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The Pyriscent Seed: Trial by Fire

Updated on November 15, 2016
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Lodgepole Pines (aka Shore Pines, Beach Pines, and Coast Pines), photo by the US Forest Service
Lodgepole Pines (aka Shore Pines, Beach Pines, and Coast Pines), photo by the US Forest Service | Source

"The Fireborn Seed"

Some seeds need spring rain

And some need summer sun

But then there are the kinds that need fire

Like the evergreen pine cone


All through its dormant time it waits

All through the dark and gloom

This good seed waits for the time to be right

Patient for its turn to bloom


Then when it comes, how that fire burns

Death and decay fall away

But the fireborn seed is now set free

And its life begins today

"Les jardiniers" by Gustave Caillebotte, 1875
"Les jardiniers" by Gustave Caillebotte, 1875 | Source

Seed Life and Fire Ecology

Apart from a few trickier plants that propagate through cuttings, typical garden-variety seeds are sown directly into the ground or “started” early by gardeners indoors. The usual conditions for germination are damp, dark soil. Like wildlife bird and squirrel helpers who assist by distributing seeds, gardeners participate in plant reproduction by actively cultivating natural requirements. Some seeds need cold treatment to mimic a winter climate, while others must be kept warm and humid to simulate summer.

Plant left to their own devices eventually experience the right weather and seasonal conditions to break seed dormancy, but nature’s clock can be more event-based than linear.

Not all seeds are readily released upon maturation; if they are, this is called “trachyspory”. In “bradyspory”, seeds are stored in cones or fruits and require destruction of the outer protective layers---typically through fire or breakage.

Prescribed fire. Photo by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Prescribed fire. Photo by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service | Source

The term “serotiny” describes plant adaptation to ecological triggers for seed germination. Serotiny by fire is officially known as “pyriscence”; it is the most-studied serotinous phenomenon and has been used interchangeably with the terms serotiny and bradyspory. But there are multiple forms of serotiny:

-hydriscence: water

-necriscence: death (of the branch or parent plant)

-pyriscence: fire

-soliscence: sun

-xeriscence: drying

These conditions may be required in combination as well, such as with pyrohydriscence: fire (or extreme heat) followed by water. Some plants have evolved protective mechanisms that send them into a dormant state under undesirable conditions and then need a specific trigger to take them out of it. For example, certain plants produce draught-resistant coatings that prevent seed germination until washed away by rain; this phenomenon also produces the distinctive, peculiar smell of petrichor due to a specific ecological recipe involving spores, chemicals, and bacterial life. Habitats develop interdependent adaptations.

Etymology of "Pyriscence"

“Pyro-“ means “fire” (from the Latin pyr and the Greek pyros) and is also seen in the words "pyrotechnics" (fireworks) and "pyromania" (obsession with starting fires). The Latin “-escence” refers to the process of beginning or being. Pyriscence is birth by fire.

Excerpts from “The Parable of the Sower”: Book of Matthew, New Testament (NIV)

13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”……..

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

A Different "Good Seed"

A popular biblical parable uses seed as a metaphor for spiritual truth. When planted in the fertile ground of a receptive heart, it flourishes, while the poorly planted seed cannot survive challenging conditions---it is lost, it falters, or it dies. But nature has given us much diversity, and it is clear that there are many types of “good seeds”. Regardless of religious affiliation, we can all be encouraged by the ingenuity and perseverance of the plant world.

This writer sees much potential for poetic variation on the theme of the good seed. Late bloomers, take heart! People are unique, with different maturity rates and needs. Many gifts lay dormant, and one’s true potential is only realized in the proper conditions. Harsh circumstances may have taken their toll, but a struggling flower in an alley can be more beautiful for its poignant courage than a meadow full of thriving flowers. The challenges—the “storms”---may bring destruction but also unearth new resources. And sometimes, a "trial by fire" reveals one’s true character.

A weed on a cliff---isn't it brave and beautiful?
A weed on a cliff---isn't it brave and beautiful? | Source
Lodgepole pine forests, a decade after the 1988 Yellowstone fires. Photo by the National Park Service.
Lodgepole pine forests, a decade after the 1988 Yellowstone fires. Photo by the National Park Service. | Source

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    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Jamie, Thank you! I appreciate your feedback and am glad you found this interesting. Thanks again and take care, Lurana

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 3 years ago from Reno NV

      Very well written educational hub on the importance of fire and other ecology facts. Thank you for this well written hub. Jamie

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Thank you, Theresa, for your compliments, support, and insights...I never recognized the connection with propaganda & propagate before! I am well, thank you, and hope you are too. I've been busy with other endeavors, working more on poetry than Hubpages (and lots of submissions require unpublished work, etc.). I am glad it is finally spring, although it's still a cold April for us in Chicagoland. Take care, :-) Lurana

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Such a wonderfully interesting hub. I learned several fascinating new words, loved all the pictures, and understand the concepts of plant propagation (I love how this word is related to propaganda - in its original meaning) much better now. A great Hub. I hope all is well. Sharing. Theresa

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      PhillyDreamer---Yes! I grew up in Ocean County, not far from the Pine Barrens. Really interesting area. Thanks for the visit and comment! :-)

    • PHILLYDREAMER profile image

      Jose Velasquez 4 years ago from Lodi, New Jersey

      Living in Jersey and knowing about the fires that can happen in the Pine Barrens, it stands to reason nature adapted to this natural occurrence. Thanks for the science lesson.

