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Some would suggest that looking too closely at the magic of Spring is to tempt the cosmos. Do we really want to know how all this works? Well, look at it this way:
At this writing we are tiptoeing into a chilly autumn. What better time to talk about flowers opening and the freaky mechanics of molecular spring?
The wonder of All This is not in the gauzy metaphysics, but in the gee-whizness of its exacting design. And that goes for you and me, too; and the butcher, baker, the candlestick maker, and that diabolical paperboy.
You know—the one who waits for you to furtively emerge in your bathrobe every Sunday morning and pelts you with the Sunday Times, hurling the paper with all his Little League pitcher strength? The little dung beetle. [Ahem].
In other words, we’re all in this together; something we continually forget, to our common peril. We ARE the moving parts.
Knowing that stars are fire doesn’t dim their glory, and knowing why flowers bloom and shout like tipsy ninnies in Springtime — oh, had you heard?
They think they figured that one out, too. You’re gonna love this. It seems our wise Natural Order spends eons trying to make up its mind about every little thing.
We’ve talked in these pages about the weird and complicated protein molecule; a so-called Macromolecule whose gigantism and multiple personalities boggle the scientific mind, and tie the lowly Writer’s Mind into absolute knots.
Well, it should probably come as no surprise that a single protein molecule in plants has been found to be the joy-catalyst that triggers the loudmouthed, show-offy blooming of the flowers every spring.
How does it work? In plain English? It is a protein that makes plants gloriously bloom.
Some time ago, science discovered a protein in plants which they named CONSTANS. This protein manages the opening of flowers by taking chemical note of the growing length of a day as the seasons change.
Daylight of longer duration triggers the CONSTANS protein in plants to activate the flowering process, and the next thing you know you are “...starry eyed and vaguely discontented/like a nightingale without a song to sing…” (as a certain F. Sinatra sang once upon a time).
Yes, nothing announces Spring’s dizzying, hormonal heart-massage like a field of wildflowers.
Three Billion Years of Waffling
More recent is the discovery of a second “Spring protein” in plants, which our sentimental scientist pals have christened the FKF1 protein. What does this protein do? To explain that, we’ll here introduce yet a third co-conspirator, this one a protein called CDF1.
CDF1 is a transcription factor protein, which means its principal function is to turn genes on and off. In this way it assures that the plant's cellular gadgetry does the right micro-thing at the right micro-moment in order to keep the lil’ green fella alive.
In plants, though, the CDF1 does something else —it inhibits the blossom-triggering CONSTANS protein from rolling out its program.
Now, when days get longer and Sinatra starts warbling out of the stereo about being “..dizzy as a spider spinning daydreams..” we NEED those flowers to open.
So what does the awkwardly-named FKF1 do? It taps CDF1 on the shoulder, and when CDF1 glances over to see what’s what, FKF1 grabs CDF1 by the lapels and flings him out of the picture, allowing CONSTANS to get on with the business of opening the flowers and stirring our senses.
Mother Nature: Endearingly Indecisive
Yes, you have it right. Mother Nature made a protein that tells the flower when to open, then thought better of it and made a second protein to stop the flower-opening first protein. Then Mom Nature changed her mind yet again and made a third protein to shut down the second, so the first could resume its original role of Blossom Boss.
This is indecision on an eons-long scale, and something we can all relate to. There’s a reason we adore nature—she is US writ large. Now get out there and dance. Take a sweater. The pre-incarnate flowers are strutting their stuff.