The more time I spend among my fellow species, and among my own, too, for that matter, I marvel at the individual nature of us all. Yes, humans have more in common with each other than they do with chimps, and red maples share more with each other than they do with sugar maples. Yet look closely, and you’ll find variations not only between species but within them.
I illustrate the point with a red maple tree, neither large nor small, that grows beside a pond near our home in the Adirondacks. You see this tree in the photo above and in the two immediately below. Every year, this tree glows a juicier, more vibrant shade of red than the other red maples in the neighborhood. Why? At heart it’s a matter of biochemistry, biochemistry that varies from one tree to the next thanks in large part to the gene-scrambling sexual reproduction of maple trees. Male red maples broadcast pollen into the air (see an earlier post here about distinguishing the genders of red maples). Some of it, with luck, lands on female red maple flowers. Genes mix, and voila! Diversity is born, a diversity that helps the trees survive and flourish in ever-changing times.
Whether I look at this especially handsome red maple from a distance, up close, or reflected in the pond, I’m inclined to think it’s the most glamorous I know. We’re pleased to have it as a neighbor.