Saturday, 15 August 2009

Am I late?

You know I have a thing about dandelions. I find these plants fascinating in many senses, although this does not really seem to be a popular opinion among lawn-owners.

One of the fascinating facts about dandelions is the way they reproduce. Many dandelion species do it by apomixis, which means they do not reproduce sexually, which means there are no two individual "parents" that produce offspring, but a single individual that produces exact genetic copies of itself.

This kind of reproduction, based on an exact duplication of genetic material, is not very different from the cellular division that happens in our bodies all the time, say when our hair or nails grow or when new red blood cells are created in our bone marrow. In a sense, dandelions or other species that reproduce asexually, challenge our conception of what an organism is.

In his book The Extended Phenotype Richard Dawkins makes a mind-blowing point about dandelions and organisms (emphasis is mine):

"Janzen (1977) faces up to the same difficulty, suggesting that a clone of dandelions should be regarded as one 'evolutionary individual' [...], equivalent to a single tree although spread out along the ground rather than raised up in the air on a trunk, and although divided up into separate physical 'plants' [...]. According to this view, there may be as few as four individual dandelions competing with each other for the territory of the whole of North America. [...]"
Dawkins, R.: The Extended Phenotype, Oxford University Press, New York, 1982, p.254

It is mid-August now and the peak of dandelion flowering season is long gone. Long gone? If you pay attention, you still might see some late-comers, those poor lazy ones that are always too late.

Am I late?

And if you come down close enough, you almost can hear them asking themselves: What is going on here??? Where is everybody???


Gitta said...

Sometime the late ones are the Best :-)they become special

Did you see a different in the steams? The ones they grow in spring you can tell they do have green steams,those in autumn most of time are dark more red.I don`t know why,but it happened.

tonicito said...

Gitta, yes, it's true, I also realized that most of late summer dandelions have a purple stem. I don't know way either!
Many thanks for you comment!
LG. T.