Loren Eiseley's The Immense Journey was published in 1957. It contains his essay, How Flowers Changed the World, the trans formative evolutionary development of angiosperms, or flowering plants, during the dusk of the Age of Reptiles,100 million years ago; recent times in the history of our four billion year old planet. Eiseley elaborates on the simultaneous evolutionary development of man.
The paired destiny of man and flowering plants is complex. Our mirrored respiratory systems suggest a natural design intended to maintain ecological balance on our planet. Mobility and adaptability are essential qualities for both species. We have similar reproductive systems. Man, free to wander on two stout legs, has achieved his most far flung investigations through the imaginings and inventions of his mind. The angiosperms, with their roots firmly planted in the earth, have travelled widely; their spores and seeds born by the wind or carried by insects, birds, and animals.
Flowering plants have travelled to the farthest reaches of our planet. Plants native to one area may be deemed invasive species or weeds in another less hostile environment. Native species which are known, revered and used in their original environments are often misunderstood and denigrated in environments which neither know nor understand them. The modern preoccupation with technology and synthetic formulations for everything from medicines to cleaning products has relegated traditional plant based wisdom to the back shelf in the cupboard of man's knowledge.
On the esoteric level the air element is thought to represent the mind, colour blue, change, movement, grace and flexibility. Flowers, dependent on air to carry their seeds and waft perfume which attracts insects, animals and man, must nevertheless withstand the force and drying power of the wind. Tiny blossoms in airy umbels like Queen Anne's Lace float with the air offering little resistance. Wiry flexible stems like those of Blue Flax flow with the air and bend to it's whims. Blue Flax once grew in blue waves across the prairies. Old Man's Whiskers is also called Prairie Smoke because of the similar effect of the plants in seed. Vibrant colours and rich scents of flowers like the rose draw pollinating creatures deep within their blossoms.
I lived for many years in Banff where there were Wolf Willows growing by the side of the road in our front yard. Every spring as I walked down the road I was assailed by the sweetest scent. Eventually I realized it was coming from the tiny yellow blossoms hidden amidst the flashing silver leaves of Wolf Willow bushes. A member of the oleander family, this shrub is also known as Silver Berry or Silver Bush and is a well loved native of the prairies and low elevations in the mountains and foothills.
In the concluding paragraph of How Flowers Changed the World Loren Eiseley wrote: Without the gift of flowers and the infinite diversity of their fruits, man and bird, if they had continued to exist at all, would be today unrecognizable. Archaeopteryx, the lizard-bird, might still be snapping at beetles on a sequoia limb; man might still be a nocturnal insectivore gnawing a roach in the dark. The weight of a petal has changed the world and made it ours.