Sunday 17 March 2013

Spring Celebration (17 MAR 2013)

When I was at infant school, a girl from the USA joined our class for a year while her father was on secondment. Her name was Spring, which I thought suited her personality as she was quite lively compared to the rest of us. It didn’t occur to me at the time that her parents may have named her after the season.
Wouldn’t Clematis be a nice name for a baby born in spring ?
Spring can refer to a device which exerts tension or compression, the agile leap of a cat or the bursting forth of water, leaves and flowers. In all these definitions, the key point is that energy needs to be stored before it can be expressed.
Crocuses celebrate freedom of expression

Leafsprings are bowed strips of metal which connect the body of heavy vehicles to the chassis, absorbing impacts from the road, going back as far as Roman chariots.
The sliding coils of volute springs provide resistance so that we can control our secateurs with precision.
Torsional springs in clothes pegs generate a pinching force while compression springs in seats and beds support our weary bodies.

Leafsprings & daffodils

Springs work because their material is pre-stressed by the process which forms them, ie. they contain stored energy. If you consider a section of a piece of wire which is formed into a coil spring, the outer side of the wire is stretched while the inner side is compressed - that's what makes it twist.

Is it a coincidence that plant tendrils look like springs ?
In some plants, tendrils actually lift the weight of the plant, like tension springs in weight-lifting equipment.
They start off straight till they find a support to twist around. Then the tendrils continue to twist from either side, from the base and from the support, which leaves an untwisted region in the middle (rather strangely called a perversion). If you conducted a similar experiment, you would find that a wire twisted in this way would unravel if you pulled it at each end.
passion flower tendril - nature's spring
However scientists researching the cucumber tendril noticed that it forms more coils as it is stretched, effectively lifting up the plant. They were confused by this behaviour, until last year when they succeeded in modelling the tendril tissues by using layers of rubber, copper and fabric glued together, inventing a new type of artificial spring in the process.

Even though I work as an engineer, I'm embarrassed to say that I've never invented anything. Sometimes it seems that there's nothing left to invent. However, reading the story of the cucumber tendril has stoked up my creativity, making me realise that just outside my back-door is a whole host of ideas that I can borrow from nature ... and that’s something to celebrate !

Lungwort - not such a good idea for naming a baby

Reference :

These are photos of spring from the gardens of my family.
Today I'm linking up to Donna Abel's Seasonal Celebrations meme :

©Copyright 2013 b-a-g. All rights reserved. Content created by b-a-g for


Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

B-A-G what a marvelous post. I have never quite understood how things work or physics but I love how you brought me from the season with stored energy to the springs used as devices of support and right back to the garden of discovery. You my dear engineer friend are bound to discover much in your wonderful garden and those of your family. Thank you for this great contribution to the meme!

linniew said...

And so that is why we have winter, so all the people will be pre-stressed and ready for/to Spring. It all makes perfect sense.
A great read!

That's a lovely clematis. I need one of those bell shaped ones.

Janet/Plantaliscious said...

What a fabulous post b-a-g. I always enjoyed experiments with springs in physics lessons, but how wonderful that scientists have struggled to reproduce the behaviour of plant tendrils. Beautiful clematis.

Anonymous said...

Nature really is a good model for inspiration. Good luck and hope a patent springs forth.

HELENE said...

Your post made me smile, I love to find out how things work, taking things apart and putting them together again, or simply just reading about things on the Internet. Anything interesting is interesting! This was certainly interesting.
Incidentally, tap (or faucet) is called spring in my language, Norwegian.

The Sage Butterfly said...

Such a lovely post to welcome spring! It has been a long winter, and I am ready for all that beauty of spring.

HolleyGarden said...

I love when scientists take their cues from nature to invent something new. I always think of velcro, and the plant that inspired it when I think of plant-inspired inventions. But this new spring could revolutionize several industries! Tendrils fascinate me, and now I'll be looking at them even closer to see more coils being formed, lifting the plant.

Anna B said...

Haha! Brillliant post! The suggestions for names had me in stitches :)

Anonymous said...

As informative as ever and i enjoyed the word association. Great photos too.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

I do find this an inspiring post - in making the parallels between engineering and nature - and in the thought that there's always something new to discover - and because you are, yourself, newly inspired to set out to discover them, invent them, advance them.

I'm revising the list of Tree Followers on my blog. Will you be following a tree this year? Would you let me know, either by email ( or by leaving a note on the Tree Following page on my blog. ( )

Angie said...

Very educational! Enjoyed reading this. Maybe after writing this blog you will have your Eureka moment

Sarah Shoesmith said...

Don't be embarrassed about not inventing anything - some engineers have interesting blogs.
I really enjoyed this post - great pix too. Lungwort indeed - very funny!

Alistair said...

I dont suppose Pulmonaria would be much more of a blessing. Interesting Clematis you have there, do you know the name of it.

b-a-g said...

Thanks all for your comments.

Alastair - I don't know the name of the clematis, but here's the closest picture I could find on the web, it's a form of clematis cirrhosa :

debsgarden said...

I've always thought God is the greatest engineer, and the rest are imitators. Regarding Clematis as a name: I have heard worse, but forgive me, I am a nurse and for some reason this name reminds me of a venereal disease. But not the plant, as it is very beautiful!

catharine Howard said...

Particularly like the lungwort. When I start planting (still at excavating stage) I want lots of different types.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...