Plants, a potted history

This month I’m considering plants, but I’m not going to dwell too long on trees as trees and forests seem to dwell in a specific niche of literature which is an interesting focus in itself.  I will return to enchanted woods and trees later.

Humans and plants is an extensive topic and I’m currently thinking that I’ll look at a few ways we use plants and perhaps focus on some specific plants.  I will also be looking at plants in literature.  I will also be looking at the history of gardening separately.

But first, let’s get a feel for the plant world.  We say plants but it is a categorisation which covers such diversity and various stages of evolution.

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, everything was barren.  This was 4.5 billion years ago.  By 3.9 billion years ago, the first signs of life were appearing, single cell organisms.  It took until 2.7 billion years ago before the bacteria began producing oxygen.  A critical point in the history of this land for without oxygen, the future would have been very different.  Oxygen levels rose and rose and by 541 million years ago multicellular life appeared.

The next step in the history of this world was a giant one.  470 million years ago, plants moved out of the water and onto the land.  By 450 million years ago, animals, plants and fungi begun to colonise the land.  This changed the world from one which looked barren (unless you were in the water) to one which was starting to become alive.

These plants weren’t like the beautiful roses and tulips we know today. They were bryophytes.  They had moved out of the water in search of more sun, more carbon dioxide and more nutrients but doing so was a risk because the water was the only home they knew.  They reproduced in the water and leaving it came with the risk of drying out.  So, these bryophytes had to adapt, and they did so by covering themselves in a waxy layer called a cuticle.  This stopped them from drying out which was really helpful but they had to stay near water as that’s where they still reproduced.  And they couldn’t grow very tall because they didn’t have a vascular system to pump water around them.


Next to appear in the landscape were the ferns. Like the bryophytes, they still reproduced in water but they had developed a vascular system which pumped water from roots to shoots and upwards.  This allowed them to grow a lot bigger.  But still, plants congregated where water was available as it was their only means of reproducing.

A huge development 320 million years ago changed the landscape dramatically.  Seed plants had arrived.  And with the creation of seeds, plants could now roam further than they had been able to before.  These plants, gymnosperms, had also developed needle like leaves which helped retain water.

These plants lived in a very different world to ours.  It wasn’t until 250 million years ago that the ancestors of dinosaurs and mammals started to appear on the scene.  And whilst the land was now increasingly covered in plants, there were still no flowers.

The dinosaurs, dominating the planet from about 230 to 65 million years ago, started life in a land of ferns and seed plants but by the time they left, flowers were taking over.

Flowers and fruits didn’t appear on the scene until 135 million years ago.  These had the protective cuticle, they had the vascular system which was so important to size and they had the seeds of the gymnosperms.  But instead of having naked seeds which were reliant on the wind, the angiosperms had attractive fruits and flowers to lure animals into helping with their reproduction.  These plants would become the most diversified of the plant world.

65 million years ago, dinosaurs died out and mammals started to diversify.  By 55 million years ago, primates had started to appear.  But it wasn’t until 300,000 years ago that man arrived.  It would take until 60,000 years ago for humans to begin to leave Africa and start to colonise the rest of the land.  And it wasn’t until 10,000 years ago that agriculture began.  And once again, this land changed dramatically in appearance.

Tomorrow I’ll be looking at a more recent change in the landscape and to the distribution of plants, that of gardening.



Some more interesting reading to tickle your mind:

Sorry for the random capitalisation of words, I’ve copied and pasted titles and can’t be bothered changing them…

Link roundup

I’m not especially intending to make these link posts regular but I keep reading some interesting stuff!


I was totally about to start this as an email.. my brain is truly made of fluff…

I did a round up of random links recently and wanted to do another.  I don’t work and I spend a lot of time online, reading interesting things and often want to share them, so here we go:

Offline, I’m always reading about 50 books at once…

  • Jailbreaking the Goddess by Lasara Firefox Allen, which I am reading slowly and working with my house of helens with it
  • Attatched: The New Science of Adult Attachment by  Rachel Heller and Amir Levine
  • The Smart Girl’s Guide to Polyamory by Dedeker Winston
  • The Elements of Psychosynthesis by Will Parfitt
  • If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie
  • The Seasons by Nick Groom
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
  • Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb (which I am reading really slowly because I don’t want to finish the series…)
  • The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M Auel

I’m always interested in what other people are reading so do let me know!

Spontaneity for the non spontaneous 

I have never been known for my spontaneity.  And it’s even harder to be spontaneous when you factor in the wheelchair and my health and needing someone with me for support.  There are so many factors which just make it more complicated.  So I tend to have a very planned out life.  If I want a day trip, I need to provide at least a months notice.  There is no waking up and thinking what a nice day it is and trundling off to the seaside.

Even though I am not a spontaneous person, it still bothers me that my life is so orchestrated.  I have to be home at set times for care, I can’t do anything without checking access etc etc.

Anyway, this isn’t going to be a long grumble.  Each week(ish), I’m drawing a tarot card and reflecting on it as the week passes and it’s helping me to deepen my understanding of the cards.

Last Monday I drew the Ace of Wands.  A card all about new beginnings, about adventure, about just going for things and excitement and, yes you guessed it, spontaneity.

I didn’t think about it much throughout the week, it was a busy week and I was tired.  Then I went to pull my card for the week today and as I did so I had a think about how the Ace of Wands showed up in my life over the last week.  And actually, in my own way, I have been spontaneous.

