Category Archives: Plants

Berry Go Round #31

Welcome to the September edition of Berry Go Round, the blog carnival of all things botanical!

We’ll start with the The Roaming Naturalist who went out into the desert somewhere out in the Western United States and took pictures of Bitterroot, Desert Beauty.

Ted C. MacRae of Beetles In The Bush took a trip to the Sam Baker State Park and saw a Cleft Phlox, which is found in just a handful of Missouri counties.

Christina Agapakis of Oscillator is fascinated with figs and their symbiosis with pollinating wasps so she wrote not one but two posts about them: Edible Symbiosis and Seedlessness.

Sarcozona of Gravity’s Rainbow saw a wild Impatiens with an unusually looking flower – Orange Jewelweed.

Joan Knapp from Anybody Seen My Focus? took a lot of excellent pictures of the Green Comet Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) in Wilkes County, Georgia.

Matt DiLeo is The Scientist Gardener. The Orange Mystery Dust that painted everyone’s shoes orange during a ballgame turned out to be from the lawn rust fungi. Matt tells us what that is all about.

Mr. Strawberry of Strawberry Plants.org introduces us to a strange-looking but mouth-watering new cultivar – the Pineberry: Pineapple Strawberry.

Dave Ingram of the Dave Ingram’s Natural History Blog explains how identification of native vs. introduced grasses requires some Learning about Ligules.

Emilie Wolf of Purple Carrots & Fairy Smoke tells you more than you ever knew about apples in Don’t You Just Love Apples?

Jessica M. Budke from Moss Plants and More takes a look at the new attempt to classify 350 species of peat moss in A Tale of the Sphagnums that Weren’t.

“Where should breeders look for traits like drought resistance among the landraces and wild relatives of crops?” asked Luigi of the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog and took a look at a new paper about tomatoes: Getting the most out of wild tomatoes.

The Phytophactor gets help from some strange flowers, like a star flower, to get students excited about Pollination biology in the greenhouse (and then you take a fruit, spice and veggie quiz).

Janet Creamer from the Midwest Native Plants, Gardens, and Wildlife took a series of pictures of a bumblebee, the only pollinator strong enough to force open the always closed flower of the Bottle Gentian.

Greg Laden of Greg Laden’s Blog gave his readers a photo quiz – Name that organism and his readers guessed them all.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Sugar beet biology you can learn from Anastasia Bodnar at Biofortified.

And that’s it for this month. Thank you all for your submissions. Next edition of Berry Go Round will be hosted by Mike Bergin at 10000 birds – make sure you send in your entries in time.

Botanicalls – plants use Twitter to tell you when they need watering!

This is awesome – Botanicalls. See one of the developer’s amazing Ignite talk:

Linnaeus’ floral clock on the island of Mainau

As you may have noticed, I am quite fascinated with the earliest beginnings of my scientific discipline, which was almost entirely involving research on plants. The most famous story from that early period is the construction of a Flower Clock by Karl Linne, the father of taxonomy.
So, of course I got really exited when I saw, on the Mainau island last Friday, a reconstructed Linnaeus’ floral clock.

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Then I looked carefully – and noticed it was not telling the correct time. This was taken at 3pm.

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So I thought about it for a second….and, well, this is what I think is going on here.

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First, Linnaeus’ clock is a 12-hour clock, not a 24-hour one. It does not include plants that flower at night. The division of the daytime into 12 hours makes sense only during the equinox. As daylength changes during the year, each hour will become gradually longer than 60 minutes for six months, then shorter then 60 minutes for six months. Thus, such a clock will not be precise on any day except the (spring) equinox.

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Second, the latitude of Mainau in Germany is different from that in Upsalla in Sweden. And yet, the same species of flowers were used in both places. Thus, the photoperiod will be different and plants will flower at different times of day at these two places (again, except on the day of spring equinox).

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Very pretty – but not a precise time-piece….

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Meetings I’d like to go to….Part V

Genetic Manipulation of Pest Species: Ecological and Social Challenges:

In the past 10 years major advances have been made in our ability to build transgenic pest strains that are conditionally sterile, harbor selfish genetic elements, and express anti-pathogen genes. Strategies are being developed that involve release into the environment of transgenic pest strains with such characteristics. These releases could provide more environmentally benign pest management and save endangered species, but steps must be taken to insure that this is the case and that there are no significant health or environmental risks associated with releases. Our conference will foster discussion of risks and benefits of these technologies among scientists, policy makers, and citizens.

