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Berry Go Round #49 – all the plants fit to print

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Welcome to the newest edition of Berry Go Round, a blog carnival devoted to highlighting recent blog posts about any and every aspect of plant life. This is the third time I am hosting BRG (see #7 and #31) which is not so bad for a zoologist ;-)

There is not much more I can add, and the entries this month are wonderful, so instead of wasting your time with my own musings, let’s dig into the carnival itself!

21stcenturynaturalist at the 21stcenturynaturalist: Alien Legacy of the Building Boom in Ireland:

This unseasonably warm winter has seen the blossoming of crocuses, daffodils and snowdrops in gardens throughout Ireland a lot earlier than usual. It makes a change from the previous two years, when this blog noted that daffodils had yet to bloom by March…

Hollis at In the Company of Plants and Rocks: Leaving Home:

Isn’t it interesting that many humans have a hard time letting their children go, while most animals and plants take the opposite approach — rebuffing, excluding and even hurling their progeny into the unknown…

Elizabeth Preston at Inkfish: Seeds from 30,000-Year-Old Squirrel Cache Flower Again:

Confession: As a nerdlet of nine or ten, I decided to help flowers get fertilized. I loved seeing the glossy seeds hidden inside the fat green ovaries of dead flowers when I split them open with my thumbnail. I must have watched one of those nature specials where the scientists climb up to the top of the Alps and dust pollen onto endangered flowers with a paintbrush, because I started going around roadside fields with cotton balls and gathering pollen. Partway through my project I realized that these particular plants were doing fine without human intervention, and abandoned them…

Ed Yong at Not Exactly Rocket Science: Flowers regenerated from 30,000-year-old frozen fruits, buried by ancient squirrels:

Fruits in my fruit bowl tend to rot into a mulchy mess after a couple of weeks. Fruits that are chilled in permanent Siberian ice fare rather better. After more than 30,000 years, and some care from Russian scientists, some ancient fruits have produced this delicate white flower…

Jason G. Goldman at The Thoughtful Animal: Are Sheep Better at Botany than the US Government?:

Botanically, a tomato is a fruit: a seed-bearing structure that grows from the flowering part of a plant. In 1893, however, the highest court in the land ruled in the case of Nix v. Hedden that the tomato was a vegetable, subject to vegetable import tariffs. Unfortunately, the vegetal confusion did not end in 1893. Indeed, confusion over botanical categorization has a proud history in America. Just recently, the US Congress mistook pizza (or, specifically, the tomato paste found on what passes for pizza in school lunchrooms) for a vegetable! And a Fox News anchor apparently had trouble distinguishing between peppers and military-grade pepper spray.

Sheep can do better…

Laura Baker at Save Knowland Park: The Rare Chaparral Plant Community of Knowland Park:

There are several different types of native shrub communities in Knowland Park, but none is as rare or fascinating as the remnant stand of maritime chaparral located on the northwestern side of the park. Chaparral is a quintessential California vegetation, and winter is an excellent time of year to explore the chaparral at Knowland Park. As you follow the path into brush, you’ll find yourself in a maze-like realm of twisted, lichen-encrusted trunks and unique plant life. Truly wondrous!…

Chris Clarke at The Back Forty: How to Appreciate Old-Growth Desert:

The desert has secrets, and it doesn’t give them up freely. This patch of Low Desert I’m camped on east of Joshua Tree National Park seems a quiet bit of desolation, a few scraggly shrubs separated widely with non-descript gravel between them. A few aging beer cans, a few tracks across the landscape left by off-road vehicles. The surroundings mostly seem to contain wind, and cold sun, and silence. Not much to write home about, a person might think.

That person would be wrong…

Karl Haro von Mogel at Biofortified: How to pollinate Carrots and Beets:

Ladies and gentlemen, here is the latest in my series of Pollination Methods videos that I make as part of my thesis project. While carrots and beets are not closely related, they share similar life cycles, pollination methods, and even breeding goals – so I put both of these root vegetables in the same video…

Ian Lunt at Ian Lunt’s Ecological Research Site: There goes the neighborhood:

Every now and then I stumble across a graph in a paper that blows me away. Some show patterns I hadn’t imagined, while others show patterns far stronger than I’d thought possible. The other day I came across an ‘in your face’ graph that’s worth sharing…

Luigi at Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog: Looking for a (double) grain in a seedbank:

The fact that IRGC 59101 (which is pictured below, thanks to Ms de Guzman again) is a bit of a strange morphological variant isn’t mentioned in the genebank database, however. Not the electronic version, anyway. Ms de Guzman simply remembered the variety and dove back into her notebooks to find it. Next time I think about venturing into Genebank Database Hell, I want her as my guide…

The Phytophactor at The Phytophactor: More unnatural blueness!:

Blueness is coming out of the floral woodwork, or out of the dye bottle actually, which is clearly a crime against nature…

