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  • This is News?

    Posted by James R. Rummel on May 26th, 2005 (All posts by )

    So whats the most successful plant on the planet? Which species has the greatest biomass?

    Trick question. The answer is a few types of sea-growing algae.

    Okay, so whats the most successful land-based plant on Earth? The answer is rice. Its not only the single species with the greatest biomass, but it also has the greatest growing range. With the rather notable exception of Antarctica, its being cultivated right this minute on every continent.

    Its no accident that the favorite food of the most successful non-insect life form on the planet is also very successful. We make sure that this is so. We have to. If we didnt aggressively cultivate food crops then there wouldnt be enough for about 90% of the people alive today.

    But we do more than protect and extend our food supply. We also shape it through the centuries. Ancient man cultivated seeds from the plants that produced the highest yields in an attempt to get more bounty from less work. The most striking example of this can be found by comparing the size of corn ears (aka maize) from ancient times to today. The evolutionary pressure that caused such a massive change in so short a time was entirely due to humans.

    The reason why Im boring all of you to tears with this opening lecture from Archeology 101 is due to this news article, which states that the main reason why flowers are so varied and successful is due to the emotional reaction that most people have for them.

    Well, DUH! Every culture that has developed agriculture and lives above a subsistence level cultivates flowers. There has to be a reason why, and getting your favorite girl to crack a smile is one of the best there is.

    If anyone is interested in this subject, I suggest that they read The Tulip: The Story of a Flower That Has Made Men Mad. Pretty good stuff.

     

    3 Responses to “This is News?”

    1. Steven Den Beste Says:

      And what animal releases more CO2 into the atmosphere into the air every year than any other?

      Termites.

    2. Steve Says:

      This is news.

      It is fascinating that certain food plants have yoked humans to their cultivation. Rice has ensured the survival of its genes through the dissemination of their seeds far from their home range.

      I’m planting a Siberian tomato in my northern Arizona garden today that is called Black Prince. It’s supposed to produce fruit at temperatures under 40 degrees fahrenheit, helping this high-altitude gardener extend his growing season. With my help, it may become a weed in next year’s tilled garden beds.
      -Steve

    3. marie Says:

      There’s also a book named Tulip Fever that was going to be made into a film but the funding fell apart.

      “It was, to be sure, a time of stunning economic lunacy, when a single Semper Augustus bulb could be sold for “six fine horses, three oxheads of wine, a dozen sheep, two dozen silver goblets and a seascape by Esaias van de Velde.”

      I hope they make this eventually.