Monday, March 12, 2007

The pitch of spring

Walking past a small grove in the city today, I caught the fragrance of spring. Not tulips or lilac or some such prosaic thing. No, for me the smell of spring is pine resin.

The trees bathe in the newly potent sunshine and the unmistakable aroma carries me off to mountain trails and moments of leisure.

Ancient pine resin, I am told, is responsible for today's petrochemical industry -- everything from the juice in your ride to the plastic wrap for your lunch.

It's powerful stuff. Apparently, one species of pine, the Jeffrey Pine of California, has a slightly different -- and explosive -- chemical composition to its resin than its sisters in the needle-branch tribe. Turpentine makers out there kept having their factories blow up until they figured that out.

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