How Flowering Plants Have Evolved To Benefit Natural Ecosystems
A flower, with its bloomy structure, symbolizes the confluence of two powerful and equally pivotal evolutionary forces: splendor and utility. 150 million years ago, a vast majority of pollen-producing plants used the wind to disperse their pollen and spawn. But insects later put their protein-rich grains on the menu, accidentally cross-pollinating more efficiently than capricious air currents.
Through a prolonged process of co-evolution, flowering plants and their pollinators reshaped each other. Some plants began to tinker their buds into proto-flowers: tiny flags that drew attention to the site of their pollen. Bold colors, exquisite shapes, strong aromas, ultra-violet beacons, and resplendence lured pollinators in droves.
With this engine of evolution, flowering plants sweetened the deal to magnetize more species with nectar, fruits, and grains. In addition to mutualism with other organisms, flowers contribute to a healthy, diverse ecosystem.
Despite their low profile, flowers play a pivotal role in the world’s ecosystem. Whether they are sprouting in a garden, carpeting a wild landscape or decaying as mulch underneath, their presence strikes a balance in the global environment. Flowering plants mop up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, sift toxins and emit oxygen through photosynthesis making our planet habitable.
Hale and Hearty Soils
Many angiosperms forge mutual relationships with bacterial or fungal colonies that help condition and enrich the surrounding soil. “They embody the botanical equivalent of detox centers; breaking down compounds that can harm other life and soil”, said Steven A. Rock, an environmental engineer at the National Risk Management Research Laboratory in the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati. This breaks down the soil and promotes aeration that outlives the host plant. Legumes fertilize soils through symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria (rhizobia).
If there is a hallmark of beauty-some pithy concept that includes every taste of charm and grace-the audacity of a flower is a cut above the rest. Experts from Handy Flowers, a popular florist delivery service, founded to magnify this ethereal beauty, breed new hybrids and tailor their features to our personal tastes can confirm this for you.
“Nature overwhelms us with incandescent beauty and we have to protect it before it’s too late”, Says Sally Dwyer from Handy Flowers. “Imagine a world suffused in a tangle of green without flowers. That would just be awful”, she goes on to say.
Native flowers impart their toughness and character to endure inclement weather far from indigenous habitats. They develop roots that pull moisture from deep in the ground, require minimal aftercare, and thrive without fertilizers or biocides. Angiosperms grow and co-exist with other flora without usurping nutrients, thus promoting biodiversity.
Primary Source of Food
Most angiosperms depend on insects as pollinators in exchange for their sweet nectar, nutrient-rich pollen, and shelter. Some bats and birds have a taste for nectar while grazers consume grassland flowers for the complex substrates found in petals. Humans and other animals feast on their succulent fruits. Herbivores snap off edible parts of the flowering plant and roots feed burrowing creatures. Angiosperms are a primary source of the food chain.
Toxic Avengers with Leaves
As scientists struggle to discover cheaper, efficient ways to decontaminate polluted soil or groundwater, a novel tool has emerged: plants. ”The trees keep pumping like crazy,” says, Dr. Ari M. Ferro, a biochemist of Phytokinetics Inc, a Utah-based company seeding plants to adulterated sites. The contaminants get sponged off into the root zone and biodegraded,” he added.
Hydroponically tendered sunflowers seeded near the Chernobyl nuclear site in Ukraine and a uranium plant in Ohio absorbed radioactive metals. Smooth aquatic hyssop sops up copper and mercury like a dose of salts.
Farmers in Taranto, Italy have turned to plant hemp with low concentrations of THC-not to get high-but to purify polluted soil. The science is known as phytoremediation where the rapidly-growing root hairs of the cannabis plant suck up contaminants and convert them into mild form.
Native flowers and drought-resistant plants thrive without mowing, fertilizer or irrigation conserving water. Water-hungry bluegrass gives you lush greenery at a higher cost. Flowering plants inhibit moisture loss and eliminate the need for extra water from irrigation. Riparian or littoral angiosperms cleanse water by removing metals and harmful chemicals. Wetland-littoral systems absorb inorganic nutrients, heavy metals, particulate organic matter, dissolved carbon, and other contaminants.
Water Cycle Regulation
Roughly 10% of the water vapor in the atmosphere can be traced to plants’ evapotranspiration. Plants take in moisture through their root hairs and discharge water vapor via stomata under their leaves. Through this process of evapotranspiration, flowering plants help re-circulate water from the ground back into the environment.
Moreover, angiosperms and other plants help improve the stability of water bodies like lakes or streams. Plant roots prevent landslides and also help keep ecosystems in fine fettle. Flowering plants play a central role in any ecosystem and must be protected at all costs to prevent their degradation in this age of insatiable resource extraction.