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By Emily Stackhouse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Emily Stackhouse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Potatoes And Tomatoes And Deadly Nightshade

Two recent reports (1) that potato plants boost the chemical defenses in their leaves when their tubers are under attack (see Ref. 1 below) and (2) Why Tomato Leaves Smell “Grassy”? (see Ref. 2 below) reminded me of how fascinating the biochemistry is in solanaceous plants and, also, of a question I sometimes got when I was a botany professor.

Is it safe to eat green potatoes?

This question, I presume, was prompted by articles such as “Horrific Tales of Potatoes That Caused Mass Sickness and Even Death”.

Potatoes and tomatoes are the most well-known members of the plant family Solanaceae, a.k.a., the nightshade family.

Perhaps the most notorious member of this family, “deadly nightshade” (Atropa belladonna), is very toxic, even deadly.

(By the way, a really good book about this and other poisonous plants is Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities, which was featured in a previous post.)

So, is it any wonder that people would expect the foliage of potatoes and tomatoes to also be very toxic?

And, indeed, both tomato leaves and potato tubers that have turned green due to exposure to light contain relatively small amounts of toxic compounds called alkaloids.

But according the “Curious Cook”, a.k.a., Harold McGee, the author of several books on the science of cooking (shown below), we may not have to worry too much about this.

Please see the links below for why:

Harold McGee on eating tomato leaves.

Harold McGee on green potatoes.

Though I wouldn’t eat a bunch of green potatoes, I may try a few tomato leaves in my next batch of pasta sauce.

Thanks Curious Cook!

Books by Harold McGee:

The classic that every cook should own: On Food and Cooking and, more recently, The Curious Cook.

References

1. Kumar, P., E. V. Ortiz, E. Garrido, K. Poveda, and G. Jander (2016) “Potato tuber herbivory increases resistance to aboveground lepidopteran herbivores.” Oecologia, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-016-3633-2 (Abstract)

2. Kunishima, M. et al. (2016) “Identification of (Z)-3:(E)-2-hexenal isomerases essential to the production of the leaf aldehyde in plants.” Journal of Biological Chemistry, doi: 10.1074/jbc.M116.726687 (Abstract)

HowPlantsWork © 2008-2016 All Rights Reserved.

Pk16 clip image004Here, There, and Everywhere?

Recent headlines – China to acquire Syngenta and Chinese farmers are illegally growing GMO corn: Greenpeace – got me wondering about the proliferation (or lack of it) of GMO crop plants outside the USA.

It’s seems well-known that biotech crops are not welcome in most of Europe. But what about the rest of the world?

As mentioned in a previous post, some countries have banned GMOs, including most of the EU countries, Russia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Tasmania (see here for a list of 36 countries that have banned the cultivation of GMO crops).

However, as shown in the table on the right (from: Ref. 1 below), a number of other countries all around the world have indeed been actively engaged in cultivating GMO crops.

Please see the references below – with a particular emphasis on China – for current information regarding this topic.

References

1. James, C. (2014) “Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2014.” ISAAA Brief No. 49. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY. (Full Text – PDF)

2. Talbot. D. “China’ GMO Stockpile“, MIT Technology Review online, October 21, 2014.

3. Larson, C. “Can the Chinese Government Get Its People to Like G.M.O.s?“, The New Yorker online, August 31, 2015.

4. Li, Y., Y. Peng, E. M. Hallerman, and K. Wu (2014) “Biosafety management and commercial use of genetically modified crops in China.”, Plant Cell Reports, Vol. 33, pp. 565-573. (Abstract).

5. Li, Y., E. M. Hallerman, Q. Liu, K. Wu and Y. Peng (2015) “The development and status of Bt rice in China.” Plant Biotechnology Journal, doi: 10.1111/pbi.12464. (Full Text)

6. Thomson, J. A. (2015) “Why genetically modified crops have been slow to take hold in Africa.” The Conversation, published online July 13, 2015. (Full Text).