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      rajan---Yes, nature holds so much wisdom for humanity if we can observe and take it to heart. Thank you for visiting and reading this, I am glad you enjoyed it! :-) ~Lurana

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      So many lessons to be learnt here and from who else but the teacher of them all-Mother nature.

      This is so exciting and interesting as well. Excellent write!

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Eric---Quaking aspen, that's something I would love to see. I am in awe of nature too...so much intricate complexity and amazing beauty!

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Suzette--Thank you! My understanding is that learning is greatly enhanced by stories, art, music, and symbols; parables get right to our hearts.

      I am so pleased that you saw value in this piece...it has been on my mind for years. Whenever I hear the "good seed parable" (which I have always loved too), it makes me wonder what kind of seed I would be...I think I've been like all the examples at one point or another in my life. But being introduced to fire ecology (just from visiting forest preserves!) made this connection for me.

      Thanks again for sharing your reaction! ~Lurana

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you. In my land it is the Aspen, popular tremulodies or so. Quaking Aspen. Isn't it cool to understand something like this. I am in awe of such cool nature.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 4 years ago from Taos, NM

      I love this hub! Like Christ you have taught us by parable. First, I love topic - I had no idea some plants have seeds that must be unleashed by nature such as a fire. I knew that fires were good for forests sometimes, but I didn't realize why until reading this hub. Second, I love the photos - they are so appropriate for your topic. Third, I love this parable of the sower found in Matthew in the New Testament. It is one of my favorite for what it teaches us all. Fourth, I love how you expounded on that parable. This is truly and interesting, informative and inspiring hub. Thanks for sharing all your knowledge with us!

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Frank--Thanks so much for stopping by and reading this. I appreciate the vote of confidence! :-) ~Lurana

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      wow isnt that something.. oh and your poetry too voted awesome MrsBrownsParlour

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Audrey---Thank you so much! It has been wonderful connecting with you today. I appreciate your visit very much. :-)

      ~Lurana

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      This is so lovely! I especially love the poetry--but then I am partial!

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      dreamseeker---I love learning new words and information too, and petrichor was stuck in my head ever since I saw that Dr. Who episode. I'm glad you found it useful. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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      dreamseeker2 4 years ago

      Interesting and useful hub. Who knew, eh? : ) Great job in sharing this info with us, who didn't know about it...like me. Thanks!

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Reba---Thank you so much for your thoughtful and insightful comments. I am in awe of nature's lessons and appreciate your reflections; I agree that we need just observe and listen to the wisdom around us. One time I found a bean underneath my kitchen sink drain that had sprouted---I admired it so much that I didn't want to have to move it! :-D

      Thank you again and have a wonderful day.

      ~Lurana

    • Dancing Water profile image

      Dancing Water 4 years ago

      What a beautiful, informative, and yes, wise article, Lurana! If we all observed Nature and the lessons she teaches us as you do, we would have a much more harmonious and joyful existence on this big blue marble. The structure of your article, the visual formatting, and of course, the important content, clearly expressed, work splendidly. Every time I witness tiny flowers springing up from concrete or rock, I am amazed and moved by the strength and pure fortitude that nature expresses and demonstrates. If only we would take those golden lessons and apply them to our lives. It seems sometimes that Mother Nature waits and waits for us to perceive and receive her wisdom, but how often do we listen? You are a great messenger for her!

      Thanks to you, dear Lurana, I aspire to be pyriscent.

      Blessings to you,

      Reba

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      kj force--Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed this topic as much as I did. I also admire the "weeds" and like how you use it as a metaphor....the ones that adapt and grow strong are to be admired! I appreciate your comments very much.

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Amy---That is just magical! Moonflowers and hummingbirds...sometimes nature is fantastical. There are so many things that would sound like a fairy tale if we didn't see them for ourselves, like bioluminescent sea creatures or the aurora borealis. Thank you for this story! I am a big fan of cultivating native plants too.

    • kj force profile image

      kjforce 4 years ago from Florida

      MrsBrownsParlour...Very interesting write... enjoyed very much..I use the metaphor " weeds" when describing survivors of life.. just as it takes a fire to stimulate the birth of the pine.. thus humans that endure or surcome to negative many times are stronger and more determined than those of naught.. hence ..the " weeds " ...you are a very promising writer....welcome to HP...

