It’s been raining off and on for the past three days and so I’ve decided to give the actual Falls of the Ohio a pass this weekend. That, however, does not mean that my heart and thoughts are ever far from the park. Looking through my Falls image archive, I have put together a post on a topic that has been concerning me of late. Increasingly, we feel we can manipulate nature and bend it to our desires without consequences. Man has this vision that we can force nature into our template and that “she” will obey in predictable, obedient ways. Ever see a square tomato grown in a cube? Nature, however, is much more dynamic than we give her credit for and frequently presents ideas of her own. As regular followers of the riverblog may have noticed new fauna often show up here and the consensus is that their appearance is a result of our altering the environment in myriad ways. Over the last few years, I have also noticed some previously unknown plants. Allow me to present a photo-bouquet of highly questionable, potentially toxic, exotic flora.
Meet the Chemical Rose which is a new species I discovered at the Falls last year. It was found growing by an area where an unknown iridescent sheen was percolating up through the sand. It has no leaves and aside from its thorny stem, has no photosynthetic ability. This is a fairly consistent trait of these new plants. They may be parasitic or fungal-like, but I’m sure there is considerable variation on how they live. The petals on the Chemical Rose are hard and seem very much like plastic. More on this later.
It’s beautiful in its own way, but what is it? For lack of a better name, I call this a Sand Lotus. It shares some characteristics with the Chemical Rose. Notice no leaves…doesn’t need them. It’s roots go down deep in the sand. Like the previous rose, its petals are hard to withstand the rigors of the river.
I bet I walked by this strange plant many times before something told me to look again. I call this one the Petrochemical Coleus. Although it has green leaves, it does not possess chlorophyll. This specimen was growing up through the driftwood. It’s small size also makes this one hard to see and find.
Here’s the Flame Nut so-named because what passes for its foliage turns bright red when its seeds mature. Its leaves feel very much like coarse fabric and it seems to prefer sandy environments as well.
This interesting and dare I say “lovely” flower is the Faux Pink Bell. It combines characteristics of several of the mutant plants I’ve uncovered. It possesses hard plastic parts as well as the softer, synthetic petals that are fabric-like. It grows in highly disturbed, contaminated soils. Which brings me to a theory I’ve been formulating ever since I first discovered these strange plants. Although I’ve not done a chemical analysis on them, their resemblance to plastic can not be coincidental? Plastic is after all organic by definition. Plastic is derived from petroleum which is an extract from ancient life and I think there is something in the long memory of life that is presenting itself here? We know that our traditional plastics keep breaking down to the micro level. These really small particles are absorbed by living tissues. Is it possible that this plastic pollution is altering life in reaction to the many changes brought about through man’s activities? Can the long polymer chains connect with DNA? In effect, Nature is demonstrating that it is even more plastic by molding and forming new species to harmonize with the changed environment.
I came across the Polymer Posy growing in the mud. I believe this is as much fungus as anything else or a new theory has been presented. Perhaps this is a carnivorous plant that traps and eats insects? Upon inspection, there are small entry ways along its base that invite small insects like ants to go inside.
Growing out of the wood chips is this botanical novelty I’ve designated the Yellow Bittercup. Again, no leaves required. This flower can appear anytime of the year. I came across this one last summer.
The Orange Forget-me-not is indeed memorable. It is encountered among the driftwood and may in effect break down cellulose to create its own plastic structure. The holes in the flower trap, strain, and direct moisture and nutrients to its shallow root system. And now for something really spectacular in a twisted way.
I did a massive double take upon encountering the Polyvinyl Palm growing from the poor rocky soil in the western section of the park. This is easily the largest of the new plants I’ve stumbled upon in my wanderings. I had hoped to study it more, but another visitor to the park collected it. We have discovered that it is possible to change the chemical composition of the atmosphere through our combined activities. I believe we are simultaneously altering through chemistry the very organisms that inhabit this world with us with unintended consequences. How long will it take before we change ourselves into something different as well?