7. Kumar, S. (2015) “India eases stance on GM crop trials.” Nature, Vol. 521, pp. 138-139. (Full Text)

HowPlantsWork © 2008-2016 All Rights Reserved.

Tearing Down The Paywalls?

Over the years scribbling this blog, I’ve often been frustrated when trying to provide readers with links to material I’ve referenced. This is because, in many cases, the scientific information in question has been published in a journal article that is blocked by a paywall.

But just like with newspapers and magazines, the world of scientific journal publications has dramatically changed in the past 10 years.

Frustration with blocked online-access to scientific papers, the majority of which were the result of publicly-funded research, led many people, including scientists, to demand that publishers provide less restrictive access.

Bowing to this outcry (and likely fearing legislation requiring free access to publicly-funded research results), many publishers responded by providing partial open-access options to authors (for a fee, of course).

Alternatively, some scientists (and even some publishers) established fully open-access scientific journals, where authors could publish peer-reviewed scientific research free to view on the Internet. (In most cases, authors are charged a “publication fee” that varies from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.)

You may have noticed that almost everything involved with the Internet these days seems to be in a constant state of flux. And scientific publication on the Internet is no exception (see Addendum below, for example).

But since I don’t have the time or space here to cover all the myriad of ways one can publish scientific information these days, please allow me to offer you a few tidbits.

What is meant by: Open Access (Wikipedia)

For your perusal: a Directory of Open Access Journals

Some recent news: Handful of Biologists Went Rogue and Published Directly to Internet

And, of course, we can’t forget Caveat emptorPredatory publishers are corrupting open access, and be sure to check potential open-access journals at the great website Scholarly Open Access.

Here’s my list – in no particular order – of full open-access plant science journals*:

*Please note, this list is biased. These journals tend to feature articles in the realms of plant physiology and/or plant molecular biology, because, after all, this blog is about how plants work.

For each journal, I’ve included the year of first publication, relative ranking (citations), publisher information, and publication fee. (Please also see legend below for further explanation.) Also, I may have missed a journal or two (or even more than two), so please leave a comment if I’ve overlooked your favorite open-access plant science journal.

  • AoB Plants (0,624) [16] (Oxford) 2010 {$1,000}
  • International Journal of Plant Biology (0,107) [5] 2010 {$560}
  • Frontiers in Plant Science (1,552) [36] 2007 {$2,490}
  • Applications in Plant Science* [6] (Botanical Society of America) 2013 {$1,200}
  • Current Plant Biology* (Elsevier) 2014 {$2,000}
  • Plant Biotechnology Journal (2,034) [51] (Wiley) 2003 {$2,720}
  • PLOS ONE – Plant Science [161 for PLOS ONE] 2006 {$1,495}

    ( ) = SJR Journal Rankings – Plant Science – 2014 (* indicates journal likely too new for ranking)

    [ ] = Google Scholar Metrics value

    { } = publication fee (Please note: actual fee may differ depending on various factors, such as society membership, type of publication, type of open access, etc.)

    Partial Open-Access Plant Science Journals

    To be fair, I should also mention that some plant science journals now offer authors the option to publish open-access articles (typically, for a publication fee). However, journals published by scientific societies, such as the ASPB and BSA, discount (even waive) this fee if the corresponding authors are members of the society or if their institution subscribes to the journal (please see Ref. 1 below, for example).

    I’d like to highlight the journal Plant Physiology in this regard. If the corresponding author is a member of the ASPB, then there is no publication fee to make the paper fully open-access. A brief accounting of the number of fully open-access papers published in 2015 for this relatively high-impact plant science journal (please see here, for example) revealed that the majority of the published papers were fully open-access articles. Thanks Plant Physiology!

    Addendum: Different Categories of “Open-Access”

    Apparently there exists at least two levels of “open-access”, so-called “gold” and “green”.