March 4-6, 2009
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
This is very soon – I’ll try to go to some of it if I can….

iNaturalist rocks!

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Thanks Bill for drawing my attention to iNaturalist which has the makings of an awesome site!
What is it?
It is essentially a Google Map where people can add pins every time they see an interesting critter: a plant, fungus, animal, etc. What is recorded is geographical coordinates and time when it was posted.
Moreover, people can link from the pins to pictures of the sighted critters if they upload them on Flickr (nice way to interlink existing social networking sites instead of reinventing the wheel). And they can put additional information, e.g., description of the habitat where they saw the creature. They can try to identify it and others can chime in agreeing or disagreeing on the ID. One can also view maps in various ways – by time, by broader groups (e.g., insects, birds…), or by the degree of agreement people have about the ID.
The site has, apparently, just started, thus the number of people and the number of sightings is still relatively small and limited to mainly a couple of geographic locations (mostly California and Washington state).
But, imagine a couple of years from now, with millions of people pinning millions of sightings, providing additional information and then having the community agree on the ID? How about ecologists putting in all their field survey data (at least after publication if not before)? How about everyone who participates in the Christmas bird hunt? What an incredible database that will be! Something that one can search with machines, build and test models, and use the results to test ideas about, for instance, effects of weather events (hurricanes, fires, floods, El Nino, etc.) or broader weather changes (e.g., Global Warming).
In order for this database to become useful, I hope that the developers, as soon as possible, make sure it is possible for all the info to be machine searchable. And also to provide, perhaps, various fields that will lure people to put in more information. Right now, there is a date when the pin is posted, but the date of actual sighting is much more important. Exact latitude and longitude. Perhaps altitude. Perhaps depth for aquatic organisms. Exact time of day of the sighting. Description of the habitat. Number of individuals. Measurements of different kinds (one often cannot infer from pictures if the critter is 3cm or 30cm long, for instance). Behavioral observations. And of course the ID.
Such a database would be biased of course. People will tend to record when they see something unusual, or cool, or charismatic megafauna, rather than grass or field of corn or a bunch of squirrels in a tree. Also, more critters will be found in urban areas, on farms, in parks and by the roadsides than in places where one needs climbing (or diving) gear, or an hour of work with a machete in order to get to the habitat. But ecological models using the database could be made to account for these biases anyway.
In any case, I urge you to bookmark this site, and to use it. And let’s see how it shapes up over time.

Light-Responsive genes in rice

Friendly blogger Pamela Roland, the author of Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food which I am reading right now (and which was recently reviewed in PLoS Biology), has just had a paper published in PLoS Genetics:
Identification and Functional Analysis of Light-Responsive Unique Genes and Gene Family Members in Rice

Rice, a model monocot, is the first crop plant to have its entire genome sequenced. Although genome-wide transcriptome analysis tools and genome-wide, gene-indexed mutant collections have been generated for rice, the functions of only a handful of rice genes have been revealed thus far. Functional genomics approaches to studying crop plants like rice are much more labor-intensive and difficult in terms of maintaining the plants than when studying Arabidopsis, a model dicot. Here, we describe an efficient method for dissecting gene function in rice and other crop plants. We identified light response-related phenotypes for ten genes, the functions for which were previously unknown in rice. We also carried out co-expression analysis of 72 genes involved in specific biochemical pathways connected in lines carrying mutations in these ten genes. This analysis led to the identification of a novel set of genes likely involved in these pathways. The rapid progress of functional genomics in crops will significantly contribute to overcoming a food crisis in the near future.

Berry Go Round #7

Welcome to the seventh edition of Berry Go Round, the carnival about all things botanical.
The previous edition was last month at Seeds Aside and the 8th issue will be at the end of August on Not Exactly Rocket Science.
The tradition for this carnival is to make it colorful (well, the plants are pretty), so I did what several other hosts of various carnivals did recently and used the LOLCat Builder to make it pretty and fun.
Since this makes the post very image-heavy and may slow down loading of the page for people with slower connections, I have placed them all under the fold.
To see from which blog the post comes from, hover your mouse/cursor over the image.
To go and read the entry, click on the image.
Also, I know, I know, there is no mycological carnival yet, so Berry Go Round has a subsection for that other sub-Domain of fungi, the Hyphae Go Round carnival, added on the bottom (last three entries). Enjoy:

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