How Plants Work – “Greatest Hits” of 2017 – February

Two (CC BY 2.0) by K. Kendall

From “Heavy Metal” Plants to Plant Clocks.

A common theme for the most popular plant news stories from my February, 2017 HPW Twitter feed appears to be evolution – from the genes involved in the evolution of parasitic plants to common evolutionary traits of carnivorous plants. And the most popular news item of February 2017 involves the early evolution of the plant circadian clock.

  • Using historical herbarium specimens to track heavy metal pollution in the eastern United States.
    New life for 19th-century plants.
  • How do plants give up photosynthesis and become parasites? A research team in Japan are using comprehensive analysis of gene expression in albino and green orchids to investigate the evolution of parasitic plant.
    Genes in albino orchids may hold clues to parasitic mechanism used by non-photosynthetic plants.
  • Any insect unlucky enough to land on the mouth-like leaves of an Australian pitcher plant will meet a grisly end. The plant’s prey is drawn into a vessel-like ‘pitcher’ organ where a specialized cocktail of enzymes digests the victim.”
    How plants evolved into carnivores.
  • When they are chewed by insects or other small animals, many plants react by releasing odours to attract the insects’ enemies. A new study published in the scientific journal New Phytologist reveals that the odour bouquet changes depending on the type of herbivore that eats the plant.
    Plants smell different when they are eaten by exotic herbivores.
  • Adaptation to changing environments is critical to all life. Some of these changes are predictable, such as day–night cycles and the ever-changing seasons. Accordingly, organisms from all kingdoms of life have developed mechanisms to anticipate such predictable changes. Intrinsic clocks that generate circadian rhythms are present in most organisms, from cyanobacteria to land plants and animals. Although the overall architecture is generally conserved, the key genes involved are generally not, suggesting multiple independent origins of circadian clocks…
    Early evolution of the land plant circadian clock.
  • What were the most popular plant news stories of March 2017? – Check back tomorrow to find out.

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