    I’ll leave it to the Nature Publishing Group to define:

    Gold open access:

    “Article is made open access immediately on publication.
    Usually associated with an Article Processing Charge (APC).
    Article is freely available on our platform.
    Article is the version of record, i.e. publisher’s typeset PDF.
    CC BY licence allows unrestricted reuse of the article providing the author(s) and original source are properly cited. CC BY is the default license for all NPG-owned fully open access titles. Other licences are available.”

    versus, Green open access:

    “Open access after an embargo period (though an embargo will not apply in all cases).
    Article is made freely available but somewhere other than the publisher’s website, e.g. in a subject or university repository, or the author’s homepage.
    Open access article is not necessarily the version of record – it could be the typeset PDF or the author’s final version after peer review but before typesetting.
    Rights/re-use may be limited.”

    Update: E.U. urged to free all scientific papers by 2020

    In Related News:
    Springer Nature to extend content sharing to whole Springer Nature-owned journal portfolio

    Who’s downloading pirated papers?…Everyone!

    Reference

    1. Ort, D. (2006) “RT-Plant Physiology: Full Open Access Publishing at No Charge to ASPB Members” Plant Physiology, Vol. 142, p. 5. (Full Text)

    HowPlantsWork © 2008-2016 All Rights Reserved.

  • GMO? OMG!

    Back in the day, I used to be a member of the American Society of Plant Physiologists (ASPP), which morphed into the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) in 2001 to better reflect the diverse fields of plant science (read “plant molecular biology”) emerging in the 21st century.

    Anyway, I noticed that the ASPB was recently in the news because of a petition it sponsored (which has been signed by well over 1,500 scientists, to date) supporting GMO technology for crop improvement.

    The petition has been generally perceived as a warning to the anti-GMO folks that they are hindering the next Green Revolution presumably needed to feed the 9.6 billion people that’ll likely be on this planet in about 35 more trips around the sun (that is, in 2050).

    Despite the preponderance of scientific evidence in favor of GMO crops (see here, here and here, for example, and also Refs. 1 & 2 below):

  • Some countries have banned GMOs, including most of the EU countries, Russia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Tasmania (see here for a list of 36 countries that have banned the cultivation of GMO crops).
  • Recent polls indicate that over 50% of Americans think that it’s unsafe to eat genetically modified foods.

  • Last year, Chipotle declared it was the first national restaurant chain to cook with only non-GMO ingredients (although this claim has been challenged).

    An Unconscious Decision?

    Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of the safety and efficacy of the use of plant genetic engineering for crop improvement, there exists strong public opposition to GMO’s. This opposition has motivated some companies to ban GMO-derived ingredients from their products and some countries to ban, or significantly limit, the cultivation of GMO crops (see above).

    The seemingly irrational, yet strong, objections to GMO crops has long frustrated many members of the plant science community, which presumably motivated the ASPB to sponsor its petition supporting GMO technology.

    This frustration has recently led some plant biotechnologists to collaborate with cognitive scientists in order to understand WHY there is such widespread opposition GMO’s despite the scientific evidence to the contrary.

    This collaboration resulted in a paper published last year (see Ref. 3 below) that concluded that human emotion, not reason, was why arguments against GMO’s had such resonance with the general public. They found that the human mind may be highly susceptible to negative, and frequently emotional, arguments by opponents of GMOs.

    According to the lead author of the paper Stefaan Blancke: “Negative representations of GMOs–for instance, like claims that GMOs cause diseases and contaminate the environment–tap into our feelings of disgust and this sticks to the mind. These emotions are very difficult to counter, in particular because the science of GMOs is complex to communicate.” (from: Psychology of the appeal of being anti-GMO).

    So I guess it’s no big surprise that in the case of public opposition to GMO crops, emotions often trump reason (like so many other things in life).

    Please Note: Don’t get me wrong. As discussed in a previous post, there are some rationale reasons to seriously question some GMO’s, including economic, political and ecological arguments.

