|Aww, Aren't They Cute?
The first plant in the garden I noticed coming up this spring, was the chives. The sight of a tight clump of bright new green stems, three inches tall, pushing up a couple of dead gray tree leaves ... made my heart thump. I let out a squeal: ooh, look at you!
So much feeling, for such a prosaic plant. Not even flower buds. (Though chive flowers are actually quite pretty, they come in June.) What made me excited?
Its babies. Little things growing, the mystery of possibilities unfolding. Humans and I bet other animals, too are genetically programmed to respond to babies with attraction, protectiveness, the impulse to cuddle. Tests show were responding to specific aspects of a babys appearance: rounder body, small nose and mouth, big eyes, head bigger in proportion to the body.
Not only human babies. Think of puppies and kittens. Also I remember baby chicks my parents bought one Easter. Its easy to understand us humans feeling this instinct toward other animals, because their babies physical aspects are similar: even the chicks beaks were smaller, proportionately, than adults chickens.
But the chives? Not much body fat or short nose there: maybe Im just sensitized to plants, from all my relationships with them; maybe Im anthromorphizing.
What could be the evolutionary advantage for a human instinct to protect baby plants? Well, it would have helped learn agriculture, and therefore supplied food.
But studies show more: humans simply thrive better in natural surroundings, in relationship to plants and animals. Entomologist Edward O. Wilson talks about biophilia: our feeling of connection to all of life, a natural empathy. The evolutionary advantage of biophilia is the inspiration to conserve the natural environment that nourishes us in many ways, not just food.
The second plant I saw sprouting, was a tiny, single, round, shiny, dark green cotyledon (seed-leaf), out behind the compost pile where invading lamiastrum got pulled out last year.
Cotyledons may have some characterstics of the true leaves of the plant, but theyre still quite different, since theyre mainly the contents of the seed, a food bank for the plant. This looked a little like the leaves of partridgeberry which Id love to see growing there! But though that plant is growing nearby, it didnt fruit much last year. Its more likely to be a baby lamiastrum. But Im glad I cant tell yet, its so cute.
What are you going to become, little plant?