While many might think of weeds as pests, British nature writer Richard Mabey prefers to think of them as "vegetable guerrillas" and "forest outlaws." Mabey's new book, Weeds: In Defense of Nature's Most Unloved Plants, is a spirited defense of weeds. He tells NPR's Melissa Block that his love for weeds began when he discovered a forest of the disreputable plants in an industrial wasteland near London's Heathrow Airport.
Common bindweed (Convolvulus arvense) may be the toughest weed in the world. Now the aerial shoots don't look like too much, a slender vine with it's little pinky-white morning glory flowers, but it forms a tuber deep under ground from which it can resprout forever as best my efforts can determine.
To ward off famine and potentially save millions of lives, researchers are looking for a little help from a tiny fungus. By colonizing seeds with spores from naturally occurring fungi, experiments show that rice -- a major world food source -- is able to withstand stresses associated with climate change, such as drought and soil salinity.
The world’s forests are magnificent palaces of biodiversity, teeming with wacky and wonderful creatures and plants that seem otherworldly. But they’re also something far more mundane although useful: they’re giant sponges, soaking up vast amounts of carbon dioxide. According to a study published online on Thursday by the journal Science, the world’s forests absorb 2.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, or about one-third of the carbon dioxide released through the burning of fossil fuels.
The Madagascar star orchid, Angraecum sesquipedale, is especially famous because of its incredibly long "nectar spur" -- a long tubular extension that holds the flower's nectar. As pollinating moths reach their tongues to the nectar, they are forced to brush their faces in pollen, thus pollinating the flower. Of course, the moths evolved longer tongues to make it easier to each the nectar, also avoiding pollinating the flower. In response, the flower developed longer nectar spurs to force the moth to pollinate it, and so on. This biological balancing act where an organism drives the evolution of one or more of its evolutionary partner's traits is known as coevolution.
I struggle at times to understand why we haven’t made much progress in understanding plant functional traits over the past ten years. As has been well chronicled for over a century, plant functional traits are keys to understanding the evolution of plants, predicting ecosystem response to global change, and interpreting the distribution of species. None of the importance of plant functional traits has changed any time recently. I would never argue that there has been no progress... Still, it just doesn’t feel like we’ve learned much in the past ten years about traits.
The last student to enroll into a degree program in botany enrolled at the University of Bristol in 2010. In the current directory of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) (the organization that manages student applications to college courses in the UK), the listing for “Botany Degree” has disappeared. Why is this happening?
The stench of rotting flesh will soon permeate the Universityof Illinois’ Plant Biology Greenhouses. The Amorphophallus titanum, or the corpse flower, is on the verge of blooming and will soon emit a rotting meat smell.