    References

    1. Klümper, W. and M. Qaim (2014) “A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops.” PLoS ONE, 9(11): e111629. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0111629. (Full Text)

    2. Nicolia, A., A. Manzo, F. Veronesi and D. Rosellini (2013) “An overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research.” Critical Reviews in Biotechnology, Vol. 34, pp. 77-88. (Abstract)

    3. Blancke, S., F. Van Breusegem, G. De Jaeger, J. Braeckman, and M. Van Montagu (2015) “Fatal attraction: the intuitive appeal of GMO opposition.” Trends in Plant Science, Vol. 20, pp. 414-418. (Abstract)

    HowPlantsWork © 2008-2016 All Rights Reserved.

  • Cover tifWhy Do Flowers Smell?

    A couple of the most common questions that people have about flowers are: (1) Why do flowers have scents? and (2) Why do many flowers smell good to us?

    The first question is fairly easy to answer, but the second one is a bit trickier to try to answer.

    The short answer to “Why do flowers smell? is: because floral scents help to attract pollinators. A more detailed answer to this question is provided courtesy of Scientific American online: Why do flowers have scents?

    As to why some flowers smell good to us, a reasonable answer has been provided by the Smithsonian.com: Why do flowers smell good?

    However, there is certainly a lot of speculation out there regarding this question. And I was able to find only one recent paper regarding peoples’ physiological responses to floral scents (please see Ref. 1 below).

    And don’t forget, some flowers smell absolutely terrible to us, especially ones that are pollinated by flies that are attracted to rotting flesh (carrion) and animal feces. (Please see, for example, Stinking Flowers – Not All Flowers Smell As Sweet As A Rose.)

    Currently, my own personal favorite is the following: Orchids give off human ‘body odor’ to attract mosquitoes.

    Anyway, what got me interested in this subject at the present time is a recent opinion piece in the journal Trends in Plant Science (see Ref. 2 below).

    In this article, the authors discuss four basic suppositions:

  • Plants emit volatile organic compounds that can function as cues to other plants.
  • Plants may use floral volatiles from their neighbors to sense their mating environment.
  • Plants could respond by adjusting floral traits that affect pollination and mating.
  • Plant responses to floral volatiles cues are particularly likely to be adaptive.
  • (from Ref. 2 below)

    In other words, volatile organic compounds produced by some flowers provide a complex array of chemical signals that may be detected by neighboring plants and that, in turn, may influence their reproductive physiology.

    References

    1. Jo, H., et al. (2013) “Physiological and Psychological Response to Floral Scent.” HortScience, Vol. 48, pp. 82-88. (Full Text).

    2. Caruso, C. M. and A. L. Parachnowitsch (2016) “Do Plants Eavesdrop on Floral Scent Signals?” Trends in Plant Science, Vol. 21, pp. 9-15. (Abstract)

    HowPlantsWork © 2008-2016 All Rights Reserved.

    From “Smart” Plants to “Resurrection” Grass

    Last month’s plant science news featured many familiar topics from 2015, including plant-microbe interactions and the effects of increased atmospheric CO2 on plants.

    But perhaps the most interesting story from December 2015 involved a new theory from Princeton University biologists regarding the notion that “…ecosystems of the world take their various forms because plant “decisions” make them that way.”

    One of the current “big” questions in plant biology is how the increased atmospheric CO2 that has occurred in the past century has affected plants, if at all. A report published last month provided a very interesting assertion.

    Why have seed plants been so successful at spreading around the world? The answer, dear reader, may be “wax”.

    When I was a professor in the Biology Department at Montana State University in the mid 1980’s, a colleague in the Plant Pathology Department, Prof. Gary Strobel, created quite a kerfuffle by attempting to combat Dutch elm disease by injecting young elm trees with genetically-altered bacteria, which, it turned out, was an unauthorized experiment at the time. When Stobel voluntarily (and somewhat dramatically) halted his experiments, this became national news.

    Fast-forward nearly 30 years…there has been little, if any, subsequent evidence published that supports Strobel’s idea (see here, for example). But a new report published last month suggests that there may exist another potential biocontrol agent.

