Torch Me Now Or Lose Me Forever

Like many other pseudo-pyromaniacs, I pretend to be a pyromaniac. I’ve never actually set anything on fire, beyond a candle, a log on a beach or maybe once or twice a paper napkin. But I think fire is cool. I like lines in songs like “Can’t start a fire without a spark” and “When there’s nothing left to burn you have to set yourself on fire.” (I like the fact that I now feel comfortable saying I like Bruce Springsteen songs on my blog, but can sort of redeem myself by quoting Stars.)

I also like-no-I love Olivia Judson, scientist, writer, blogger for the New York Times, and totally worship worthy woman. She was on a break for a while, but her column yesterday explored the possibility that one explanation for forest fires is that some trees and shrubs are actually genetically prone to catching on fire:

Many plants that live in places prone to fire are highly flammable — more flammable than plants that live elsewhere. This has led some to speculate that these plants have actually evolved to cause fires: that they “want” fire, and have evolved features that make it more likely that a spark will become a flame, and a flame will become a fire. I call this the torch-me hypothesis. The argument goes like this. Many plants depend on fire for their propagation. Indeed, without fire, these plants disappear. If, for example, longleaf pine forests do not burn regularly, the pines will be replaced by water oaks and other species. So — runs the argument — fires are desirable because they kill the competition. Plants that enhance fires may thus have an evolutionary advantage: they murder the competition while creating the right circumstances for their own seeds to sprout.

So, in fact, sometimes when there is nothing left to burn, you should set yourself on fire. It’s going on my to-do list.


2 thoughts on “Torch Me Now Or Lose Me Forever

  1. So weird, but your post brought a song back to me that I haven't thought of for decades. I couldn't remember who did it, but I found it at YouTube: Fire by Arthur Brown.

    I am intrigued by the concept of trees that burn unassisted. Guess you could call them real “self-starters.” Seriously, this makes some sense to me. And I wish to God that people would stop building neighborhoods in the wilderness. That encroachment is a bad deal for lots of reasons, one being that fire crews wouldn't even be sent to those places if they didn't have to protect property.


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