Over the past couple of months I’ve learned a lot of plant species and something that doesn’t fail to astonish me is how diverse their phenotype and genotype can be from one plot to another. From what I remember, the phenotype of plants is dependent on factors like grazing, slope face, stratum, and soil conditions. Genetic variability may also occur for some of those same reasons and studies indicate that it could be due to the genes of its host species as well as its own genetic print. I learned this during my undergraduate education but it never really sunk in until I witnessed it the other day while surveying a very diverse plot.
Among the many plants there, we had to be especially careful when passing by stinging nettle (Urtica diortica). We’ve worked with and around stinging nettle before but it was nothing like this. This stuff was so much more toxic than at the previous plot. When I walked by it, the sting would seep through my pants and last for several minutes. On our walk back to the truck I noticed that my hand was also a little inflamed from being exposed to this insanely strong nettle. We noticed that the plot was pristine in the sense that there weren’t any side trail stomping (besides ours) or cow trails that would maybe be a reason why this nettle’s chemical compounds we so caustic. Humm, this could possibly lead to a good research topic.
We have also witnessed how diverse phenotype could be when we saw Northern bedstraw (Galium boreale). At one plot it was a mere 8 inches tall and at another location we found it standing tall at over 15 inches. It looked so different tall yet there it was, the same plant just doing its thing. I wouldn’t have recognized it if it weren’t for my mentor that pointed it out. I was shocked to learn how big it could get.
The plots we visit and plants we have the pleasure of meeting constantly have me questioning their nature and diversity. If it weren’t for plants evolving, it’s quite possible that we wouldn’t be here. Plants add to the stunning painting of this thing we call life, let’s not forget to stop every once in a while and appreciate their mysticism.