    There are some plants, sometimes called “resurrection plants”, that can “come back to life” after nearly completely drying out. How can they do this? Some Australian scientists may have some clues to this mystery.

  • It’s easy to think of plants as passive features of their environments, doing as the land prescribes, serving as a backdrop to the bustling animal kingdom. But what if the ecosystems of the world take their various forms because plant “decisions” make them that way?Theory of ‘smart’ plants may explain the evolution of global ecosystems.
  • Swedish plant scientists “…have discovered that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have shifted photosynthetic metabolism in plants over the 20th century. This is the first study worldwide that deduces biochemical regulation of plant metabolism from historical specimens.Has increased carbon dioxide altered the photosynthesis of plants over the 20th century?
  • Having emerged late during evolution, seeds have transformed many plants into miniature travelers, contributing greatly to their colonization of terrestrial habitats. Researchers at the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, have just discovered one of the keys to this success: the cuticle.A wax shield to conquer the Earth.
  • According to a research of UPM along with other five European research centres, health of some elm trees could be related to the endophyte flora that inhabits inside these trees.Endophytic fungi in elm trees help protect them from Dutch elm disease.
  • A native Australian grass that “plays dead” during droughts and selectively culls its own cells to survive could provide genetic keys to help world food crops like chickpea withstand global climate change.Back from the “Dead” – Scientists unlock the secrets of “resurrection” grass.

    HowPlantsWork © 2008-2016 All Rights Reserved.

  • From Sexy Mushrooms to Electric Algae

    The rains of November help to bring out the mushrooms in the forests of North America. And, fittingly, one of the most popular plant-related stories of November 2015 was a tale of “Sex, death and mushrooms”.

    According to a report published last November, wheat “…provides a fifth of global caloric intake.” And “Estimates put potential losses from wheat rust diseases in Australia alone at more than one-and-a-half billion dollars each year.” So, it wasn’t surprising that a paper, published late last year, announcing the identification of a key wheat disease-resistance gene attracted a lot of interest.

    I’ve long believed that most people underestimate the importance of plants. But some people also believe that plants possess some sort of innate “intelligence”. What do you think? The BBC weighed in on the subject last November…..

    Are algae plants? According to one botanical webpage: “Most algae are traditionally considered as a plant subkingdom within the 5-kingdom classification. The diagnostic characters of the algal group as a whole were ill-defined, but nevertheless vastly different from the well-defined traits of the other two plant subkingdoms, namely the bryophytes and vascular land plants. Other biologists who were convinced that not all algae are plants revised the classification, preferring algae to be placed in Kingdom Protista, with only some multicellular phyla, particularly the Chlorophyta, Rhodophyta and Phaeophyta, remaining as plants. Then there were other biologists who regarded some of these multicellular forms to be placed in Kingdom Protista. The result was, and still is confusion.

    Anyway, however you consider algae, they were in the plant news several times in November 2015.

  • The unpredictable flowering of beautiful alien forms from rotting wood, dung or leaf litter in a forest moving toward winter is a strong and strange conjuration of life-in-death — in Baltic mythology, mushrooms were thought to be the fingers of the god of the dead bursting through the ground to feed the poor.Sex, death and mushrooms.
  • An international team of scientists has identified a gene that can prevent some of the most significant wheat diseases-…Wheat disease-resistance gene identified, potential to save billions.
  • Research suggests plants might be capable of more than we suspect. Some scientists – controversially – describe plants as “intelligent”.Do we underestimate the power of plants and trees?
  • Scientists from the John Innes Centre, the universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh and Stanford University in California, have shown that genes from an alga which is capable of very efficient photosynthesis can function properly when introduced into Arabidopsis, a plant commonly used for scientific experiments.New progress towards maximising photosynthesis in plants.
  • To limit climate change, experts say that we need to reach carbon neutrality by the end of this century at the latest. To achieve that goal, our dependence on fossil fuels must be reversed. But what energy source will take its place? Researchers from Concordia just might have the answer: algae.Harnessing the electrical energy from plants – Algae could be new green power source.
  • Next-Time: Wrapping up the 2015 plant news retrospective….