Colin Beale at Nothing in biology makes sense!: The paradox of the prickly: Why grow thorns if they don’t work?:

Spinescent. Now there’s a word! It simply means having spines and one of the first things many visitors to the African savannah notice is that everything is covered in thorns. Or, in other words, Africa is spinescent. It’s not a wise idea to brush past a bush when you’re walking, and you certainly want to keep arms and legs inside a car through narrow tracks. These are thorns that puncture heavy-duty car tyres, let alone delicate skin. But why is the savanna so much thornier than many of the places visitors come from? Or even than other biomes within Africa, such as the forests?…

Colin Beale at Safari Ecology: Myrrh trees (Commiphora) are useful things… :

Having last week given you the bad news about the biological warfare that plants with thorns are engaging in, I thought it only fair to share some tips that may help you stave off those tropical nasties threatening to kill you… So the good news is that some of those very same thorny trees that are out to get you also hold the cure in their sap…

Jes at Biogeography Bits: Floral gladiators evolve faster in South Africa than Rome:

Gladiolus is latin for ‘little sword’, a fitting name for a plant whose flowers grow along giant spikes. While these plants are ubiquitous in gardens across the United States, they actually are complete foreigners. Of the 260 species around the world, almost all are from southern Africa, and none are from North or South America…

Roberta at Growing With Science Blog: Seed of the Week: Giraffe Thorn Acacia:

Our seeds from last week were tough to identify, but thank you to everyone who sent guesses. I appreciate your attempts because they give me great ideas for upcoming mystery seed posts :-) The mystery seeds were from a giraffe thorn tree, Acacia erioloba. It is also commonly called camel thorn…

Colin Beale at Safari Ecology: Commelina, the Maasai Reconciliation Grass:

It’s surprisingly easy these days to find information on the medicinal use of plants (there’s a great list for the Samuru people here, for example), such as the Commiphora uses we covered last week, but many plants have cultural significance beyond the simple medicinal uses and it’s often much harder to find information about these uses…

Sally at Foothills Fancies: The Blue Rabbitbrush Road

How native is native? We have to applaud the trend toward using more native species in efforts to reclaim natural landscapes after disturbance, don’t we? Sometimes, unfortunately, the gesture backfires no matter how well intentioned it may be. Such was the case several years ago (about 2006?), when the Town of Morrison built a water pipeline through the local open space park (Mt. Falcon)…

David Bressan at History of Geology: How Plants survived the Ice Age:

There are various methods to reconstruct the plant community of a past landscape. Flowering plants produce pollen grains composed by a chemically very stable substance named Sporopollenin, therefore pollen grains usually are well preserved in sediments (but as correctly noted in the comments not in soils). Identifying and counting the pollen deposited over time on the bottom of a lake or conserved in the layers of a bog we can infer the vegetation that once surrounded these sediment traps. In such sediments also plant detritus can be conserved…

Ryan D. Kitko at Cunabulum: The orchid that smells like Chanel No 5:

The orchid genus Dipodium, collectively known as the hyacinth orchids, includes somewhere between 20 to 30 species native to Southeast Asia and Australia. Interestingly, the majority of the species are leafy epiphytes – well, terrestrials that climb and then become epiphytes – dispersed throughout Southeast Asia. A small group of these plants, however, have lost the leaves entirely and live as terrestrial parasites at the base of Eucalyptus trees in Australia…

Andrea Wills at A bouquet from Mendel: Why “Natural” isn’t always better: almond extract and cyanide:

Right now the various species of Prunus are in flower all over northern California; the ornamental plums that are so popular as sidewalk decor are shedding petals everywhere, apricot blossoms are peeking out from yards, and the almond trees that crop up as renegades from the big orchards near Davis and in the central valley are covered in popcorn-y pinkish white flowers. With constant reminders of stone fruit everywhere but none actually in season to eat, I’ve been doing a lot of baking with almonds and almond extract…

S.E. Gould at Lab Rat: Plants that shut out bacterial invaders:

I have a soft-spot for plant biology. In my final year at university, having exhausted all of the bacteria-related biochemistry lectures, I took a bacteria-related lecture course with the plants department. It was a smaller department, and seemed a lot friendlier and nicer. Also the biscuits in the tea-room were cheaper. So I do like to write about plants every now and again, and it isn’t a very difficult task because like every other multicellular organism on the planet, plants also suffer from bacterial infections. Unlike humans, they don’t have a blood stream to carry immune cells around, so they instead rely on bombarding bacteria with nasty chemicals, quickly killing off any parts of the plant that get infected and acquiring a kind of plant resistance to stop attacks occurring again…

With that, we conclude this month’s edition of Berry Go Round. Next month’s carnival will be hosted by Greg Laden. Send in your submissions and volunteer to host.






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