The Meaning of Berçário

{ Anna Marsh Diary }

Have you ever tried cutting off one of your limbs and waiting for another body to take form? Doubt it. ‘Cause we simple homo sapiens only have the capacity to reproduce in one way.

But plants, on other hand, can produce offspring both through the conventional sexual fashion (pollination) and also without a partner. Without exchanging any genetic information, plants propagate clones of themselves in a way that humans have only come close to in science fiction novels.

This past week in the nursery (berçario) was spent collecting the little clones of a few different mama plants and moving the babies into their own homes. They will eventually grow as large as their respective parent, with plenty of children to go around. What’s amazing about this process, which can take form as budding, vegetative propagation, or fragmentation, is that the offspring are continuously taking form as long as the original plant is alive.

One of the plants we worked with, Basil (Manjericão), has several smaller stems branching off of the principal one that can be peeled off and planted on their own: fragmentation. Another plant, Aloe Vera (Babosa), instead extends its roots horizontally in order to propagate peripheral “pups” — budding — that can be carefully pulled from the soil and planted in their own pots. Finally, before Lilies (Lilium) even flower, the baby bulbs can be plucked from the parent stem and planted elsewhere.

This kind of strategic reproduction also reminds me that in a world of finite resources that are dwindling before our greedy eyes, resilient and prolific plants (paired with the careful use of soil, nutrients, and water) can be harnessed in order to sustain a growing population. Conventional, industrial agriculture operates on the basis of planting a single seed (often times genetically modified), harvesting the crop, and then planting a new seed all over again without considering how plants’ evolved to reproduce naturally, long before we came into the picture. But it’s time to get back to our roots.

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Aloe Vera

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Basil

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Lily