    HowPlantsWork © 2008-2016 All Rights Reserved.

    From Ancestors to Zombies

    “Diversity” seems to be the best word to describe the plant news from October 2105.

    Many agree that the ability to form symbiotic relationships with soil microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi were key to the successful colonization of the land by green plants. A report published last October supports the idea that land plant ancestors were predisposed to form such partnerships.

    After over a hundred years, some scientists are still debating the findings of Gregor Mendel.

    A few months ago I wrote a post regarding “rewilding”, that is, the reintroduction of wild traits back into crop plants. Some plant scientists think this may be a novel approach to crop plant defense against insect predators.

    What triggers flowering in plants has been a major question for plant physiologists for a very long time. But lots has been learned in the last 20 years or so. A paper published last October revealed how a plant hormone may instigate flower formation.

    Zombies is a subject that people never seem to get tired of hearing about (inexplicably, to me , at least). Anyway, what would plant versions of zombies look like? Some scientists think they have an answer to this question.

  • When the algal ancestor of modern land plants made the transition from aquatic environments to an inhospitable shore 450 million years ago, it changed the world by dramatically altering climate and setting the stage for the vast array of terrestrial life.Ancestors of land plants were wired to make the leap to shore.
  • Biologists arguing about whether the results of experiments by the man hailed as the father of modern genetics are “too good to be true” have been distracted from a more important debate.Learning the right lesson from Mendel’s peas.
  • Rose gardeners have a lot to say about aphids. Some may advise insecticides as a way to manage an infestation, but others will swear by live ladybugs (natural predators of aphids). The latter is more environmental friendly, and once the ladybugs run out of food to eat, they move on. While this strategy may work in someone’s backyard, it’s not an option on a large farm.Wild plants call to carnivores to get rid of pests — could crops do the same?
  • …flowers don’t develop just anywhere on the plant; they only grow from certain cells, which must receive a particular signal to begin the process. While researchers knew that flower formation was governed by the activity of the hormone auxin, they didn’t understand precisely how it signaled the plant to form blooms.Biologists discover plant hormone ‘switch’ that unravels chromatin to form flowers.
  • It begins as a fairy tale which later turns into a horror story: Lusciously flowering plants, surrounded by a large number of insects. Usually, both sides profit from the encounter: Feasting on the plant juice and pollen, the insects pollinate the flowers and thus secure the survival of the plants. However, sometimes the insects – in this case a certain species of leafhoppers – can bring disaster to the plants, which they are not able to overcome.How Plants turn into Zombies.

    Back next time with a glance back at the plant news from November 2015…

    HowPlantsWork © 2008-2016 All Rights Reserved.

  • From Deception to Murder

    Looking back at the plant news from September 2015, I noticed that several of the more popular stories were involved with what I’ll call the “dark side” of plants.

    One of the best parts of the classic book by the late Professor Bastiaan Meeuse The Sex Lives of Flowers is about sexual deception of some orchids. A new report published last September provides new insights into this marvelous example of plant-insect co-evolution.

    In a case of, perhaps unintended, deception of the human kind, the website Retraction Watch posted an article last Fall about two plant scientists whose research has been seriously questioned.

    How many living trees exist on Earth? A new estimate was published last September. “The figure is eight times as big as the previous best estimate,…

    In a time of relatively rapid and uncertain climate change, it is very important to breed new crop varieties to cope with these challenges. And anything that can speed up the often lengthy plant breeding process is very welcome. Some Belgian scientists have done just that by using genetics to predict plant size.

    One of the truisms often stated by biologists is: “Viruses are not really alive.” Well, a new study begs to differ….

    Finally, forensic botany is a fascinating topic. (Please see HERE, for example.) In a brief (2 min) audio clip from the BBC, a forensic scientist tells why he likes brambles (a.k.a., blackberry bushes).

