Most of you know by now I feed the birds around my house. The various birds, when coming to eat at my feeders, provide me a calming sense of camaraderie with nature – especially when I find them waiting for me to place seed out each morning. This “peaceful, easy feeling” is what makes all the maintenance of having a bird feeder worthwhile.
Speaking of maintenance, one of the chores you may have with a bird feeder is mowing or weeding the small plants that sprout from the random uneaten seeds that fall in cracks and crevices (or are sometimes simply kicked out of your feeder by finicky eaters.) While sunflower seeds are among the favorite of many birds, every now and then a few will fall from the feeder and almost immediately sprout during the mild springtime months. Thus, I “weed” them about every other day. Such was what I was doing a few weeks ago when I spied a bright white seedling growing in-between two stones under the feeder. I was thrilled to see it was an albino sunflower seedling – something I had never seen before. I hurried over to get a tiny spade and pot in which to transplant it – all the while having visions of growing a huge, pure white sunflower to show off to my family and friends.
Well, my horticulture professors would be appalled to learn I thought this (my wits must have left me during the excitement) as plants cannot sustain themselves without energy-converting chlorophyll – the substance that causes plants to be green and the very substance that is absent in albino plants. You may indeed see an albino limb or fern frond every now and then, but you will not see a 100% pure albino plant – unless it is somehow attached to another plant for sustenance. (Such is the case of a rare outcropping of albino redwoods in northern California. See http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/ultra-rare-albino-redwoods-are-an-everwhite-mystery-pics.html.)
In further researching albinism in plants I learned sadly, my sunflower seedling would live only until it depleted the small amount of energy that was stored within its seed coat. Thus, it lived about a week after I transplanted it and then shriveled and died as expected. Even though, it was a grand sight to see while it lived. In fact, the whole experience refreshed my basic knowledge of plants and confirmed that chlorophyll is indeed their essential life blood, after all.
If you wish to learn more about albinism (and similar conditions) in plants, a rather interesting article can be found at http://whitershadeoftail.wordpress.com/albinsim-in-plants/.
Until next time,