For regular readers of this column, you know I emphasize the importance of connection, and that acknowledging and mindfully embracing our connectedness is one of the keys to good health.
On a recent trip to Arizona I was reminded that this connectedness and cooperation exits beyond just our fellow humans beings but to all living things. While visiting family in the desert Southwest, we had the occasion to explore the Desert Museum, near Tucson. We were given a tour of the facility by an amazing biologist who was passionate about the cooperation (symbiosis) between organisms and the adaptation to the desert environment.
For example, the Saguaro Cactus (pronounced Swarro), iconic to the Sonoran Desert which extends from southern Arizona into Mexico, is dependent on a species of bats (the Mexican Long Nose Bat), which migrate from Mexico each year to pollinate the cactus, for survival of both species. Amazingly, the cactus blossoms mainly at night, and because the flower is bright white, the bats can find it at night, cross pollinate the cacti, whose blossoms then whither away, leading to a red fruit used as a food source for the bats as well as many other desert organisms, including humans. Thousands of tiny black seeds are released from the fruit thus ensuring the propagation of more Saguaro cacti, and the bats migrate back to Mexico, well nourished and ready to thrive themselves.
Another extraordinary cactus, the Prickly Pear, also produces beautiful flowers allowing pollination. The resulting fruit produces a nectar which has been found to be an anti-inflammatory agent with the ability to reduce blood sugar in type 2 Diabetics, improve pain in arthritis and even help to treat hangovers!
Symbiosis is the biologic principle of species living together while benefiting from each other’s existence. The cactus in the desert biome is a beautiful example of inter-species cooperation. Perhaps there is a lesson in there for us. We may also benefit from cooperation with other species, but more importantly from cooperating and benefitting from each other.
Dr. John Monaco