The winter months were cold and very depressing for Toyko. She grew tired of video games, music and old cartoons. Her mother decided to teach her how to plant a Desert Rose from the tiny wheat sized yellow seed. She knew it would be an experience of a lifetime to watch a tiny stem grow into a big bellied truck with slender green leaves. If they were very careful the big red blossoms would look like the big one sitting in the living room window.
The seeds of the Adenium Obesum Desert Rose were ordered from Thailand. It took weeks for the tiny brown envelope to arrive. Inside a tiny see through packet lay twenty small seeds much the size of a piece of rice or smaller. The Desert Rose plant is a spectacular succulent native to Africa and Arabia. Toyko now owned just a little piece of history that few people even knew existed.
Toyko ripped open the small envelope quickly and examined the extremely small stems. Her excitement grew by leaps and bounds as they painted a flower pot and glued a beautiful picture of a Desert Rose on the outside. She filled the big pot with soil that had been left in a flower pot from the spring. It was just too cold to go outside and dig more.
Time passed slowly and each day Toyko looked to see if any of the seeds had taken root. She could not wait until at least one seed popped its head through the lightly covered soil. A tiny green stem began to sprout and within a few weeks two tiny green leaves appeared. This was better than a cat or dog because it required almost no work at all.
“I must give it a drink of water.” Toyko squealed in delight as her eyes pierced the minute green plant.
“”It only takes a very small amount of water. Just give it a few sprays from the plastic spray bottle I use on mine.” Her mother warned.
“These plants are like cactus. They can go for weeks and weeks needing hardly any moisture added to them. If you give them too much water, the roots will rot. Remember they live in hot dry places like deserts. There is not a great deal of water in the desert.” She winked.
Toyko looked at the huge plant her mother had grown from a seed. It stood at least two feet tall and its trunk was thick and twisted. She giggled just looking at such a weird fat trunk. The trunk tapered upward finally displaying short branches with fleshy green leaves. It looked like the Bonsai plant she had seen in a movie. The clusters of red blossoms were about two inches in diameter. It was a masterpiece of beauty and a prize plant belonging to her mother.
“This is a little jewel you have here. If you are kind to it, the blossoms will fill the branches soon.” Her mother reminded her.
Toyko wondered why the leaves and branches all crowded at the top of the plant. The big fat trunk would be noticed by everyone for it was quite an uncommon flower.
“It will be a great conversation piece.” Her mother smiled. “Soon you will have a green thumb like me.”
Now what Toyko did not know was that when she was putting the dirt into the new pot a tiny little creature named Easy had been hiding in the clumps. He was a baby earthworm who was looking for a new apartment with more room and fresh food.
Weeks by week Easy grew at the bottom of the pot. He watched the roots twist and twine through the soil. They tickled his tummy when he slid gracefully over them. Around and around he made his way through the soil. The silence was golden and it was warm to his slick skin. This Desert Rose had company and no one knew it. How perfect could life get?
As the trunk of the plant grew the pot became too small and Toyko decided to put it in a larger one. She spent her last twenty dollars for a bigger clay pot and hurried home to move her precious possession.
“Oh my gosh! There is a big fat worm crawling in this dirt.” She yelled loudly. “It will eat my plant and it will die!” She gasped.
“Actually earthworms are very good for the soil.” Toyko’s mother replied hurrying to see what the fuss was all about.
Toyko watched in horror as the creature wiggled and squiggled across the dirt. Its body moved from short to long as it pulled its way along. What a weird creature to have living in a flower pot, she thought.
“Mom get this awful squiggling thing out of my dirt. It’s going to kill my plant.” She screamed as she put her hands upon her hips in displeasure.
“I’m afraid Charles Darwin would disagree with you my dear one.” Her mother smiled. In 1881 Charles Darwin made a lasting comment about the earthworm. This was a very long time ago yet it remains as true today and back then. He said “It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.”
“Well he might have liked them but I find them to be very yucky!” Toyko said as she wrinkled up her nose at the long wiggling thing that slid across the soil.
“Maybe I will name him Easy because he slides over the dirt like a real pro.” Toyko giggled.
“By its burrowing actions, the earthworm is of great value in keeping the soil structure open, creating a multitude of channels which allow the processes of both aeration and drainage to occur. As it tunnels in and out of the soil it creates passages for air and water. It excretes mucus into the soil that lubricates making it easier for it to move around. You might begin with one earthworm and after a while you will have many. Their poop acts as a fertilizer to the dirt and thus literally HELPS the plants rather than hurting them. You are very lucky to have such a friendly little worm in your pot.” Toyko’s mother added. She was hoping that her daughter would learn a lesson from the common worm. “You should look it up and read about it. Few people know all the benefits of your Mr. Easy here.”
“So this ugly worm is actually good for the soil and my plant?” Toyka questioned.
“Listen to what Google says about the earthworm.” Her mother said as she clicked the keys on the computer.
Earthworms get their food from matter in the soil then return it through their feces or casts. As the food passes through the worms intestines it is converted into nutrients for the plants roots. The casts are rich in magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and nitrogen which help the plants to be healthy. They carry organic materials deep into the layers of the soil. It is estimated that one acre of land or 16,000 pounds of soil is passed through an earthworm’s stomach in one year.
“Wow! Who would have ever thought such a slick funny looking worm could be so valuable? Yep I think I will just call you Easy. Since I don’t know if you are a girl or boy I think that is fitting. Just don’t get carried away having babies. My pot is not that big!” She laughed.
“Easy is a good name and yes very fitting! Now put all that dirt back in the pot so this plant can continue to grow. There is no plant more beautiful than the Desert Rose.” Toyko’s hands began scooping up all the soil and Easy too!
It was a good day. Toyko and Easy had just become very good friends.
Question: How does the earthworm fertilize the soil?
Written by Sybil Shearin
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