December 23, 2011

Breathing Light

It is Christmas.  You are expecting a red and green theme, some holly and berries, evergreen trees and bright red ornaments, right?  And you know it is the season of miracles.  So here is my red and green post, and it tells of a miracle, one that happens all around us.

As a young student, Donald Culross Peattie was amazed to discover that plants breathe light:

"Using spectrum analysis, Peattie learned that the constituents of a chlorophyll molecule were eerily familiar. 'To me, a botanist's apprentice, a future naturalist,' he writes, 'there was just one fact to quicken the pulse. That fact is the close similarity between cholorphyll and hemoglobin, the essence of our blood.'

This is no fanciful comparison, but a literal, scientific analogy: 'The one significant difference in the two structural formulas is this: that the hub of every hemoglobin molecule is one atom of iron, while in chlorophyll it is one atom of magnesium.'

Just as chlorophyll is green because magnesium absorbs all but the green light spectrum, blood is red because iron absorbs all but the red.

Chlorophyll is green blood. It is designed to capture light; blood is designed to capture oxygen".  *

This didn't just quicken the pulse, it stopped me in my tracks. I'm sure science majors and Master Gardeners learned this, but I never knew.

Gardening has so much to teach me.  I have so much to learn.

Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth to all the creatures breathing oxygen and all those breathing light in our world.

* Quoted from Tree, A Life Story by David Suzuki and Wayne Grady (it follows the 500 year life of one douglas fir).  Also, read Donald Culross Peattie's book: Flowering Earth.

This is the chemical diagram, if it helps.
from Wikimedia


  1. Really interesting comparison. It came to 'light' so clearly in his explanation and seeing the chemical composition. They really are very similar with chlorophyll looking a bit more complex. Capturing light is like capturing the essence of the Holy. Loved your post title too.

  2. Biology is a fascinating thing isn't it. Merry Christmas!

  3. I think I did learn this, long ago, when I was too focused on memorizing facts to appreciate the incredible design and order of our world. Thanks for reminding me! Have a merry, Merry Christmas!

  4. Laurrie, have a wonderful Christmas and all the best for 2012.

  5. Nature is certainly fascinating, but I'd never thought of this festive aspect of it before. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, Laurrie, full of peace and joy...and no deer in your garden!

  6. Laurrie, I had no idea about this. I definitely learn new things about gardening all the time. It's one big puzzle and part of the intrigue for me. Merry Christmas to you and your family and best wishes in the new year.

  7. Merry Christmas everyone! And a big thank you to all of you who visit and comment, I treasure your blogging interest and friendship.

  8. Laurrie, I love the comparison. Never really thought of it in these terms before.

    Hope you had a wonder-filled Christmas.


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