- Plant-aliens don’t eat anything. They make their own food. For that purpose they anchor themselves to a water source and grow their own solar panels.
- Plant-aliens follow a clock that is geared only to the sun light and the seasons. Small plants push out leaves and flowers quickly in early spring so that they can catch maximum sunlight before the slower growing leaves on the trees above them plunge them into shade.
- Unlike the many animals that cooperate so they can secure food, plant-alien food makers have no reason to be social. They are competitive egomaniacs. They don’t react to other plants except to get around them if necessary so they can get to the sun.
- Many plant-aliens are giants. They tower over all animals.
- Through their sophisticated plumbing and evaporation mechanisms, tree-aliens pull water up long distances without using any kind of pump. Animals, on the other hand, must all use small pumps just to keep fluids moving inside their fragile bodies.
- One process that plant-aliens do share with animals is sexual reproduction. Their equipment for doing so, however, is a little kinky. An individual plant-alien may contain flowers with structures that are male or female or both or that change from one to the other.
- Plant-aliens breathe in carbon and exhale oxygen. Animals do the reverse.
- Plants-aliens have successfully colonized the earth. They occupy the coldest and hottest zones, they outnumber animals and they are both larger and smaller than we are. And we animals are at their mercy for our food and oxygen.*
Plants are so different from us and so impressive that it’s actually not too difficult to portray them as aliens. And after that exercise, it’s pleasant to see them again as our comfortable companions and allies. I wonder if they feel the same way about us.
*With appreciation for David Attenborough’s The Private Life of Plants (1995)
I live in New Jersey and taught English at a community college for nearly four decades. I am married and have a daughter, a grandson, and step-children here in the state.
I retired from teaching in 2006 in part to move on from teaching and partly to try to help reduce poverty locally and through global advocacy. For the past few years, I’ve served as a financial coach for low-income families.
I’ve also been thinking about the questions that catch up with most of us sooner or later: What is my purpose? How will I face death? What do I believe in? I’ve always liked and trusted the descriptions from science of how living things work and how we all evolved. But I could not put those descriptions together with my questions. Gradually, I’ve been coming to see how the history of life over 3.8 billion years stands inside and throughout my being and the being of others.
In my blog at threepointeightbillionyears.com, I’ve been exploring the variety of ways in which our experience is anchored not just in our evolution from primates but in the much longer lifespan of life itself.