Scaled image p10.jpeg

Turbinicarpus schmiedickianus MG1296     2/05/19
The usual picture. The spines are fairly visible, but the hairs (trichomes, technically) are not. I've had these two plants for more than ten years and in all this time, in spite of flowering off and on for six to eight months, I've never successfully made seed. I've decided over the years that the minimum population of cacti for successfully making seeds is about five plants. That is, you will get good seed from at least one plant about 95% of the time. (I just now, as I proofed this writing before sending, realized that I agree with the 15% number!!) This incompatibility actually is common among sexually reproducing organisms, that is, there are sexually incompatible (no offspring, not the other stuff) pairings, humans included, to the tune of around 15% or so. (Culturally among humans, the woman gets blamed, sometimes with crazy and devastating results. See "Henry VIII." He, Henry, more or less struck out with six women, but they were at fault, not he. Hateful conclusion, I think. His wives should have killed him.) I haven't thought that hard about the problem before reflecting on these pictures as I prepared this mailing. I wonder if the basic sexual mismatch is really an immune system getting overactive. That is, the zygote resulting from direct fertilization is a foreign cell in the mother's body (or plant ovary). It has a DNA that is not the same as the mother's. The immune system has evolved to kill cells that are foreign. As far as the immune system knows, the zygote is a foreign invading organism. Which now begs the question - how come the 85% of zygotes evade the immune system? How does the developing embryo, another foreign invader, avoid destruction in its long gestation in the mother? Is the immune system of the mother trying for nine months to kill the baby, in all of its biological forms? Why doesn't it succeed? Have any attempts been made to overcome reproductive problems with immunosuppressive drugs? Any thoughts about all this, guys? How crazy am I?   (10/24)   

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