Aside: this has turned into a post with a lot of quotes… Not my normal style but I couldn’t decide which ones to cut…
We’ve seen a lot so far about the harmful and healing properties of plants, about plants as active agents who stand their own ground. Now I thought I’d take a closer look at the plant itself, starting with at the beginning of the story with the seed.
Seeds are like teeny tiny tardises. They often look insignificant but give them time and the right conditions and they can grow up to be giant redwoods or an endless tangle of thistles.
What is a seed?
A seed is an amazing package of plant food and growth instructions carefully enclosed in a protective coat. Once the seed starts to grow, this food will nourish the plant embryo. Seeds are on their own in this world. No parent to protect them and love them and tuck them up in bed at night.
What happens to a seed?
Left to their own devices, seeds wait. And they wait. And they wait. Until conditions are just right for them to grow.
There is a perfect time for everything. If the tulip surfaces in the heart of winter, the bitter winds won’t give her a chance.
– Rebecca Campbell
Most seeds wait a year at least and one seed is known to have waited over 2000 years. They have to time things just right. If they start to grow too soon they will die and if they wait too long they will die. Life is tough for seeds. And whilst they wait, they are alive. They may look like dried out dead things but this isn’t the case. They have to be able to sense conditions so they know when the wait is over. Sadly, most seeds die before conditions are right.
The first thing a seed needs to do when they decide the time is right, is anchor themselves. Then the root grows down into the soil to find water. This leaves a critical few days where the remaining food is used to start growing upwards. At this time the plant can’t produce its own food and this is one reason why humidity, light and other conditions must be perfect.
To help the plant out, the embryo contains two tiny leaves which are used to help the plant limp along until it has enough food to grow proper leaves. Once the plant has leaves, it can start to photosynthesise and produce sugars. Meanwhile, the root network below ground will have been developing. Both as an anchor for the plant and to find water. The roots also intertwine with other plants’ roots to create a web through which messages can be sent to alert neighbours to danger etc.
But as we have a tenancy to do, humans interfere with seeds. We use them as food – sunflower seeds – and as medicine – poppy seed heads – and even in paints (linseed oil), preventing yet more seeds from living out their long lives.
How do seeds differ?
Size is an obvious way that seeds differ. We have coconuts which are seeds as large as your head and we have orchid seeds who are so tiny that a million of them is the equivalent in weight of a paperclip. They also come in a variety of shapes; bean shaped, square, triangular, egg shaped, ovals and more.
They vary in appearance depending on how they are dispersed. For example, those spread by wind need to be lightweight and include fluffy seeds like dandelions or aerodynamic ones like sycamore seeds. There are seeds which are carefully contained within yummy fruits so that animals eat them and spread them. Some seeds even need to be digested to maximise their chances. I can’t remember what species but some seeds have a protective coating on them which gets stripped by stomach acid.
Once fire has cleansed and healed the land, new life is born. Seeds that require intense heat to burst them open start to grow and blossom.
– Speaking with nature
Seeds of different plants also need different conditions to flourish in. For example there are some plants who’s seeds spring into action following intense heat such as a forest fire. This means they take advantage of increased light and reduced competition.
Seeds also provide us with a huge array of metaphorical value. We have the concept of men sowing their seed through to great things grow from tiny acorns. They feature especially in religious contexts and in personal growth. They are also used a lot to depict a small action today having a huge impact in the future and doing work now for future gains.
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.
― Robert Louis Stevenson
A tree is no more valuable than a seed. Both are simply at a different stage in their development.
― J.R. Rim
There is also something awe inspiring and almost magical about what is contained in a seed.
From one seed a whole handful: that was what it meant to say the bounty of the earth.
― J.M. Coetzee
Dreams are the seeds of change. Nothing ever grows without a seed, and nothing ever changes without a dream.
– Debby Boone
Resentment buried is not gone. It is like burying a seed – for a season it may stay hidden in the dark, but in the end, it will always grow
– Beth Underdown
Ace of Pentacles
Whilst we’re looking at seeds and their imagery, I’d like to turn briefly to the ace of pentacles from the wild unknown tarot deck. This card, for me, sums up the power we all have within us.
Side note; I compare different ace of pentacles cards in my post about the RWS deck which gives a flavour of the other ways of looking at this card. I find the wild unknown version to be very empowering and relatable.
The ace of pentacles asks me what is it that must be planted, what is it that is growing inside you and needs nurturing? It is about the potential for strength, greatness and manifestation. A reminder that it takes time and effort for a tiny seed to grow into a might tree as well as practical resources like light, food, water and love.
Right now that spark of an idea or a plan is carefully protected from the outside world, waiting for the right time to venture out. Equally, they will only grow if we let them out into the world. We cannot keep the magic curled up inside us forever, to do this is to deny ourselves of our potential.
Within my homemade little white book, as well as meanings of cards, I include quotes which feel relevant for each card. Here are a few for the ace of pentacles:
“May we ground the seeds of light that are in our hearts. May we anchor them into the earth.”
– Rebecca Campbell
“You have an acorn in you, you are a certain person and that person begins to appear early in your life, but it’s there all they way through your life”
– Thomas Moore
“All plant life starts with a seed. A seed is filled with potential. Nature’s intelligence has created a blueprint that programs each seed to thrive and be healthy. When we learn about the power, potential and inner wisdom that each seed has, we learn a lot about ourselves”
– Speaking with nature