es nicht mehr so zu bemuttern,aber dennoch schoen pflegen,und vor allem darauf zu achten ,dass es nicht in Zugluft steht. Vielleicht schaffts es ja diesmal zu ueberleben.
Gib Deinem Pinienpflaenzchen eine Chance.Viel Glueck damit,LG.G

tonicito said...

Gitta said...
Interesting post...
This same afternoon I pruned my lemon trees back, too. I removed all but the two topmost leaves from the cut branches and I planted them nearby. I discovered that's how they best root. Home-grown trees from pips grow tall and beautiful but they do not bloom. A gardener revealed me once that they need to be grafted to get flowers and fruits.
As for your little pine tree, I would like to tell you that I had one, too. A little black pine grown from a seed. It was around 2 years old as it began being in poor health after winter. It died.
Today I know that I should have fertilised it with fine sliced pine-needles that have to be mixed with the soil. Besides one has to be careful not to let any "Sitka" or other bugs on the needles in winter. Furthermore I do not have it on my window sill in the house anymore, but I planted it in front of the window in a flower box. Through winter it needs to be covered with pine-needles but it must still be able to breath. I plan not to chaperone it too much, but still take good care of it, and especially do not let it be in the draft. I hope it will manage this time to survive.
Give your little pine tree a chance. Good luck with it!

Gitta, wow!, you certainly know a lot about pine trees... Many thanks for your tons of good advice. I haven't given up with the pine tree, not at all. But I still look forward to the new ones. :)
Thanks for your comment!