Monday, August 30, 2010

Chlorophyll - definitely not bore-ophyll

Adam Sandler may be a funny guy from the great state of New Hampshire - but I must say that he got it totally wrong in the high school biology class scene in the movie Billy Madison.

Chlorophyll is cool!

I have been neglecting photo-posting lately, an error that I will begin to fix today. Looking through photos taken on July 31, I came to the above realization - call it an "epiphany of botanical revelation."

It's simply amazing. Go away for two weeks in the summer and, provided that your garden doesn't suffer a searing drought, brush fire, plague of locusts or golfball-sized hail, you will return to find a jungle. A lush, green profusion of plant life and all because of a funky little molecule called chlorophyll.

Our raised beds are on either side of the driveway and receive an abundance of sunlight. Our green plants utilize the chlorophyll in their leaves to capture the sun's energy and convert it into sugars to make more plant matter. For several weeks in mid-summer, it's a positive feedback loop - make bigger leaves to catch more sunlight to make bigger leaves. (Note the size of the butternut squash leaves!) However, some of the energy ends up elsewhere, directed to flowering and setting fruit, which makes the wonderful vegetables that make gardening so rewarding. And it's all thanks to chlorophyll.

The butternut squash completely overwhelmed the upper raised bed on the far side of the driveway (in the first photo), but the acorn squash vines were more orderly and stretched out in lovely straight lines across the grass (in the back of the second photo.) The garden looks remarkably different today, but the photos from August will have to wait until another day...

Bonus quiz for the General Botany club - if I had planted corn in my garden, would it photosynthesize more efficiently, less efficiently, or with the same efficiency as the other plants shown in the photos? Leave your answer below.

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