Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Yard update and chlorophyll synthesis

Yesterday my SO and I finally finished work on our newly created planting bed. We'd planted roses and bulbs earlier, but to finish up we added some edging, put in a new watering timer, and spread out some mulch. The bed is really nice now, but it doesn't look like we've put nearly the amount of time and sweat into it that we have.

We have been pleasantly surprised by the plants' progress, as we found our first rose flower bud and amaryllis flower bud coming up yesterday. Of course we promptly cut off the rose buds after taking a picture because the plants are far too young to be doing that sort of thing.

amaryllis rose flower bud

Those with good memories will remember that we only planted the bulbs a few days ago, and will probably wonder how the amaryllis was able to grow so fast. We'd been storing the bulbs in a cool, dark closet, and the amaryllis had started sending out leaves in the closet before planting day. The amaryllis leaves were pure white when we planted them; there wasn't even a hint of green in them. Then, the next day we could see hints of red and green in the leaves, and on the second day after planting the leaves were solid green.

This color change occurred because light is a critical component for the reactions involved in chlorophyll synthesis. In the absence of light plants will synthesize precursors of chlorophyll, but they cannot make the actual molecule. Thus, when the amaryllis was growing in the dark closet its leaves were filled with precursors of chlorophyll, but it couldn't turn those precursors into chlorophyll because there was no light. When we planted the bulbs light became available and the leaves were finally able to synthesize chlorophyll.

I apologize for not having the names of the precursors or details of the synthetic pathway; I had intended to look them up before posting but my botany supplies are in the office and I'm leaving for a trip tomorrow and wanted to get this up before heading off.

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