Botany

Our shades of minglings mengle them and help help horizons

Grow Your Own Cloud is a new service that helps you store your data nature’s way — in the DNA of plants.

We are at the forefront of the development of a new type of cloud, one that is organic, rather than silicon, and which emits oxygen rather than CO2.

{ GrowYourOwn.Cloud | Continue reading | Thanks Tim}

Killin’ anything that moves 1-2, 1-2, 1-2

2.jpg

The vast majority of life on Earth depends, either directly or indirectly, on photosynthesis for its energy. And photosynthesis depends on an enzyme called RuBisCO, which uses carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to build sugars. So, by extension, RuBisCO may be the most important catalyst on the planet.

Unfortunately, RuBisCO is, well, terrible at its job. It might not be obvious based on the plant growth around us, but the enzyme is not especially efficient at catalyzing the carbon dioxide reaction. And, worse still, it often uses oxygen instead. This produces a useless byproduct that, if allowed to build up, will eventually shut down photosynthesis entirely. It’s estimated that crops such as wheat and rice lose anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of their growth potential due to this byproduct.

While plants have evolved ways of dealing with this byproduct, they’re not especially efficient. So a group of researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana decided to step in and engineer a better way. The result? In field tests, the engineered plants grew up to 40 percent more mass than ones that relied on the normal pathways.

{ Ars Technica | Continue reading }

photo { Joel Meyerowitz, Florida, 1970 }

‘Maybe it was then that he really imagined something for the first time, as he was standing there in the dark.’ –Fyodor Dostoevsky

435.jpg

A new study published in PLoS One shows that chili seeds can perceive nearby plants even if these are enclosed in boxes. As it was not possible that the enclosed vegetables could communicate through air or soil, researchers believe that plants may be able to hear sounds.

{ United Academics | Continue reading }

photo { Raymond Meeks }

Life as a reading of the self

222.jpg

{ Vincent del Brouck }

Quis leget haec?

67d.jpg

Even after discovering and confirming a new species of plant, which is trying enough itself, botanists have to submit a description in Latin — even if they had never studied the language before — and ensure that said description is published in a journal printed on real paper.

That is until New Years Day 2012, when new rules passed at the International Botanical Congress in Melbourne, Australia this July, take effect: the botanists voted on a measure to leave the lengthy and time-consuming descriptions behind. Additionally, the group released their concerns about the impermanence of electronic publication, and will now allow official descriptions to be set in online-only journals.

{ Scientific American | Continue reading }

photo { Robert Mapplethorpe, Double Jack in the Pulpit, 1988 }

Let’s face the music and dance

421.jpg

By consuming fewer calories, aging can be slowed down and the development of age-related diseases such as cancer and type 2 diabetes can be delayed. The earlier calorie intake is reduced, the greater the effect.

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg have now identified one of the enzymes that hold the key to the aging process.

{ EurekAlert | Continue reading }

related { She was found dead that afternoon; poisoned by water. From salami to soda pop: what does “toxic” really mean?

Sudden hush across the water, and we’re here again

72.jpg

In theory, the relationship between rainfall and tree cover should be straightforward: The more rain a place has, the more trees that will grow there. But small studies have suggested that changes can occur in discrete steps. Add more rain to a grassy savanna, and it stays a savanna with the same percentage of tree cover for quite some time. Then, at some crucial amount of extra rainfall, the savanna suddenly switches to a full-fledged forest.

But no one knew whether such rapid transformations happened on a global scale. (…) Holmgren’s group identified three distinct ecosystem types: forest, savanna, and a treeless state. Forests typically had 80 percent tree cover, while savannas had 20 percent trees and the “treeless” about 5 percent or less. Intermediate states — with, say, 60 percent tree cover — are extremely rare, Holmgren says. Which category a particular landscape fell into depended heavily on rainfall.

Fire may be another important factor in determining tree cover.

