Fire and Flora: A seriously fun card game ... FOR SCIENCE! project video thumbnail
Replay with sound
Play with
$4,778 pledged of $23,000 goal
By Tim Handley
$4,778 pledged of $23,000 goal

On Whispering Bells

The campaign continues, and like that famously determined turtle, I hope to use slow and steady resolve to hit the finish line and win this race.

In today's project story, I want to talk about Whispering Bells, one of the more rare and interesting flowers in Fire and Flora. They look like this:

Whispering Bells are fire followers. Fire followers are a large and diverse group of plants, mostly consisting of colorful flowers like Fire Poppies, and Parry's Phacelia. The group also (arguably) includes some friendly subshrubs like Deerweed.

All of these species have the same lifestyle. For most of their life, they lay dormant in the soil, in the form of seeds, drowsily twiddling their thumbs, and waiting for their opportunity to shine. Eventually, a fire comes through and clears the aboveground spaces of competition. The combination of heat and ash causes the waiting seeds to sprout. The fire followers then have a short window in which to go nuts, and make as many new seeds as they possibly can. As the shrubs and trees slowly recover, those shrubs and trees begin to reclaim their share of sunshine and rainfall. This means that life becomes harder for the fire followers, and they retreat back to the safety of the seedbank, to wait for the next fire.

It turns out to be fairly easy to find photos of fire followers in flower, but it's very hard to find photos of seeds, and I felt that it was important to have seed photos. Remember that the plant cards in this game have two sides, one side showing a small/young version of that species, and one side showing a big/old version. Since Whispering Bells, like all fire followers, spend so much time as seeds, I felt that the small-side of the Whispering Bells card ought to have photos of Whispering Bells seeds.

So, I searched around, and made some calls. The thing is, if you want to grow fire followers, then you have to trick them into thinking they've been through a fire. Otherwise, the seeds just keep on sleeping. Several companies specialize in California native plant seeds, but very few folks are willing to invest the time required to grow fire followers. Fortunately, S&S Seeds takes their work seriously. While they didn't have Whispering Bells in their catalog, the did have some on hand, and they were willing to give me an ounce of seed to support this project.

Turns out, those seeds were tiny. Fortunately, I know a skillful guy with a quality camera, a guy who has made it his job to collect high quality photographs of every plant that grows in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. He'd been wanting some seed photos, so I brought him the seeds, he took the photos that he needed, and then shared those photos with me.

Those photos look like this:

(small squares are 1mm x 1mm)

Yes, that's a long story, but fortunately for us, it's a story with a happy ending. Now that I have seed-type photos, I can finish the design for the small-side of the Whispering Bells card. That design will include two photos: a life-size photo of seeds, with an inset showing a close-up, so that you can see all the nifty details.

With that story told, I return you all to your regularly scheduled programming. Till next time,

- Tim


Only backers can post comments. Log In
    1. Peter Vaughan
      on July 29, 2013

      Thanks for sharing Tim. What a cool update about the work behind these images!
      A great KS update.