It is spring and dandelion season. I am performing an interesting experiment in artificial selection. Every day, I go outside and pick dandelion flowers. Dandelion flowers are practically the only vegetable waste that I do not compost.
I usually take a bucket and pop the flowers off, as well as the buds. I am more likely to miss the shorter-stemmed flowers, because they are hidden below the grass, which normally needs mowing. I am therefore selecting for dandelions whose flowers mature and go to seed in less than 1 day or whose flowers grow shorter than the grass. It remains to be seen whether growing too short a stem is adaptive; possibly the grass will then prevent the dispersal of seeds by the wind. If so, we can expect to see a period of stasis.
Even after a few days I find that I am picking shorter-stemmed dandelions. Clearly, the later-maturing dandelions are acquiring the characteristics of those I have just picked – even though they are not descended from the previous generation. More surprisingly, the previous generation was not short-stemmed but only aspired to shortness before I nipped it in the bud. The effect depends on distance: there appears to be an inverse-square law, with more-distant dandelions less likely to inherit the shortness of their neighbors.
Dandelions undergo spontaneous generation. More surprisingly, they sometimes appear in their fully mature, adult form within less than 30 minutes: I can scour my backyard, find not a single dandelion, and then come back 30 minutes later and easily find more than one.
I have developed a quantitative theory that explains how the dandelions can appear spontaneously and bring with them characteristics that their neighbors only wished they had: Goddidit.
I anticipate green dandelion flowers any day now.