JIM CONRAD'S
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
Issued from Rancho Regenesis
in the woods near Ek Balam Ruins north of Valladolid in
Yucatán, MÉXICO

February 5, 2017

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MUNG BEAN PLANTS
All of my adult life I've sprouted seeds so I could eat them. Our seed-sprouting page is at http://www.backyardnature.net/simple/alf-spr.htm

Among the most commonly used seeds for sprouting are Mung beans, of which I've sprouted my share. I've always wondered what the Mung Bean plant looked like, so a few weeks ago when I had some Mung beans I planted them, and now you can see what kind of plant produced them at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/17/170205mu.jpg

It looks a lot like a regular garden bush-bean, which it well may, because it's a member of the same genus, Phaseolus, as green beans, kidney beans, Lima beans and several other important bean food crops. The Mung Bean plant is PHASEOLUS AUREUS, not known in the wild, and of uncertain origin, though probably it originated in India. In the above picture, note the clusters of straight, slender, legume-type fruits projecting from the tips of longish peduncles.

A closer look at the Mung Bean's trifoliate, garden-bean-like leaf is at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/17/170205my.jpg

Our plants' flowers are pale greenish-yellow, otherwise very similar to green bean blossoms, as shown at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/17/170205mw.jpg

When the flower's corolla is removed some nice features of the sexual parts are easy to see, and exhibited at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/17/170205mx.jpg

The ten stamens are grown together at their bases to form a curving cylinder around the long, slender style, which is hairy, or "bearded," at its tip. In the above picture's lower, left corner, the dimpled, green, egg-shaped item is a gland producing an ant-attracting substance, the ants helpful in driving off herbivores nibbling on the plant. All these features are normal for the genus Phaseolus.

Mung Bean plants produce interesting stipules, which are modified leaves appearing at petiole bases. Many plants don't have them, but the Bean Family normally bears conspicuous ones, and on Mung Beans they are large, oval, hairy, and instead of being attached to the stem at their bases, the normal way, they're attached at a point on their lower surface. They're "peltate," as shown at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/17/170205mv.jpg

All in all, Mung Bean plants look like fairly normal members of the big genus Phaseolus. The seeds, or beans, are a little unusual because they're spherical, but also are soybeans and a few others

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MORINGA TREE ROOT FOR HORSERADISH
At http://www.backyardnature.net/mexnat/moringa.htm we've looked at Moringa Trees growing here at the rancho. That page focuses on the nutritional value of the tree's edible leaves. This week I got to try the roots.

I'd read that one of several names for the Moringa is Horseradish Tree, and I love horseradish, so I've been eager to explore Moringa's horseradish aspect. However, the part producing horseradish-like tissue is its roots, and I didn't want to damage our trees by digging out their roots. This week a burro reached through a fence and chomped a young Moringa in two, eating the top part, so I figured it would be OK to pull up the rest, with the horseradishy roots. You can see the root, cut in two to display its white, succulent interior, at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/17/170205mg.jpg

In the picture, the part above my thumb tip was too woody to eat, but below the thumb the tissue was of the consistency of a fresh carrot. It would snap if you bent it too much. And it did indeed smell just like horseradish.

The next morning I grated the lower part of the root into my breakfast stew, and the stew ended up tasting just as if I'd seasoned it with horseradish. So, there you go: Moringa root really can provide a delicious horseradish taste to your meals.

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RIGHT-BRAIN/LEFT-BRAIN SWITCH?
I spent most of last week in Yucatán's capital city, Mérida. I was there because for the last couple of years my left eye has been so profoundly myopic and beset with cataracts that I was essentially blind in that eye. In Mérida an eye operation fixed that. Now with my left eye's old, hard, yellowed lens removed and a new artificial one inserted, I have 20/20 vision there, though my right eye remains a bit fuzzy. Some of you might be interested in knowing that the full cost, including eye drops, anesthesiologist, and everything else, was about $1100US, a fraction of what it would have been in the US, and in my opinion it was just as expertly done.

Because of their intimate neural connections with the brain, our eyes sometimes are regarded as extensions of the brain. The eyes' optical nerves cross one another on their ways to the brain, so what's seen in the left eye is processed by the brain's right hemisphere, and vice-versa. For the last couple of years, nearly 100% of my view of reality has passed through my right eye on its way to my left brain hemisphere.

The question, then, is whether during recent years my left brain hemisphere has created more of "me" than the right and, if so, now will the right hemisphere assume dominance?

That may be an important question because the left and right hemispheres interpret the stimuli they receive very differently. The left hemisphere " ...is logical, practical, and fact-oriented while the right hemisphere deals with feelings, beliefs, symbols and 'the big picture,'" as we wrote on the matter in an earlier essay, archived at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/p/080707.htm

So, now that my "good eye" has become my "bad eye," and my left brain hemisphere now receives more visual information than my right, will my personality become less "logical, practical, and fact-oriented," and begin seeing the world more in terms of "feelings, beliefs, symbols and 'the big picture'?"

I'm in no position to know, but readers who have read my stuff over the years might notice the shift, if any occurs.

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TRUMPISM IN NATURE
When events are so complex that it's hard to wrap your mind around them, patterns, paradigms and metaphors in Nature can guide us in understanding what's going on. That's because all complex, evolving systems share many features -- such as tending toward ever more efficient use of energy, and ever greater integration and interdependency of ever more diverse parts.

Is there a metaphor in Nature that can help us understand the current situation with US President Trump, and those he has gathered around him?

A central element of the Trump phenomenon is that false, distorted information repeated again and again played a large part in Trump's election. Nature agrees that misinformation is a powerful tool, and often uses it, as when a spider evolves to look like a flower part, so that pollinators tricked by the camouflaged spider get eaten.

Even if the camouflaged spider metaphor is awkward for applying to Trumpism, there's another instance in Nature that comes much closer. That's when information encoded in the genes of an organism's cell becomes corrupted in such a way that it becomes "false information." This false information instructs the cell to unnaturally multiply itself furiously, and all replicated cells behave the same way. The growth of the resulting clump of cells is exponential, disrupting activities in surrounding tissue and organs -- its environment -- in many, often lethal, ways.

Of course here we're talking about a cancer. So, how does Nature deal with a cancer?

A healthy body's immune system attacks the cancer. (The current outbreak of protests throughout the US is analogous to an organism's immune system kicking in.) Now what happens? In Nature there are three main outcomes:

Just two weeks into the Trump Administration, it's too early to know which of the three scenarios will play out. At this point in our search for guidance, Nature seems to fall mute, but at least She has indicated to us that it is right for a cancer to be resisted, and that resistance can have three possible outcomes.

Where Nature's patterns, paradigms and metaphors leave off, we can look for guidance in history. There, it's easy enough to see what happened the last time a far-right-wing agent gained control of the world's main superpower, rallying its supporters with distorted information repeated again and again, and the scapegoating of minorities.

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Best wishes to all Newsletter readers,

Jim

All previous Newsletters are archived at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/.