A Flower or a Weed?

Daisy - A Flower or a Weed?
This wildflower can be found growing in fields and meadows. Its soft petals and yellow core make it universally recognizable. Many related plants are called daisies, but the common daisy (Bellis perennis) is native to Europe and is sometimes called the English daisy due to its native location. However, daisies have become so prevalent around the world that some say they make up almost 10% of all flowering plants on Earth. This leads to the question of whether it’s a flower or a weed.

The name “daisy” comes from “day’s eye” because the head closes at night and opens with the sunrise. You may look at the common daisy and believe that the head is a solo flower. In reality, it’s a composite flower made up of a cluster of flowers called an inflorescence. Each inflorescence grows on a single, leafless stem with rounded leaves growing from the base. Common daisies resemble another wildflower known as chamomile. However, chamomile has multiple flower heads growing on the same stalk.

Common daisies are robust and can thrive in many different types of soil, in full sun or partial shade, as long as minimum temperatures remain above -30 degrees F (-34 C). They grow on every continent except Antarctica. Daisies can grow in practically any valley, meadow, or field. If the conditions are right, daisies will populate themselves in enormous numbers engulfing the ground like weeds. A meadow full of daisies is a beautiful natural scene. However, in some areas, they are considered to be invasive weeds. In fact, they are so hardy they may crowd out noxious weeds. So is it a flower or a weed?

Daisies are beautiful to look at, but they can also be beneficial in other ways. Daisies can help improve the biodiversity of the household garden by attracting pollinating insects as well as birds that feed on the insects. Young daisy leaves can be added to salads, and they supply vitamin C. The buds and petals are also edible in soups or salads. Some people have also used them for treating gastrointestinal disorders. Children use them to make daisy chains, and young women count the petals to the refrain “he loves me; he loves me not.”

So the question of whether it’s a flower or a weed depends on your perspective. We prefer to think of them as flowers. Whether wild or cultivated, we find the number and variety of flowers in the world amazing. Apparently, God loves beauty, and He has given humans the ability to enjoy it also. After all, the Creator made us in His image.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Zoopharmacognosy Animal Doctors

Zoopharmacognosy Animal Doctors Zoopharmacognosy is a word you don’t see every day. It’s actually a combination of three Greek words which mean “animal” (zoo), “drug” (pharma), and “knowing” (gnosy). It refers to animals using plants, soils, insects, or drugs to solve specific medical problems. It is animals (not humans) medicating themselves. Mammals, birds, and even insects use zoopharmacognosy to cure medical problems, and sometimes to prevent them. Here are a few examples.

It is fairly common to see a sick dog or cat eating grass to induce vomiting.

Sick chimpanzees swallow bitter leaves of Aspilia, a plant that contains an anti-parasitic chemical. The leaves are covered with bristles and bitter tasting so the chimps roll up the leaves and swallow them whole like we might take a pill.

Others chimps and bonobos with diarrhea will split open the stem of an Aframomum plant and suck the bitter juice. The juice contains chemicals which kill parasites which cause diarrhea.

Spider monkeys in Brazil have been seen eating seed pods from a tree known as monkey ear or elephant ear (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) during mating season. The fruit contains progesterone which promotes female fertility.

Brown bears make a paste from the chewed roots of osha (Ligusticum porteri) mixed with saliva and rub it into their fur to repel insects and soothe the bites. The plant contains coumarins which repel fleas and ticks.

To get rid of lice, many songbirds with put ants on their feathers or even roll in an anthill. The ants secrete formic acid, which kills feather lice.

Ants infected with Beauveria bassiana, a soil fungus, will eat harmful substances that are antifungal.

Many kinds of animals will eat dirt to absorb toxins, to combat parasites, or as an antacid. Sometimes they eat dirt to supplement minerals that are missing in their diet.

Pregnant elephants will chew the leaves of a specific tree in the Boraginaceae family to induce labor. Kenyan women make tea from those leaves to help with childbirth. In many cases, people have learned medicines and tonics from animals.

There are many more examples of zoopharmacognosy in which animals act as their own doctors. How did animals get this knowledge? It seems to be instinctive, not learned. Perhaps this instinct was put within the genetic code of these animals by their Creator.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

California Poppies Thrive

California Poppies ThriveThe past twelve months have been a time that most native Californians will never forget. After several years of drought, the entire state was affected by massive forest fires. When the fires were finally out, it seemed that everything would get back to normal, but then the rains started. Between the heavy snow and the unusually heavy rains, massive flooding became an issue. Without vegetation to stop the runoff, gloom and doom predictors were having a field day. The future looked bad, especially for southern California, but then came the California poppies.