  • Many orchids are masters of sexual deception, tricking male insects into pollinating their flowers by producing chemicals that precisely mimic female insects’ sex pheromones. Now, ecologists have discovered that orchids dupe male insects by mimicking how female insects look, as well as how they smell.The art of deception: why morphology matters in flowers’ pulling power.
  • A nearly ten-year-long series of investigations into a pair of plant physiologists who received millions in funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation has resulted in debarments of less than two years for each of the researchers.NSF investigation of high-profile plant retractions ends in two debarments.
  • How many trees are there on planet Earth? A new estimate may surprise you.
  • …scientists have developed a new method which allows them to predict the final size of a plant while it is still a seedling.Scientists learn how to predict plant size.
  • A new analysis supports the hypothesis that viruses are living entities that share a long evolutionary history with cells, researchers report.Study adds to evidence that viruses are alive.
  • Forensic scientist Dr Mark Spencer explains why brambles are a useful tool in his work.How brambles can help solve murder cases (audio clip).

    To be continued….

    HowPlantsWork © 2008-2016 All Rights Reserved.

  • From Jurassic Bark to Plant “Cell-fies”

    August is typically a relatively slow month, news-wise.

    Not so for the plant news of August 2015.

    There were so many interesting stories that month, that it’s hard to narrow it down to less than a half dozen. But here goes….

    As a new Biology faculty member at Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman in 1985, I had the pleasure of meeting another MSU faculty member Dr. Jack Horner (before he became famous).

    Shortly thereafter, in 1986, Jack won a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. But he’s probably most famous because of his association with the movie Jurassic Park, in which dinosaurs are brought back from extinction.

    An interesting piece published last August muses on the question: If you could, what plants would you bring back from extinction?

    Speaking of dinosaurs, they were fading out during the Cretaceous period as angiosperms were on the rise. New research, however, suggests that their overlap may have been longer, although the notion that dinosaurs significantly affected angiosperm evolution is controversial.

    And regarding flower evolution, Darwin was fascinated by orchid diversity. And this fascination has carried over to many current evolutionary biologists. A report published last August may be a major breakthrough in understanding orchid evolution.

    One of the major challenges facing plant scientists in this age of global “weirding” is to understand how plants cope with environmental extremes of heat and drought. Dr. Elizabeth Vierling has worked on this subject for decades, including the role of plant heat-shock proteins in coping with temperature stress. She has recently focused her attention on another facet of plant stress, as reported in August 2015.

    Finally, a report from Japan last August revealed a major advance in determining the metabolomics of a single plant cell….that is, taking a “snapshot” of the metabolic state of an individual plant cell…what I’ll call a “cell-fie“.

  • The subject of extinction and de-extinction are much in the news at the moment, but discussions tend to focus on the loss or resurrection of charismatic animals like tigers or tyrannosaurs. Where is the talk of the plant species that have been lost and that might be worth bringing back?Jurassic bark : What extinct plant species are worth bringing back?
  • The dinosaurs of Gondwana may have wandered around and died in fields of flowers that were the ancestors of daisies, suggests new research.Dinosaurs could have pushed up ‘daisies’.
  • Evolutionary biologists never lost their fascination with orchids. With more than 25,000 species, they’re the biggest group within the plant kingdom, comprising roughly 8% of all vascular plant species. Biologists have proposed various explanations for this extraordinary diversity, but it has been impossible to nail down their relative importance. Now, a new family tree of the orchids is a major step in that direction.Orchids’ dazzling diversity explained.
  • UMass Amherst biochemist studies a protein’s role in regulating nitric oxide.How plants cope with stress, at the molecular level.
  • Understanding exactly what is taking place inside a single cell is no easy task. For DNA, amplification techniques are available to make the task possible, but for other substances such as proteins and small molecules, scientists generally have to rely on statistics generated from many different cells measured together. Unfortunately, this means they cannot look at what is happening in each individual cell.Getting a picture of the molecules inside a plant cell, in just minutes.

    Next-Up: The plant news of September 2015….

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