Last Sunday’s New York Times had a story about immortal jellyfish. It was interesting, and given my previous life as a marine biologist, it was also a topic that was comfortably familiar. But really, I wasn’t that impressed. Because plants do the same thing, yet no one bats an eye.
Gardeners and other plant aficionados have exploited the plant kingdom’s ability to remain forever young. How many of us have taken cuttings of mature plants, rooted them, and started new ones? I have a couple of miniature African violets whose leaves I can place on damp soil in pots, cover, and ignore. New plantlets emerge from the base within a few weeks. I pot these up and give them away as gifts, but always keep a few for later propagation.
Some of the horticultural oddities we love exist because of plant immortality. The Camperdown elm (Ulmus glabra ‘Camperdownii’) has been perpetuated for almost 200 years from a single original cutting from a tree in Scotland. Particularly pernicious weeds do this on their own thanks to runners and rhizomes. Sure, we call it “vegetative propagation,” but really, it’s plant immortality.
So you’ll have to forgive me for not getting all torqued about immortal jellyfish. I’ve seen immortality, and it’s growing in my garden.