I recently got a letter from a friend of mine who lives in southern California. The letter included pictures of what a few months ago was ugly, dark-colored, barren rock. The new images were ablaze with color. The California poppies withstood the fire because their seeds are not combustible and germinate faster in the conditions the fires produced. The seeds are also shaped in such a way that they don’t wash out even in heavy rain. With no competition, no predation to destroy the young plants, the poppies grew and bloomed like crazy.

Norma Privitt writing in the July/August/September 2019 issue of Power for Today described it this way:

“What a year this has been for California poppies! Abundant rain has unleashed God’s glorious array of orange flowers over all the barren hills. Even the limitations of TV do not restrict the obvious explosion of color. We traveled to view the poppies in previous years when their glory was only a smidgen of this year’s, but so many have made this year’s pilgrimage their cars line both sides of the roads, and finally, shuttle buses have had to be arranged. It almost seems symbolic that the plant that will anchor the soil and allow the land to begin to recover is a plant that blooms with brilliant orange drawing attention to God’s provision, even when human greed and abuse cause pain.”

Through California poppies, God has provided a way to bring beauty and hope even when things look dark and bleak.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Saguaro Desert Old-Timers

Saguaro Desert Old-TimersThe saguaro (pronounced suh-wah-roh) cactus is found only in the Sonoran Desert areas of southern Arizona, northern Mexico, and a small area of southeast California. We call them saguaro desert old-timers for a good reason. Saguaros grow very slowly as a single stem for perhaps 75 years before developing arms. Plants with five arms may be 200 years old.

Saguaro flowers bloom at night from April to June. They close by noon the next day, never to open again. Saguaro flowers can only be fertilized by cross-pollination so there must be a creature to carry pollen from one plant to another. Because the flowers bloom at night, bats are the pollinators. They drink the nectar and transfer pollen from plant to plant.

A successfully pollinated flower will produce a green, oval-shaped fruit with bright red pulp. Many desert creatures eat the fruit and aid the saguaros by spreading their seeds. Only a small percentage of the seeds will ever germinate, but that’s okay because each flower produces as many as 4000 seeds.

Not only do the saguaros have a symbiotic relationship with the bats which consume their nectar and the many creatures who consume its fruit, but it also provides shelter for many desert animals. Saguaros become apartment houses for birds, lizards, desert rodents, and reptiles, as well as a whole entourage of insects.

Saguaros are remarkably well-designed for life in a dry climate. The outside of the plant has pleats like an accordion. The pleats allow expansion for storing large quantities of water when the rains come. As with other cacti, the saguaro has needles rather than leaves to reduce the loss of moisture by transpiration.

Saguaro desert old-timers are designed in a marvelous way to live in the harsh conditions of the desert while providing food and shelter for various desert creatures. They are another indication of a Master Designer of life.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Romantic Get-Away Inside a Sponge

Venus flower basket
The Venus’ flower basket (Euplectella aspergillum) is a deep ocean sponge with fascinating properties and an unusual symbiotic relationship with a pair of crustaceans. We call it a romantic get-away inside a sponge.

The Venus’ flower basket is classified as a glass sponge because its body is made of silica, which is chemically the same as glass. The silica fibers are woven together to make a hollow, cylindrical vase-like structure. The fibers form a fine mesh which is rigid and strong enough to survive deep underwater. The picture shows a Venus’ flower basket more than 8400 feet (2572 meters) under the ocean’s surface.

Glassy fibers thin as a human hair but more flexible and sturdier than human-made optical fibers attach the sponge to the ocean floor. The sponge forms the fibers at ocean temperatures while human-made glass fibers require high-temperature furnaces to melt the glass. Human-made fibers are brittle while the sponge’s fibers are more flexible. Scientists are studying these sponges to find ways to make better fiber-optic cables.

We think it’s amazing that the Venus’ flower basket lights its fibers using bioluminescence to attract prey. Even more interesting to us is the symbiotic relationship these sponges have with some crustaceans called Stenopodidea. The Venus’ flower basket holds captive two of those small shrimp-like creatures, one male and one female, inside the sponge’s hollow mesh tube. The captive creatures clean the flower basket by eating the tiny organisms attracted by the sponge’s light and consume any waste the sponge leaves. The sponge provides the crustaceans with protection from predators.

