11 November 2008

Flower (2)

...While most of the flowers in the garden had rich scents and colors, we also had two magnolia trees, with huge but pale and scentless flowers. The magnolia flowers, when ripe, would be crawling with tiny insects, little beetles. Magnolias, my mother explained, were among the most ancient of flowering plants and had appeared nearly a hundred million years ago, at a time when "modern" insects like bees had not yet evolved, so they had to rely on a more ancient insect, a beetle, for pollination. Bees and butterflies, flowers with colors and scents, were not preordained, waiting in the wings -- and they might never have appeared. The would develop together, in infinitesimal stages, over millions of years. the idea of a world without bees or butterflies, without scent or color, affected me with awe.

The notion of such vast eons of time, and the power of tiny, undirected changes which by their accumulation could generate new worlds -- worlds of enormous richness and variety -- was intoxicating. Evolutionary theory provided, for many of us, a sense of deep meaning and satisfaction that belief in a Divine Plan had never achieved. The world became a transparent surface, through which one could see the whole history of life...
-- from Darwin and the Meaning of Flowers by Oliver Sacks.

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