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      When I had an adorable, cabin'ish cedar home in Hillsboro, MO, I fed a family of "Woody Woodpeckers; mom, dad and baby, whose shock of red hair stood straight up! I fed the golden finches, cardinals, bluebirds, and Indigo buntings. I naturalized the yard with native plants that thrived on their own and drew an abundance of bees. One year I planted a moonflower vine on an arbor. It was gorgeous and fragrant. One night, by the light of the moon, I went outside and found at least 25 hummingbirds buzzing the moonflowers! It was an awesome sight. Next to the endangered flying squirrel who stayed in one of our trees, it was an unbelievable experience that taught me that all things in nature have a reason and a purpose. As thinking, reasoning human beings, I believe we are obligated to respect and care for every living thing on earth. Thank you, Lurana, for sharing your Loofah blossoms and the wasps story. I like the way you think and love the way you express your thoughts.

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Amy, That little weed spoke to me too. Thank you for sharing your story---I can picture the sunflower! I can't believe that man smashed your birdfeeder; people are so territorial sometimes and don't realize this world belongs to animals too. I also welcome birds and love them but have had neighbors complain about birds and bees----I try to tell them that these are our pollinators, that we need them for flowers and vegetables and wildlife and that they won't hurt us if we leave them in peace. I once planted loofah-sponge plants which had vines to rival Little Shop of Horror and turned out to be wasp magnets....but I was able to work in the garden as long as I avoided the loofah area because the wasps wanted nothing to do with me---they only wanted loofah blossoms!

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      tobusiness---Hello and thank you so much! I appreciate your visit and comment. :-)

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      CloudExplorer---You commented on all the layers of the essay and I thank you for that. I guess you are a fireborn seed too! There are a lot of us, and it looks like many of us use our trials to create art/writing/music....which is just as beautiful as those baby plants rising out of the ashes. I very much appreciate your support. Thank you!

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      More than an interesting learning experience, Lurana, as you welcome a spiritual walk with nature. That brave, beautiful, lone weed on the mountaintop reminds me of an awe-inspiring experience I had in the terrible midwestern drought last summer, when I nurtured the local birds and squirrels by providing black-oil sunflower seeds and fresh water everyday. Lo and behold, in the asphalt alley in back of the building where I put my wildlife offerings, sprung one stoic, solitary sunflower. I cried when I found it plucked from the small space it occupied on one hot day in July. I was further dismayed when some neighbors expressed their anger that I fed the birds. One man raged that I was drawing pidgeons, when in fact the birds he referred to were mourning doves and pidgeons, in fact, are part of STL city life anyway! When he smashed a concrete feeder I put out and dumpstered another, I refused to be deterred, wondering how many meals he'd missed in his miserable life, and bought a resin replacement, which I continue to use to give a hand to the local wildlife. Thank you for your work of art, Lurana, that reminds humanity of the miracles that nature shows us everyday.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      A wonderful piece, beautifully done.

    • CloudExplorer profile image

      Mike Pugh 4 years ago from New York City

      I been through much that this outstanding seed undergoing fire article. I love the connection your made between the rough experience the trees undergo in order to bear ripe fruits again someday, and utilizing the seed as a poetic vice in your writing will definitely enhance you abilities and overall message for sure as done here.

      Wowser is all I can say about this one @MrsBrownsParlour, and I hope to become a blossoming tree of knowledge someday for someone LOL :) because only the lord knows that I been through hell and back!

      Bravo on this masterpiece, and you bet I'm sharing it everywhere I can, and across all of my cloud networks.

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Eddy, thank you. Sometimes the harshest conditions produce diamonds and pearls and new life. And poetry. :-)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      So very interesting Lurana and created beautifuly ; another true gem by you.

      Voted up and shared.

      Eddy.

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Colin, your praise is as profuse as your poetry. I am grateful for your kind comments. Thanks for the warm wishes too---it is a bit windy and chilly in the Chicago 'burbs today, feeling all the more so because yesterday was much sunnier. I love the gray spring days too though. Have a great evening. :-)

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      Well my fabulous Lurana I always feel like a child going to school for the first time when I arrive at your most profound hubspace. I am learning from you every time I read a different hub presentation and if you could see my jaw right now it's resting comfortably on my slippers.

      Thank you, as always, for the education and the enlightenment.

      Sending you warm wishes from Colin and his cats at lake erie time ontario canada 5:40pm

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Valleypoet---I like your observation about fire. I am comforted to think that even large-scale natural disasters have regenerative benefits. I'm glad you liked it, thank you for commenting!

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Sheri---Thank you!! I also see lessons while gardening...it's such a great source of meditative time. Thank you for your comments!

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image
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      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Bill---I'm with you. And thank you very much!!! :-)

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      Valleypoet 4 years ago

      Everyone is familiar with fire taking life...but creating it!...very interesting and educational..thank you Lurana:-))

    • Sheri Faye profile image

      Sheri Dusseault 4 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

      Very well done and moving! I am an avid gardener and see so many lessons in plants. I am always amazed at the abundance of nature...one little plant can produce thousands more. Great pictures too.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Look at you doing a lyrical essay with a great message. Trial by fire! Show me someone who has walked through hell on earth and come out the other side enlightened and better for it, and I'll show you someone I'll walk side by side with proudly. Well done, Lurana! Sharing on Facebook.