The answer to the proverbial question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, is definitively answered in Genesis. God created adult plants and animals with the ability to reproduce. On the third day, “God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation…’ and the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them after their kind; and God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:11,12). In His wisdom, God designed many diverse ways to prolong the life of every species of plant He created.
Plants and trees have different ways of multiplying. Some reproduction is asexual and includes reproduction through rhizomes, or horizontal stems, that grow underground and from which roots and new shoots sprout. We have a number of cottonwood trees on our property and I am constantly having to dig out shoots which are coming up in the lawn. Poplar and birch also reproduce with rhizomes. Some plants that have rhizome reproduction include most ground-cover plants such as mint and ivy and periwinkle. Other vegetation involving asexual reproduction includes ferns, and mushrooms which make young plants from reproductive cells called spores. Cultivation is another asexual method of reproduction where a cutting is taken from a stem or branch and either first placed in water and then planted in the soil, or—in some cases—planted immediately in soil. The new tree or plant will be an exact copy—or clone—of the parent. Some plants, such as tulips and narcissus (including daffodils) grow and reproduce from bulbs which multiply each year.
Other reproduction is sexual through the exchange of pollen between male and female reproductive systems. A single tree can produce both male and female flowers. Many trees, such as pine, rely on wind pollination (which is happening in our area right now). The yellow dust-like pollen is carried by the wind to another tree of the same species that’s producing female flowers and cones. The female cones on a conifer produce a sticky substance near the ovule so wind-borne pollen will stick. Pollen can also be transported by “pollinators”—anything from bees to bats, hummingbirds, moths, beetles and butterflies. Sometimes there is a very close relationship between a pollinator and the tree or plant they pollinate. Some birds’ beaks, for example, are specially designed by the Creator to crack open conifer cones, thus spreading the seeds. Some plants can only be pollinated by a specific species of insect or animal. The flowers that trees bear either function as female or male. Female flowers contain ovaries that develop into fruit while male flowers bear pollen that fertilizes the female flowers. Some trees bear flowers of only one sex (monoceious); others bear flowers of both (dioecious).
However pollination occurs, it isn’t the end of the reproductive cycle. The seeds (embryos) that pollination produces still need to be distributed. Some seeds as with fruit trees and nut trees, are encased and drop to the ground or taken by deer, squirrels or birds to be spread. Animals may eat the nuts, pits, or seeds, which are then spread as the animal defecates. We have a little pine squirrel, “Squeaky,” that last fall made numerous trips to the three flower planters on our deck. This spring we were surprised by the product of his/her work. We had numerous sunflowers, plumb trees and chestnut trees coming up in our planters! I transplanted them to our vegetable garden and next year will donate them to a friend who has a plant nursery!
Other seeds are wind-borne, much like pollen. Some find fertile soil and germinate. Maple trees have winged parachutes, cottonwood have fluffy cotton balls carried by the wind, sometimes for miles. Other seeds are encased in burrs which attach like Velcro to animals or to human clothing. Last fall, while out hunting, I walked through a weed patch and when I got home had to spend an hour pulling burrs off my clothing and pack. Blackberries are scattered after being digested by birds. Tumbleweeds, after drying, are picked up by the wind and can travel quite a distance to distribute the seeds. There are some conifer trees, such as lodge pole pine, which have serotinous cones which depend on heat during the seed production cycle. The cones are sealed by a resin that requires 122-140 degrees Fahrenheit in order to open. That is why after a forest fire, you will often see a very thick stand of lodge pole trees as the first to come back. Lodge pole have both regular cones that cast their seeds upon maturity as well as serotinous cones.
In one of the parables that Jesus taught, He referred to the Word of God as a seed which He sows in the world (the field) on different types of soil (the hearts of man). Some is sown on hard soil (Mt. 13:4), some on shallow soil (vv. 5,6), some on thorny (worldly) soil (v. 7), and some on fertile (receptive) soil (v. 8) where it germinates, grows to maturity and bears fruit (v. 23). The seed, God’s Word, is broadcast (scattered) in a variety of ways (just as the seeds of plants and trees) and is carried by the Spirit of God however and wherever He wants. When the soil is fertile—a heart that God has prepared—the seed takes root and germinates into new life and grows and bears fruit. The Apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle: “For you have been born again, not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God (I Pet. 1:23).
Just as our Creator designed vegetation with the ability to reproduce in a variety of amazing ways, He also designed man to reproduce, not only physically, but spiritually through “spreading the seed of the Word of God,” sharing the Good News of the Gospel, the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 15:1-4). Are you planting the seed of His Word wherever you go?