True Leaves

True Leaves

One of the most interesting things I’ve learned in starting a garden is the phenomenon of “true leaves.” Many plants start out with two leaflets that correspond to the two halves of their embryo. These are generally simple and rounded in appearance, and serve to get the baby plant going. As it continues to grow, the next set of leaves to emerge are the true leaves, which look like tiny versions of the mature plant. In the case of baby lettuce, they are also extremely cute.

Japanese Maple Seedling

This pattern can be seen in everything from tomato plants to maple trees, which would seem to indicate that this is a very old invention. And this early stage of development is one that seems to be highly conserved across the kingdoms of life. As Darwin astutely noted, a human fetus and a dog fetus can be difficult to tell apart. Especially when the human is sporting a small tail.

This conservation of early stage supporting technologies makes sense, since small errors at the beginning can lead to big problems down the line. If technology and life share a fundamental principle, you might expect to find a technological corollary to this phenomenon. Any ideas?

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