This photograph of the achenes or diaspores of a “horrible” thistle (Cirsium Horridulum) was captured two summers ago with my macro lens. The diaspores have evolved over millions of years to to be light and airy, with tendrils that catch the air for dispersal far afield of their mother plant. Though not the best composition, I was struck by the symmetry of the achenes and their simple utility. The swampy path I was walking when I came upon them during the summer was littered with thistles for miles. The evolution, though perhaps not complete, had certainly served its purpose well. The most recognizable achenes are those of the dandelion clock, which children gather up with some eagerness only to blow the diaspores unwittingly throughout their parents’ front yard.
I wish Kemper had been old enough to accompany me when I took this photograph. He finds great sport in blowing the silky white seeds from their presently denuded and spent host. He was three then, and not quite up to a long jaunt in the summer heat. The mosquitoes were particularly bad this day, and to be honest, I am surprised that I did not capture one in this photograph–they were so thick. But this is Florida, and the beauty of nature invariably carries with it some danger, whether an alligator lurking silently beneath the surface of a calm fishing pond, or a rattlesnake blending in with the underbrush. Having grown up here, these are calculated risks, and readily mitigated. For the uninitiated, however, Florida is as wild as the outback of Australia. This results, I think, in a fair bit of pride for us native Floridians who would as soon approach a four foot long gator, knowing full well it will quickly shy away, as a New Yorker would cross a busy intersection at the height of the noon-day traffic. I do not begrudge the out-of-towners the novelty of seeing an alligator in the wild for the first time, but to us they are quotidian and predictable. Yet, as this photograph shows, even the most commonplace native objects, when viewed with a different perspective, yield beauty.
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