Researchers infuse plants with chemicals to glow for hours

MIT researchers have figured out how to infuse common plants like watercress and arugula with luciferase, the chemical that makes fireflies glow. The process make the plants emit a dim glow for up to four hours.

Via MIT:

Previous efforts to create light-emitting plants have relied on genetically engineering plants to express the gene for luciferase, but this is a laborious process that yields extremely dim light. Those studies were performed on tobacco plants and Arabidopsis thaliana, which are commonly used for plant genetic studies. However, the method developed by Strano’s lab could be used on any type of plant. So far, they have demonstrated it with arugula, kale, and spinach, in addition to watercress.

For future versions of this technology, the researchers hope to develop a way to paint or spray the nanoparticles onto plant leaves, which could make it possible to transform trees and other large plants into light sources.

“Our target is to perform one treatment when the plant is a seedling or a mature plant, and have it last for the lifetime of the plant,” Strano says. “Our work very seriously opens up the doorway to streetlamps that are nothing but treated trees, and to indirect lighting around homes.”

Engineers create plants that glow (MIT) Read the rest

Plants are monsters

Cat Whitney's thread of her favorite spooky plants includes some of the plant kingdom's most horrifying denizens: Aristolochia Salvadorensis..."looks like a flayed skull, and reminds some of Darth Vader"; Hydnellum peckii..."The infamous bleeding tooth or Devil's tooth fungus"; Antirrhinum seed pods..."the seedpods of some species resemble human skulls"; Tacca chantrieri..."the Black Bat Flower"; Monkey Orchids..."as I'm personally terrified of primates & apes, I'm putting them on here". (via JWZ) Read the rest

Newly-discovered orchid smells like champagne

In Madagascar, botanist Anton Sieder recently discovered an orchid with huge flowers that smell of champagne. Royal Botanic Gardens researcher Johaan Hermans confirmed that the plant, now named Cynorkis christae, is new to science. From The English Garden:

“It is quite a find,” said Johan, who saw the orchid in the flesh in January this year after travelling to the mountains with a team from Kew and Paris. “One of the most noticeable traits of this new orchid is its sweet scent, which one of our team likened to smelling like champagne,” he added.

Cynorkis christae also has enormous flowers, with a 5cm (2in) wide lip and a 16cm (6in) spur. Most of the flower is pure white, while the top petals have distinctive maroon markings...

The plant was named after Anton’s wife Christa, hence Cynorkis christae.

"New Orchids Discovered in Madagascar" (The English Garden via @NadiaMDrake) Read the rest

This remarkable timelapse of flowers took 3 years to film

Whenever it seems that timelapse has become a bit overused, someone like Jamie Scott refreshes the format with something like Spring, a dizzying film of flowers in bloom. Read the rest

The sophisticated, hidden ways that trees cooperate and protect each other

Peter Wohlleben is a German forrester who has revolutionized his field by developing community forest management that does not require pesticides or heavy machinery, and recruits local communities as stakeholders in forestry preservation; but the thing that made him known around the world is his 2016 book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World, which presents evidence for unprecedented (and even spooky) degrees of cooperation among trees in a forest. Read the rest

Charming animated primer on plant communication

Illustrator Yukai Du created this lovely animation of Richard Karban's TED talk on plant communication. Read the rest

Space botanists are beneficiaries of Canada's legal weed boom

It's hard to fund space exploration research -- the commercial applications are speculative and far-off -- but there's never been a better time to study super-efficient, closed-loop botany of the sort that will someday accompany human interplanetary missions, thanks to the need to develop better grow-ops for the burgeoning legal weed market in Canada. Read the rest

Deformed mutant daisies photographed near Fukushima nuclear disaster site in Japan

Just when you'd forgotten about all that leaked radiation.

WATCH: Weird pale parasitic ghost plants contain no chlorophyll

These parasitic corpse plants (Monotopa uniflora) don't need chlorophyll for energy, so they are white or pale pink. Krik & stony of Black Owl Outdoors found some in the wild. Read the rest

Great moments in pedantry: Canada puts the wrong maple leaf on its $20 bill

Hey, that's not a Canadian sugar maple leaf! That is very clearly the leaf of the invasive Norway maple. Read the rest

Guerrilla Grafters covertly add fruit-tree branches to ornamental trees

The Guerrilla Grafters are a group of rogue artists who roam San Francisco, covertly grafting fruit-tree branches onto ornamental trees to create a municipal free lunch. John Robb calls it "resilient disobedience."

How can you improve the productivity of your community even if the officials are against it?

One way is through resilient disobedience. For example, there’s a group of gardeners in San Francisco that are spreading organic graffiti across the city. How? By grafting branches from fruit trees onto ornamental trees that have been planted along sidewalks and in parks.

They are using a very simple tongue in groove splice that’s held together with annotated electrical tape. Good luck to them.

Personal Biochar Kilns, Portable Factories, DiY Septic Tank Cleaning, and Guerrilla Grafting (via Warren Ellis) Read the rest

The Botany of Bible Lands: An Interview with Prof. Avinoam Danin

Avinoam Danin is Professor Emeritus of Botany in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He curates Flora of Israel Online. His latest book is Botany of the Shroud: The Story of Floral Images on the Shroud of Turin.

Avi Solomon: What first sparked your lifelong fascination with botany?

Avinoam Danin: My parents told me that when I was 3 years old I always said "Look father, I found a flower". My grandparents gave me the book "Analytical Flora of Palestine" on my 13 birthday - I checked off every plant I determined in the book's index of plant names.

Avi: How did you get to know the flora of Israel so intimately? Read the rest

Plant eats bird

This is a photo of bird being eaten by a plant.

According to a story from the BBC, it's not unusual for a carnivorous pitcher plant, such as this one, to get its "hands" on a frog, a mouse, or even a rat. But poultry is a rare dish.

The plants kill by tricking prey into investigating the pitcher, usually by offering sweet nectar. Once part of the way into the pitcher, the prey finds it impossible to climb back out. Then it drowns. And then the plant slowly dissolves it—Saarlac-like—over a long period of time. Read the rest