Biota Project Health 

Medicinal Plants to Nourish the Soul

White sage. Peyote. Opium Poppy. African Dream Root. What do all these species have in common? These are all plants that serve both medicinal and spiritual roles in cultures across the world. Plants have long since played important roles in human experience since time immemorial. Plants have provided civilization with food, shelter, tools, and the earliest form of health care. It is from the plant kingdom that people began developing the first medicines. Foxgloves, from the genus Digitalis, native to Europe, Asia, and northwestern Africa, were the original sources of…

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Biology Botany 

Steroid Hormones Protect Cotton from Drought

By Radhika Desikan As you are reading this, chances are that you are wearing something made of cotton, or have come in contact with some cotton fabric today. Cotton accounts for nearly half of all clothing material in the world. Cotton plants date back to prehistoric times; there is evidence of cotton farming from around 5000 BC in the Indian subcontinent. Cotton fabric is made of cotton fibres, which grow in the protective cases (bolls) around the seeds of the cotton plant (Gossypium hirsutum). However, it is not just the…

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Biology Botany Education 

Curing “Plant Blindness” with Botanical Gardens and Farms

By Neha Jain (@lifesciexplore) What was the last plant you saw? Have you ever seen a grain of wheat? How many varieties of rice are there? Although many of us desire a green environment, more and more people, especially urban dwellers, are becoming oblivious to the plants around them—so much so that just over two decades ago, researchers even coined a term for this phenomenon: “plant blindness.”  Much of the food we eat today is the result of thousands of years of plant cultivation and breeding by our ancestors. As…

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Botany Ecology Environment 

An Evolutionary Approach to Conserving Plant Habitats

By Mackenzie Myers (@thetiniestnail) To conserve plant habitats, a traditional approach to biodiversity—species richness, or saving as many species as possible—might not be the most effective route. Instead, vulnerable landscapes might be better served by a quality-over-quantity mindset, a recent paper from a team of UC Berkeley scientists suggests. Think of going into a grocery store. On a budget and with limited cooking time, shoppers probably don’t buy the first dozen random ingredients they see on the shelf. Rather, they find it more practical to shop deliberately, perhaps by looking…

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Biology Botany 

Plants Communicate with Neighbors in Response to Touch

By Radhika Desikan How well do you and your neighbour know each other? Chances are, very little these days. But some living things, including plants, know their neighbours well. According to new research, it appears that what one plant “feels” can also be sensed by its neighbouring plant. Isn’t that remarkable? It is a fact of life that plants do not move from one place to another. Therefore plants, unlike humans, cannot move away from any impending danger, be it a herbivore, a disease-causing microbe, or even the cold and…

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Biology Botany Chemistry 

To Grow or Not to Grow? Bacteria Make Seeds Think!

By Radhika Desikan A seed is the beginning of new life for most flowering plants. It has all the potential to develop into a new plant, with its own stored food used for germination (the sprouting of a seed). However, if you have done any gardening, you might know that not all seeds always germinate. Whether or not a seed grows into a plant is determined by a number of factors, such as the presence of oxygen, water, and the right temperature. Seeds have a remarkable ability to detect whether…

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Maize Biology 

Do We Really Need Fertilizers To Grow Crops?

By Radhika Desikan We all learn that plants can make their own food via a complex process called photosynthesis. However, to make their food, and to grow properly, plants need nutrients (chemicals) such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium from the soil. Although these chemicals are naturally present in most soils, years of intensive farming have depleted soils of these nutrients. As a result, humans have resorted to using artificial fertilizers, which are basically synthetic nutrients manufactured through a process that uses a lot of energy, and produces a lot…

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Biology Botany Physics 

How Do Plants Know Which Way to Grow?

By Shayna Keyles (@shaynakeyles) How do plants know which way is up and which way is down? No matter which way you put a seed in the soil, it will always send its roots down and its shoots up. (Unless you’re in space–we’ll get back to that later.) The answer lies in tropism: motion in response to external stimulus. This is pretty amazing, considering that in the traditional sense, plants can’t move. Specifically, plants are affected by geotropism, phototropism, and hydrotropism. In other words, plants move toward gravity, light, and water,…

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How Do People Interact with Closed Nature Trails? Citizen Science Education Environment 

How Do People Interact with Closed Nature Trails?

by Maggie Gaddis In the first quarter of 2018, I worked with the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) staff to identify trails of monitoring interest. We reflected on the feedback received in 2017. The Citizen Science Program concept was received well at the end of 2017,  and we agreed to expand the Program by including more trails. All trails are in the Garden of the Gods in 2018. The potential for additional sites is there, but we agreed it was best to focus our attention on the Garden. A question…

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Citizen Scientists Invited to Identify Plants Botany Citizen Science 

Citizen Scientists Invited to Identify Plants

By Kate Stone @GotScienceOrg Pl@ntNet is a citizen science project and an app that helps you identify plants, thanks to the camera of your smartphone. The app recognizes more than 13,000 species around the world. We recently spoke with Rémi Knaff, community manager for the project, about plant identification and citizen science. GotScience: Who can use this plant identification tool? Knaff: The app can be used by anyone who is interested in plants or wants to be part of a citizen science project. The app uses crowdsourced data to give…

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