Fecundity: The quality or power to produce abundantly.

Ash buds


That word sprang to my mind yesterday as the autumnal Santa Ana winds began to blow and my Modesto ash tree started to drop it seed pods…by the millions and perhaps billions. This image on the left is just one square-foot of seeds, during one brief windy session. This fecund tree will shed these seeds minute by minute, day by day, well into November. Does this tree really require such an abundance of seeds to ensure its next generation?

I’ve learned that nature’s strategy in general is to overproduce. To have more than any sane person would dare consider necessary. If the pointed end of just one ash seed chances to penetrate the ground, which in other climes can be near-frozen or parched earth by November, and take root and survive intact until next Spring, then all the effort of a billion seeds is rewarded.



Of course, the ash tree is by no means an anomaly of fertility. Consider the pomegranate and its bountiful seed production. How many seeds are in a single fruit? A hundred? Five hundred? A thousand? (They can exceed 1400.) And how many pomegranates are on a single tree? It’s a bit unsettling to consider the lengths the pomegranate will go to to secure its future.

Nature seems to like the odds in its favor.



How about Mosquitos? Let me tell ya, those bastards aren’t going anywhere. When Nettie and I lived in St. Thomas, I did a little research in my desperate effort to eradicate them from my personal space. Each female mosquito can lay up to 25,000 eggs in its short life span. 25,000! Each of the females it produces (give or take a few that you may slap on your arm) will in turn lay its own 25,000 eggs. The numbers add up frighteningly quickly. Is it any wonder, therefore, that 300-500 million people are infected with malaria each year! No, it’s no surprise at all.

All these instances of seemingly gluttonous fertility came into sharp focus last week when my son, Graham, posted a link of an amazing discovery by the Hubble telescope. As I’m sure you know, the Hubble has been orbiting the Earth for over two decades, peering out into the universe, trying to answer some of the most compelling astronomical questions of our time.

new galaxy


Well, when the Hubble pointed its lens for twelve straight days at a tiny, seemingly empty spec of dark sky where no stars were visible, something truly amazing happened. Once the image was developed, instead of empty space, the dark spec revealed itself to contain over 10,000 galaxies (not stars, but galaxies!), with each galaxy made up of hundreds of billions of stars, with an untold number of planets orbiting each one!

Staggering to stay the least…and these galaxies have been “invisible” for millennia until the Hubble pointed its eye in their direction.

I guess it goes without saying that like the ash tree, the pomegranate, and the mosquito, the universe is taking no chances with its own survival. Overproduce. Make more stars than you think you’ll need. More galaxies. More possibilities. Infinite possibilities in fact.

Then of course, the mind turns inward. The ego wants the focus on itself. What about human beings? What about me?

Here’s what we’re doing, we’re overproducing, too. We are damn fertile creatures. Fecund, with a capital “F.”

How many billions of us are there now? Over seven billion. When I was a kid, we were under two billion. By the time I die, we’ll likely be at twelve billion. The earth’s population increases by about 100,000 million a year, or 300,000 a day. Divide that by twenty-four hours, and you’ll see that about 12,500 people are added every hour. Over 30,000 people just in the time it took me to write this blog.

Wow, that’s a lot of people out for a fun day at the beach!

pop 2


Clearly, we can’t go on at this rate.

So I guess our destiny is in the stars. Hubble has shown us that there are certainly plenty of planets out there for us to homestead, to get fecund with if you will.

Maybe we can start with Mars. It’s nearby, relatively. It did have water at one time. Maybe there’s some left below ground. Of course, we’ll have to import a few essentials…like air and food and cable TV. Yeah, Mars could work. Sure.

I do have one suggestion, though, let’s leave the mosquitos behind. Okay?


Related links:

Hubble Project

World Population Counter















One Response to The Fecundity Of Pomegranetes And Galaxies

  1. robin andrea says:

    Wonderful, thought-provoking post. I hadn’t read about the Hubble Telescope discovery. Very interesting.

    I read a book many years ago called Innumeracy. We humans have a hard time making sense of such staggering numbers, like the difference between a million, a billion, a trillion. To put those numbers into perspective– a million seconds is 12 days; a billion seconds is 32 years. If we went back in time a trillion seconds, Neanderthals would still be our much larger brained neighbors.

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