By Orrin Morris
Many artists are fascinated by the sunrise and sunsets in the Rocky Mountains. Shadows, silhouettes, cloud formations among peaks, and bright reflections provide spectacular scenes to draw and paint.
We live in a unique area, too. We are surrounded by the largest number of granite outcroppings in Georgia. Within the area from Stone Mountain to Panola Mountain, to the Georgia International Horse Park, and on to Loganville there may be as many as 100 outcrops. Granite was created by magma and thus contains many different combinations of crystals. A wide range of plants grow atop or in close proximity to the outcrops. However, early settlers found farming very difficult.
The thin layers of soil were sandy, thus causing major crop losses during dry weather. Furthermore, large sections of a person’s farm could not be used and runoff from heavy rains washed trenches through adjacent plowed fields.
Was poverty the norm? According to urban observers, the answer was “yes,” but to the locals, the norm was adaptation, and survival techniques abounded. Rock quarries and gristmills dotted the area making the most of the natural resources. But churchgoers found the Biblical account of creation hopeful.
Genesis 1:12 reads, “And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
Survival was possible because God said it was good.
Our wildflower for today will soon appear on most outcrops and will inspire a faith that has survived in times of both poverty and plenty: Diamorpha.
The diamorpha is red in February and March but when it actually blooms, the flower will be white. During the winter, patches of diamorpha appear in the indentions atop the granite outcrops in our area.
One Sunday in February, I visited a nearby outcrop and inspected the red patches where thousands of 3/16-inch ball-shaped plants awaited longer daylight and warmer breezes. By April, a second visit revealed white blooms had begun to appear, as sketched.
Diamorpha, also called elf orpine, when springing to life, causes stems to rise 3 inches. The light red stem has deep red 1/8-inch leaves that alternate for about 2 inches, after which branching occurs. The tiny leaves are oval-shaped, thick and have the appearance of little hot water bottles. Along and at the ends of the branches, tiny white blooms (1/4-inch) form. These have four petals, eight stamens and a pistil. When the buds first open, four of the stamens are attached to the center vein of the petal. The pistil looks like a fuzzy white ball in the center of the bloom.
As the flower matures the stamens seem to pop loose, scattering pollen. Within a day or so the pistil splits into four seed cases (carpels). Shortly after this the petals drop and the plant dies.
Throughout summer and fall the tiny stem stays erect to hold the seeds aloft. The granite becomes heated and the summer showers that occasionally fill the indention with rain quickly evaporate. The tiny stems gallantly hold the seeds high to prevent their germination.
As winter approaches, the stems collapse and the seed cases discharge the seeds. The late fall and winter rains cause the seeds to sprout what appears to be tiny red balls and the cycle begins again.
As the economy has shifted from agriculture and cattle to manufacturing and service industries, the outcroppings offer us a useful venue for nature excursions and study. Some, like the one I frequently visit, unfortunately have been sites for dumping garbage and other waste.
God did not just create the world and walk away. He is still at work, lovingly watching over His creation. Not even a sparrow falls without His awareness. (Luke 12:5) More than that illustration, God watches over us and surrounds us with love. We would do well if we were better stewards of these outcrops.