February 14, 2022
Since today is Valentine’s Day the comics in my local paper all seemed to make comments on the stresses of the day. Each cartoonist took a different nuance, but they revolved around the stresses felt to find just the right gift for a significant other. That was true for Beatle Baily giving a last-minute heart shot on the rifle range, to Garfield pledging never to lie and then telling one to explain why he did not give chocolates, to Dagwood providing Blondie with a food-based perfume. Melissa and I had concentrated on the Super Bowl this weekend and aside from a card, we had not succumbed to the stresses of finding the appropriate gift. Instead, we decided to celebrate by taking off early and go to the wildlife refuge to do some birding. Maybe I will sneak in some flowers later in the week when they are not expected.
People are not the only ones who face the stresses of life. Melissa showed me her campfire plant that had changed from green to a bright red from stresses faced on our patio greenhouse. When I looked online, I found the Campfire plant (Crassula capitella), also called the Red Flames or Red Pagoda, is a perennial succulent native to southern Africa. The succulent herb grows to 10-16 inches (15-40 cm) in height. The stems are either erect or rambling and mat-forming. Each stem forms roots at its internodes, and these take root if the stem lies against the ground. Campfire is mostly biennial, blooming in the summer with small white, star-shaped flowers forming all around each upright stem. The stems may be damaged when exposed to temps below 30F (−1 °C). The stresses facing Melissa’s campfire has created a beautiful change.
While there are a variety of environmental changes that stress succulents, there are three types that increase the production of anthocyanin or carotenoid which cause the plants to change colors. These are changes in exposure to the sun, temperature fluctuations, and changes in water levels in the soil. Each type of stress will cause a plant to change its production of anthocyanin, and these are the pigments (flavonoids) that give the plants their rich colors (red, purple, and blue). Plants increase these pigments when they face more sunlight to protect from damage due to ultraviolet (UV) rays. The flavonoid also provides protection from dropping temperatures, and scarcity of water will cause the plant to increase its production of anthocyanin. Growers are known to provide these stresses to the plant to give it a rich color prior to sale.
THOUGHTS: When stresses are applied to plants it can cause them to flourish. There are species like the Jack pine (Pinus banksiana) in the north central and northeastern US, and Lodgepole pines (Pinus contorta) across much of the West, that have very thick, hard cones that are literally glued shut with a strong resin. These serotinous cones are only opened by fire. Still, intense, and repeated fires may cause greater stresses than the trees can sustain. Humans may also thrive in stress, but like the trees we cannot sustain stress indefinitely. We need to find ways to deal with the stresses of our social and ecological environments. Unless the stresses are reduced, we will continue to face burnout. Do the work. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.