It’s the green season, from lawns to gardens to Maine’s scenic roadsides, which makes it the best time to simply stop and recognize the marvelous mystery of nature’s design.

While we need not look further than our backyards, Tuesday’s news contained some thought-provoking examples of nature’s handiwork.

The 17-year cicadas – one of the most intriguing phenomenon in nature – have appeared on Cape Cod, according toThe Boston Globe.

Various types of cicadas appear with clockwork regularity in 12 states, but not in Maine, which is just as well. If you’ve never experienced a cicada invasion, it is difficult to describe, and not very pleasant. For about month, the hard-shelled insects with beady red eyeballs begin droning when the sun arises and do not stop until the sun sets.

It can be unnerving to the uninitiated.

The creepy critters hang from bushes, trees and utility poles, often thousands to the acre. They create a reverberating, droning sound that is unique in nature, which the Globe likened to a hovering UFO, without explanation.

They fly in your face, they smash into your windshield, they crunch underfoot and they mate in grotesque positions. Then they leave their tough, thumb-sized carcasses hanging all over the place, to later scare the wits out of tree climbing youngsters.

They live nearly all of their lives underground, emerging only to mate, lay eggs and die. Perhaps most impressively, they do no harm. They do not bite or sting, and they do no damage to plants. Entirely benign.

They simply spend a month once every 17 years driving people crazy.

In the other fascinating story of the day, The New York Times reported on the secret lives of plants, which seems a bit too much like the 1986 movie “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Some plants, according to researchers, can recognize their own relatives. If they sense a plant is not a relation, they “aggressively sprout nutrient-grabbing roots,” according to The New York Times. If it’s a relative, they courteously give it room to grow.

“I’m just amazed at what we’ve found,” Susan A. Dudley, an evolutionary plant ecologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., told the Times. “Plants have a secret social life.”

While we commonly see plants as “passive greenery,” scientists are finding that plants sense things about the plants around them and then use that information to their advantage.

Scientists haven’t found any plants that feed on human blood and flesh. But there is an intriguing time-lapse photo sequence on the Times Web site showing a parasitic plant emerging from the ground, sniffing the air, locating another plant, growing in its direction and attaching itself. The dodder plant senses chemicals in the soil and air to detect its victim.

The discoveries blur the long-held scientific distinction that said plants just “vegetate,” while only animals sense, learn and act on information.

Like we said, it’s a strange and fascinating world.


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