|Tulip showing stem fasciation and an abnormal number of flowers.|
I have talked about fasciation before, in context of a rather awesome mutant thistle that displayed multiple levels of fasciation plus homeosis (substitution of one organ for another), so that was an individual with a lot of issues. But this fasciated tulip is rather intriguing to me because it exhibits only stem fasciation, with no other visible abnormalities. The photo below shows the fasciated stem clearly.
|Fasciated tulip stem|
|Fasciated tulip again|
However, as with the thistle, there are other reasonable possibilities, among them the possibility that the fasciation has an environmental cause (e.g. a pesticide or fertilizer applied to all the tulips), or that it results from a bacterial or fungal pathogen transmitted through the garden by gardening activities like watering and weeding.
My friend and travelling companion, Kayleigh, also found a case of fasciation in Bellis perennis (english daisy) in Victoria. First, here's a normal one:
|Bellis perennis normal specimen -- photo taken by K.G. Nielson and used with permission|
|Bellis perennis fasciated individual -- photo taken by K.G. Nielson and used with permission|
This story resonates with me, because I adore natural history but make no pretensions to having great skill or knowledge in the area; I am largely self-taught on this subject. I run this blog partly to share the beauty and wonder and amazing scientific appeal of nature, and partly to remind myself to root my ideas firmly in the reality (read: natural history) of the organisms and communities I study.
I believe that natural history is where it all begins: a couple of ecologists on a walk notice a bunch of fasciated plants, and this spurs all sorts of wonderful lines of inquiry about how the fasciation comes about, how the condition might spread in a population, the particular mechanisms of function, the possible associations between assorted fasciation types, etc etc etc.
Darwin is a particularly notable example of beginning ecology with natural history: his work starts with incisive observation and proceeds from there into testable hypotheses and experiments.
When it comes down to it, everything we do as ecologists starts in with natural history.
I don't have enough experience or expertise to weigh in on whether natural history training is lacking in many universities as suggested in the article I linked. I can't even say whether my own lack of extensive natural history training is due to my own neglect of my options, or due to an absence of options available to me. But at the personal heart of it, I'm an ecologist because it allows me to blend my deep and abiding love of natural history with the elegance, logic, and rigour of the scientific approach. I'm sure I'm not alone.
The best ecological questions and hypotheses happen because ecologists are also natural historians.
Besides, it's better for our health to get outside and wander around once in a while with our eyes wide open.