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The Wild Wisdom of Native Plants:
Names and Stories

Wildflowers soon to bloom at Journey North headquarters

Wildflowers blooming now at Journey North headquarters. How do you think they got their names?

Ever have a really warm spell before the "real" spring comes to your area? Early warm spells may have tricked your tulips into thinking spring had arrived. But how did the native plants in your region respond? Native plants are those that have grown wild in a place for thousands and thousands of years. Because they've been around for so long, they are specially adapted to the unique climate of a region. Nature has taught hard lessons over the eons, and native plants have a wild wisdom that makes them very difficult to fool. An early warm spell won't trick them into emerging until spring arrives.

In contrast, your tulips are a "garden variety." (The term "garden variety" is often used to describe something with an inherent weakness.) Your tulips' genetic make up was shaped by gentle human hands rather than by nature's hand. Young and inexperienced, tulips don't have the wisdom for survival that a native plant has.

Journaling Questions

  1. Learn about a native plant that grows in your region. How is its annual cycle timed with the seasons? How do you think it got its name? What adaptations does the plant have that help it survive? How does the native plant fit into the ecosystem?
  2. What lessons could a tulip learn from a wise, wild native plant? Use it's name as a clue and write a fable that ends with a moral, as Aesop's Fables do. (You might want to read several of Aesop's Fables to prepare for your own writing.)

National Science Education Standards

Life Science
Organisms have basic needs. For example, animals need air, water and food; plants require air, water, nutrients, and light. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs can be met. (K-4)

All organisms must be able to obtain and use resources, grow, reproduce, and maintain stable internal conditions in a constantly changing external environment. (5-8)

Biological evolution accounts for the diversity of species through gradual processes over many generations. Species acquire many of their unique characteristics through biological adaptation, which involves the selection of naturally occurring variations in populations. Biological adaptations include changes in structures, behaviors, or physiology that enhance survival and reproductive success in a particular environment. (5-8)

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