On Monday night I booked a tattoo for Wednesday afternoon.  This on the surface seems more spontaneous than it is – I had already been in contact with the artist, knew what I wanted etc. But I was expecting the time between booking and appointment to be at least a few weeks, not two days.  This spontaneous, ‘I’ll just see if he has space on the off chance and heck if my carer is up for a road trip’ paid off really well.  I have a gorgeous tattoo and I didn’t have to spend ages trying to coordinate everyone involved (me, tattoo place, carer with car who is willing to drive that far and care agency).

Whilst it wasn’t completely off the bat spontaneous, it was nice to do something that hadn’t been epic-ly planned weeks in advance.

My second encounter with sponteneity didn’t go so well…  I was planning on a trip to the museum on Monday but when my carer arrived it was fantastic weather and it seemed a shame to be inside.  So we went off to a wood for a walk.  We missed the turning (overgrown hedges hid the sign) and when we finally got somewhere we could turn around there was a sign to a national trust property.  We decided we’d go there instead.  When we arrived, we found out we were an hour before opening (who opens at 10.30?!) but no worries, there is a farm shop and cafe on site.  Which doesn’t open on Mondays.  So we turned around and went back to the woods.  Where I got bitten by something evil and my leg has swollen up and is red and angry and itchy!

So, my rambling is basically my realisation that I can be spontaneous.  I just have to plan.  Which sounds contradictory.  And it is to a certain extent.  I can’t just turn up somewhere and hope they have wheelchair access.  But what I can do is collect information as I go about my life and then, when I’m feeling spontaneous or it’s a nice day or whatever, I have the info to hand so I can check if it’s viable.  Like with my tattoo, I’d already done the leg work long before I booked the appointment.

How do other people balance spontaneity with the necessary need for planning?

The Relationship Escalator

I came across the phrase relationship escalator a while back and it really helped me reflect on how I think about relationships and how relationships factor into my life.

The relationship escalator is the belief that a relationship is not legitimate unless it is following the standard upward trajectory: dating >sex>exclusivity>moving in together>marriage>kids>’til death do us part. There is a deeply ingrained expectation that if a relationship is truly “serious”, it will automatically lead to these things.

-Dedeker Winston

I have found it such a helpful concept for self reflection and I hoping this blog post will also help me to solidify my own feelings and ideas and approaches to relationships.

I’ve never felt an urge to be engaged or married.  I am, despite what this blog might suggest, a fairly private person.  If I am in love with someone then to a certain extent that’s pretty much just about the two of us.  I have never yearned to stand up in front of people and declare my love.  So this instantly takes out two stages of the relationship escalator; engagement and marriage.

And I’m not going to have children so that’s a third stage removed.  And if we stick with the escalator metaphor, society starts to ask what the destination is.  If I’m not going to get married and I’m not going to have children then where is this fictional relationship going?  What is the point of it?

Add into this my decision that I will not share a bedroom with someone in the future (I need to be able to turn my audio book or kindle on any time of night and I toss and turn and go to the toilet about a million times, I make a terrible sleep time partner) and society starts to freak out.  What is the point?!  Where would any relationship go?!

My lack of interest in marriage, my inability to have children, my sexuality (bi) and my disability all make it considerably easier to get off the escalator.  I’ve removed three steps, I’m self aware about sex and relationships through years of coming to understand my sexuality and my disability means that a lot of people don’t see me as sexual.  For some people, I’m not even going to be able to get on the escalator (which is probably for the best, wheelchairs and escalators get messy…).

This is a bit scary in some sense but incredibly liberating at the same time.  I have a clean slate, free from some of society’s expectations, to create my own road map for my relationships.

For years I’ve been pondering monogamy and my personal feelings about how it fits with me.  There was a moment I remember very clearly. I was walking along a particular pavement and I was thinking about polyamory.  At that time, my thinking was that I can see that it would be good for some people but wasn’t for me.  At the time, jealousy, attachment issues and lack of self esteem all meant that I could not healthily enter into a relationship with more than one person.  At that time, I had assumed I would always feel that way.  This was a long time ago, pre disability, pre latest mental health breakdown, and things change.

At that point in my life, I was following the script which said that you had to find someone you wanted to be with all the time and they would meet all your needs and you’d live together happily ever after.  I knew I wasn’t looking for my other half – I was already whole and I was quite stubbornly vocal about the use of language which suggested otherwise.  And I wasn’t expecting a disney prince or princess to whisk me off my feet.  But I had still bought into the idea that the mystical person I would be in love with would be everything to me.  And that folks, is utter crap.

No one can be everything for someone else.  You have different friends for different reasons.  The friend you go wild with.  The friend who loves nothing better than a cup of tea and to watch a film on the sofa with you.  The friend who you pour your heart out to even though you haven’t seen each other in ages.  So why do we expect our romantic relationships to be different?

Whilst my imagination has drifted towards open relationships, it wasn’t until a year or two ago that I realised that this was actually an option.  So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and pondering and learning.  Whilst I feel like polyamory might well be the path for me, I want to know that even if I decide that monogamy is best for me that it is a conscious choice, not default behaviour.  Which is very much in line with my entire ethos.

A rather random roundup of links

I’ve been stumbling onto some interesting reading online recently and I wanted to share:

Have you read or written anything interesting recently?  Share the link below!