As the crustaceans spawn, their offspring are small enough to escape from the basket and find their own sponge-home where they grow until they are trapped. Because a pair of crustaceans spend their lives together inside the sponge, Asian cultures sometimes use a dried Venus’ flower basket as a wedding gift to symbolize “till death do us part.”

The Venus’ flower basket and the crustaceans benefit each other by mutual cooperation, which we call symbiosis. One more thing, the bioluminescence comes from bacteria that the sponge collects. This amazing three-way partnership occurs deep under the ocean where humans have only recently explored. We think this romantic get-away inside a sponge is another evidence of Divine design, not chance mutations.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

LGBTQ Lifestyles and God

LGBTQ Lifestyles and GodIn yesterday’s post, we said that homosexuality is perhaps the most inflammatory issue of our day. We emphasized that even though Bible passages such as Romans 1:24-28 condemn homosexual behavior, Christians must have love and compassion for everyone, including those with LGBTQ lifestyles. We concluded by saying that there are probably many causes of homosexuality, but God is not one of them. What are some possible causes and consequences?

Ellen DeGeneres is a well-known gay celebrity and advocate for LGBTQ lifestyles. She recently shared her early life publicly and told of horrible abuse by her stepfather. Many times victims are abused in infancy. Environmental issues may also be involved, and especially drugs and drug disposal. It appears that in many cases a person’s sexual orientation was not a conscious choice. The fact that fish in the Potomac River have had their sexual orientation changed because of hormone disposal by a drug company underlines how easy it is for human abuse of the environment to upset the reproductive systems of living things.

LGBTQ lifestyles are generally not healthy lifestyles. Government statistics on the life expectancy of various lifestyle choices show a dramatic shortening of life by sexual orientation. The incidence rate of HIV infection in male homosexuals cannot be denied. It is true that transgender individuals must follow a drug regime to maintain their chosen sexual identity for their entire lives, and that has adverse side effects.

Sexual activity in humans IS a choice, but feelings may not be. We reviewed Guy Hammond’s book Caring Beyond the Margins in which he explains that while he is attracted to men, he has chosen not to express that attraction in physical activity. (He is married, has children and a ministry). We are not robots. We can choose to be celibate. We can delay sexual activity until marriage. Sex outside of marriage is wrong, and rape is a travesty of sex.

God created sex as a beautiful thing that two people can treasure and share. We need to treat one another with care, compassion, concern, and support of healthy choices physically and emotionally. When we abuse those choices, there are consequences that sometimes hurt others. Pray for those who are struggling with the complex and emotional issues of LGBTQ lifestyles.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Homosexual Behavior and God

Homosexual Behavior and GodPerhaps the most inflammatory issue of our day is the question of homosexuality. The reason this becomes a religious issue is that the Bible is quite clear that homosexual behavior is not acceptable to God. Passages like Romans 1:24-28 are hard to misunderstand.

Our local mayor, who lives a homosexual lifestyle, is now campaigning to become President of the United States. (By the way, he has been an excellent major.) He stated, “God made me that way (gay).” I have many gay friends who are adamant that they did not choose to be gay. I do not claim to have all the answers to this explosive issue, but there are some facts and some misunderstandings from people on all sides of the issue.

It is essential to remember that Christians must love and have compassion for everyone, no matter their sexual orientation. The vitriolic treatment of homosexuals by some in the Christian community is not only uncalled for, but it is also sinful.

It is also important to realize that LGBTQ individuals are not a personal threat to you. The drug abuser is. For many years we had two neighbors who were a homosexual couple. We had another neighbor who was an alcoholic. The homosexual couple were good neighbors. They respected us and our children as well as our privacy and our property. The alcoholic damaged our property, threatened my children, and refused to help or even allow good things to be done in the neighborhood. You are much better off if your neighbors are gay than if they are drug abusers.

A third point to remember is that God does not cause homosexual behavior. With due respect to Mayor Pete (as he is known), God did not make him that way. We have published numerous articles over the years about the causes and consequences of sexual orientation. (For examples click HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE). The bottom line is that many things lead to homosexual behavior, and no one knows all of them. We will look at some potential causes tomorrow.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Beautiful Tulips in History and Culture

Beautiful Tulips in History and CultureTheir vibrantly colored blossoms are symbolic of spring. Tulips are part of the lily family (Liliaceae) and exist in many different species. They flower in the spring and die back in summer when the life is stored in an underground bulb until the next spring. Beautiful tulips are an excellent example of the beauty designed into this planet.

Tulips are known for their bold colors and attractive shape. Most varieties are almost perfectly symmetrical. The blooms have three petals and three sepals, but the tulip appears to have six petals because the sepals are large and generally the same color as the petals. You can find tulips in almost any color from white to black, but the bright and sunny colors are the most popular.

