Seeds are small things but once you allow yourself to learn about their biology you will quickly be renewed with fascination and wonder at just how unique and intricate life in all its forms really is.
Take a common garden seed such as a green bean. This small package holds within it the past, present, and future seemingly all at once.
The past is present in the hard seed coat that surrounds the embryo until conditions are right for new life to emerge. The seed coat is formed directly from the tissues of the mother plant and is evidence of the end of the lifecycle of the previous generation that brought it into existence. The seed coat is often hard and forms a protective barrier for the embryo. But interesting research also shows that the seed coat is far more ‘alive’ than we would think.
The seed coat also acts as a sort of channel for transmitting various environmental cues directly to the deep interior of the seed. This function actually enables the seed to adjust its metabolism and respond to the ongoing changes in the external environment.
The seed you hold in your hand is of course the present moment in time between what has come and what will be. This tiny structure that looks so insignificant holds within it some of the most immense possibility known on earth.
The future is present in the deep interior of the seed. Our bean seed has an embryo which will become a new plant and it also contains a supply of stored food for the embryo (called the endosperm) which will supply nutrients until a new root system and seed leaves are formed.
What is fascinating is how the past, present, and future must all come together in a moment of time to create the beautiful process we call germination.
First seed dormancy must be overcome and the hard seed coat must start to break down and allow water to enter the seeds interior. This breaking down process can happen in multiple ways and is different for different types of seeds. The seed coat may begin to break down due to specific light conditions, heat, smoke or fire, or other environmental factors.
Once the seed coat breaks down, water can enter and reactivate enzymes present in the seed that begin to break down the endosperm so that food will be available to the growing embryo. Food is then translocated to the embryo and it begins to grow as new cells elongate and divide.
The final step is what we experience as germination. It is at this point that the embryo undergoes more metabolic changes that transform it into a seedling. The radicle or first root emerges from the seed and then the hypocotyl or stem and seed leaves become visible as the new seedling begins to grow and produce its own food via photosynthesis.
Life is like a seed
If we reflect I think we will find that human life is also a ‘seed’ in a certain sense. Our lives are filled with past, present, and future seemingly all at the same time just like a plant seed. We have a history and a ‘seed coat’ that developed early in life based on our circumstances and family of origin, but how true it is that the ‘seed coat’ we grew must almost always be broken down to certain extent in order for us to germinate and grow and develop into whole and fully functional persons in all our dimensions.
The potential for an immense future of fruit growth lies within us too, some might refer to this kind of fruit as love, joy, peace, patience or kindness. As you contemplate and plan what seeds to plant this year, don’t lose sight of the reality that your life is also a seed with great potential.