Caryn Hibbert

For the Love of the Land: The Science of Nature

by Caryn Hibbert At Thyme 24 Oct 19

Towards the end of September there was a palpable change in the weather, the air was cooler and the summery days where we basked in warm sunshine and were surrounded by butterflies at Thyme, seemed to be over.

At exactly 07.50 am on the 23rd of September, the sun passed across the celestial equator and the northern hemisphere tipped away from the sun. It will continue to tip further away with the sun’s orbit lowering in the sky until 04.19am on the 22nd December, which will herald our shortest, darkest day and the beginning of our astronomical winter.

We are so fortunate to have four very distinct seasons and if you observe carefully you see how nature now responds to the shortening hours of daylight, sunshine and the falling temperatures as we move away from the sun.  The patterns of nature are discernible everywhere at Thyme as birds migrate, squirrels store seeds and nuts, hedgehogs hibernate … nature hunkers down, conserving its resources against the lean months ahead.

As the sunlight fades, chlorophyll the pigment responsible for the vibrant greens of summer begins to disappear. This allows the other pigments in the leaves to shine, the carotenoids responsible for spectacular yellows, oranges and browns; and later a pigment called anthocyanin responsible for the final flush of reds that make autumn such a beautiful season.

As October progresses, corky cells restrict the flow of sugars to the leaves which fall to the ground as the trees prepare for the dormancy of winter. These pigments responsible for the colours of autumn are the pigments that facilitate photosynthesis, a chemical reaction fundamental to life on earth.

Sunlight is the source of energy to all plants and it is this energy that together with carbon dioxide and water is transformed in a process called photosynthesis to glucose and oxygen in the green leaves of all plants.

PHOTOSYNTHESIS
Carbon dioxide + water + sunlight = Oxygen + glucose.

Photosynthesis takes place in the chloroplasts of plants, small organelles in leaves that are loaded with chlorophyll, the essential catalyst for this chemical reaction. Chlorophyll is a pigment and the molecule responsible for nature’s glorious greens, it is the overriding colour of nature.  The oxygen produced is ‘exhaled’ from the leaves and the glucose is used by the plant for growth, to flower and bear fruit. 

It is the glucose and oxygen that fuels respiration, the chemical reaction that occurs in all living cells, plants and animals and is the basis of all life on earth.

RESPIRATION
Oxygen + glucose = energy + carbon dioxide + water.

Plants are the lungs and food of our planet and sunlight dictates their behaviour and growth.

Watch carefully how the seasons evolve as the earth moves around the sun. It brings us closer to understanding nature in all its glory.

Observing this detail creates a special connection to, and understanding of, the land.  The stories that nature tells are our stories.  Understanding how it all works inspires us to bring the outside into everything we do and to enrich a genuine ‘love of the land,’ its flora and fauna, which is at the heart of Thyme.