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

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

Circadian Rhythm of the Biological Clock

Biological Clock and Circadian Rhythm
Living things, both plants and animals, have a biological clock that is extremely important for survival. The human master clock is located in the hypothalamus of the brain in a tiny region called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN controls what is known as the circadian rhythm, a 24-hour rhythm of the body.

The SCN interacts with many regions of the brain to control sleep, hormone levels, alertness, body temperature, digestive activity, immune functions, and other systems. It coordinates the various rhythms of the body to keep us going through the day. This biological clock works in many ways that we don’t even realize.

Specialized cells in the retina of the eye connect directly to the SCN. When the eye senses light, the SCN receives the message and starts body process going by telling the various systems what to do and when. When you wake up in the morning, the clock signals enzymes to start flowing for your first meal. Hormones raise body temperature and blood pressure so that you can face the day.

During the day, the biological clock starts various chemicals and hormones so they will be available and functioning when they’re needed. Therapeutic medicines work best when taken at certain optimum times according to the biological clock. At night the circadian rhythm in the SCN sends a message to the pineal gland to produce the hormone melatonin making us sleepy.

This is a highly-simplified summary of an amazingly complicated system. Complex systems like this don’t happen by chance indicating that this is another evidence of design. Day and night, months and seasons regulate the systems of humans and all other creatures. Genesis 1:11 tells us that God made the Sun and Moon to “mark seasons and days and years.” Those simple words contain profound truths that we have only begun to understand.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Biomass on Earth Measured

Biomass on Earth Mostly Plants
Biomass is the mass of living biological organisms. If you lumped all living things by category, what group of organisms do you think would have the greatest biomass on Earth? We aren’t talking about the number of individuals, but the mass of the different lifeforms.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on May 21 published a study of the different areas of the world and what form of life dominates in those areas. (Click Here to read the full report.) Plants contribute the primary biomass in the terrestrial environment. Animals are primary in the marine environment. Bacteria and archaea (single-celled microorganisms) dominate the deep subsurface environment.

You may find the results surprising. The total biomass of Earth consists of 80% plants. Bacteria make up the second largest biomass at 15%. After that in descending order are fungi, archaea, protists (unicellular organisms that sometimes form colonies), animals (including humans), and viruses. Soil fungi, protists, soil archaea, arthropods, annelids, and livestock all exceed humans in their biomass. Only wild mammals, nematodes, and wild birds have smaller biomasses than humans. In the marine environment the biomass is much smaller than on land, and after animals, the greatest biomass is in protists, archaea, fungi, and finally bacteria. It is interesting that tiny Antarctic krill contribute about the same biomass as humans.

As you think about the biomass on Earth, it becomes evident that for human life to exist, we need a huge biomass of supporting life-forms. It becomes apparent that we must take care of all of the living things that support us. It is also obvious that before human life could exist on Earth enormous preparation was required.

We have to be reminded of the words of the psalmist in Psalms 8: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon, the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him… You have made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beast of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the sea.”
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

Reference: Scientific American, August 2018, page 16.

Why Plants Grow Up

Why Plants Grow Up
Have you ever wondered why plants grow up instead of down? Take a bean, a grain of corn, or any other seed and lay it on top of wet soil until it germinates. The root will grow out of the seed and turn downward into the soil. The shoot will go upward. It doesn’t matter which direction you position the seed when it germinates. Even if the seed germinates in a place where there is no light, the root still goes down, and the stem goes up.

After the root and stem are growing, take the seed and turn it upside down with the root pointing straight up. The root will turn around and head back down into the soil. Take a potted plant and lay it on its side so that it’s horizontal. If the dirt doesn’t fall out, the plant will make a turn and go upward and its roots downward.

Trees on a hillside don’t grow perpendicular to the slope. They grow upward, and the roots grow downward. If there is a landslide and the tree is left horizontal, it will turn and start growing upward again. Amazing, isn’t it?

This ability of plants to know up from down is called gravitropism. Only in recent years has science begun to learn the secrets of how it works. In the cells of the plant, there are particles called statoliths. They normally sit on the bottom of gravity sensing cells. When the plant is tipped, they move and send a message to the growth regulating cells that the direction of gravity has changed. The roots react positively and go toward the source of gravity. The stem responds negatively and goes in the opposite direction.

This explanation is an oversimplified description of why plants grow up. How a plant with no brain or central nervous system communicates the message of which way to grow from one cell to another is still not fully understood. Little by little, science is uncovering the mysteries of life. We still have much to learn, but it’s obvious that plants show evidence of design by a Master Engineer.
–Roland Earnst © 2018