{ ScienceNews | Continue reading }

painting { Albert Bierstadt, Giant Redwood Trees of California, 1874 }

For you have five trees in Paradise which do not change, either in summer or in winter, and their leaves do not fall

44.jpg

The genius behind the square tree was Robert Falls, who in the late 1980s was a PhD candidate in the U. of B.C. botany department. Falls noticed that some tree trunks exposed to high winds had become less round in cross section — they’d grown thicker on their leeward and windward sides to buttress themselves. Falls theorized that flexing of the bark by the wind encouraged the cambium— the layer of growth cells just beneath the bark — to produce extra wood. To test his theory, Falls subjected trees to what he thought might be comparable stress by scarring them with surgical tools. Sure enough, more wood grew at the site of the scars.

Hearing the news, a professor in the university’s wood science department suggested Falls try using this discovery to grow trees with a square cross section. Square trees would be a boon to the lumber industry. Since boards are flat and trees are round, only 55 to 60 percent of the average log can be sawed into lumber — the rest winds up getting turned into paper pulp and the like, or just gets thrown away. So Falls obligingly scarred seedlings of several species (western redcedar, black cottonwood, and redwood) at 90-degree intervals around their trunks. The trees responded as hoped, becoming “unmistakably squarish,” he tells me. (…)

Square trees were just the start. In 1989 Falls was awarded a Canadian patent for an “Expanded Wood Growing Process,” a bland title that fails to capture the revolutionary nature of the concept. Square trees by comparison are a mere novelty. The young scientist had come up with a way to grow boards.

{ The Straight Dope | Continue reading }

image { Bo Young Jung & Emmanuel Wolfs, Square Tree Trunk stool II, 2009 | bronze }

I see your lips, the summer kisses, the sun-burned hands I used to hold

27.jpg

When scientists delve into studies of the co-evolution of plants and their pollinators, they have something of a chicken/egg problem—which evolved first, the plant or its pollinator? Orchids and orchid bees are a classic example of this relationship. The flowers depend on the bees to pollinate them so they can reproduce and, in return, the bees get fragrance compounds they use during courtship displays (rather like cologne to attract the lady bees). And researchers had thought that they co-evolved, each species changing a bit, back and forth, over time.

But a new study in Science has found that the relationship isn’t as equal as had been thought. The biologists reconstructed the complex evolutionary history of the plants and their pollinators, figuring out which bees pollinated which orchid species and analyzing the compounds collected by the bees. It seems that the orchids need the bees more than the bees need the flowers—the compounds produced by the orchids are only about 10 percent of the compounds collected by the bees. The bees collect far more of their “cologne” from other sources, such as tree resin, fungi and leaves.

{ Smithsonian Magazine | Continue reading }

sculpture { Edgar Orlaineta }

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.

48.jpg

I’m going to tell you a little story about a menstruating nurse.

Dr. Bela Schick, a doctor in the 1920s, was a very popular doctor and received flowers from his patients all the time. One day he received one of his usual bouquets from a patient. The way the story goes, he asked one of his nurses to put the bouquet in some water. The nurse politely declined. Dr. Schick asked the nurse again, and again she refused to handle the flowers. When Dr. Schick questioned his nurse why she would not put the flowers in water, she explained that she had her period. When he asked why that mattered, she confessed that when she menstruated, she made flowers wilt at her touch.

Dr. Schick decided to run a test. Gently place flowers in water on the one hand… and have a menstruating woman roughly handle another bunch in order to really get her dirty hands on them.

The flowers that were not handled thrived, while the flowers that were handled by a menstruating woman wilted.

This was the beginning of the study of the menstrual toxin, or menotoxin, a substance secreted in the sweat of menstruating women.

{ Scientific American | Continue reading }

photo { Andres Marroquin Winkelmann }

The lily at the end of the poem

1541.jpg

{ Sandro Botticelli, Primavera, ca. 1482 | Enlarge/Zoom | There are 500 identified plant species depicted in the painting, with about 190 different flowers. Of the 190 different species of flowers depicted, at least 130 have been specifically named. | Wikipedia | Continue reading }

‘The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny.’ –Aesop

411.jpg