Without a doubt, beautiful tulips have a rich and interesting history. They originally grew wild in temperate areas from southern Europe to central Asia. They were first cultivated in Asia around the tenth century. Diplomats who visited the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century brought them back to Europe where they became hugely popular.

The tulip obsession began with Flemish botanist Carolus Clusius in 1594. He was the first person to identify “broken tulips,” which is a virus infection that causes impressive streaks in the petals. He would go on to create many different color variations of the flower. His amazing tulips led to a period from 1634 to 1637 called “tulip mania” when enthusiasm for the flower created an economic frenzy. Tulips quickly became the most expensive flowers in the world. At the peak of tulip mania, some bulbs were selling for ten times more than the annual income of a skilled worker. People even used tulip bulbs as currency. Artists of the Dutch Golden Age, including Rembrandt, depicted tulips in their paintings.

Today, the tulip is the national flower of Turkey and Afghanistan, but the most prolific producer of tulips is the Netherlands. There are annual tulip festivals around the world including the Netherlands, England, Switzerland, Canada, and even Australia, where the spring bloom occurs in September and October. Several locations in the United States have tulip festivals, including Holland, Michigan, which is near where we live.

It’s interesting how tulips could have such an impact on economics, culture, and history. God gave us beautiful tulips, and human intelligence has modified them to develop a variety of colors and patterns. If human intelligence could do that, think how much more intelligence was required to create the living plant with the genetic code that made it all possible.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Amazing Human Body Works

Amazing Human BodyThe cover story of the June (2019) issue of Reader’s Digest lists 50 features of your amazing human body. The article gives some evolutionary guesses as to how some of those features could have developed. We thought it was especially interesting that science has not explained nine of the 50:

1-The uvula at the back of your throat.
2-Hypnic jerks that 70% of people feel right before they go to sleep.
3-The “Old Person Smell” – an odor that comes from older people that young and middle-aged people don’t have.
4-Blood types.
5-Eyelid twitching.
6-Yawning.
7-Handedness and why 90% of us are right-handed.
8-Fingerprints.
9-Mesentery – a recently discovered membrane that is two feet long and spreads out like a fan in our digestive system.

David said it best: “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works…” (Psalms 139:14). In spite of all of our medical advances, we still are trying to understand how the amazing human body works. Understanding how our bodies work allows us to take better care of them. It also helps us to treat what goes wrong, which is often caused by our own abuse.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Does God Cause Disease Outbreaks?

Does God Cause Disease Outbreaks?In 1347, history’s worst disease outbreak began when the bubonic plague, or “black death,” spread across Europe. In the following years, one-third of the human race died from that disease. Five-hundred years later in 1847, a cholera outbreak threatened London. In one year, 72,000 people died. These events bring up some questions. Can we blame God for these tragedies? Does God cause disease outbreaks? Do these plagues prove that God does not exist, because a loving God would not have allowed them to happen?

An Italian doctor first presented the concept of germs in 1546, but the idea was not proven and accepted until the late nineteenth century. During those hundreds of years, there were more outbreaks of the plague, cholera, and other diseases. Very slowly, people began to realize how to prevent these deadly outbreaks. The answer was in proper disposal of sewage, prompt and proper burial of the dead, cleanliness and washing, and quarantine.

It seems obvious to us today, but it took centuries for humans to discover those secrets. Actually, they were not secrets at all. Thousands of years earlier they had been revealed in a book. Dispose of sewage properly—Deuteronomy 23:12,13. Bury the dead promptly; avoid touching dead bodies; clean and wash with water, ashes, and hyssop (which contains the antiseptic carvacrol); and quarantine—Deuteronomy 21:23; Numbers 5:2, 3; Numbers 19:1-22; Leviticus 13:45, 46. Those instructions were written in the first books of the Bible by Moses, a man trained in the customs of Egypt for 40 years.

So did Moses learn this from the Egyptians? Absolutely not! Ancient Egyptians mummified dead bodies with their bare hands and then spread the germs around to others. Even Moses admitted that there were “horrible diseases” in Egypt. (See Deuteronomy 7:15.) How did Moses have this life-saving information 3500 years ahead of his time? We think that God revealed it to him.

Does God cause disease outbreaks? Does God enjoy hurting people? The answer is NO. Think of how many lives could have been saved in those three-and-a-half millennia if people had just followed the teaching of the Bible.
— Roland Earnst © 2019