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Darwin's lowly worm

Summer has passed, and the leaves begin to turn, and fall.

When leaves first fall, they give very little back to the earth. Dry leaves never do give back, but over a year, wet leaves decompose into a rich dark humus that can be put on the garden to feed the roots of plants. In fact, “Tree leaves are the best concentrators of calcium, magnesium, and trace minerals on the terrestrial world.”

Their leaf mold is taken down into the earth by the earthworm, a boneless animal without eyes or ears but with five pairs of hearts and a very long intestine.

Like most people, I do not spend much time noticing ‘the lowly worm’, except when I am digging, and accidentally chop one in half, as happened today.

Charles Darwin, however, did watch worms. Shortly after his voyage on the Beagle, he began decades of study, and eventually wrote an entire book about worms, The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms. Darwin concluded that all plants, and consequently all life, would vanish from the face of the earth if worms disappeared.

Trees moving up into the light, flowers blossoming, grape vineyards and fields of grain are the fruits of the work of worms.

This is vital information, provided by an eminent scientist who never considered a subject beneath him.

Our lives depend on earthbound animals who pass soil through their bodies, transporting minerals, and tilling the earth to create a network of pores through which water, nutrients, and air can circulate. It's said there are about 54,000 worms per lush English acre. . .

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