2016 “How Plants Work” News Highlights – October

From Flowers That Smell Like Stressed Bees To Corn That Smells Like “Help Me!” October 2016 seemed to feature an unusual number of quirky plant news stories. For example, we previously saw an orchid that smelled like body odor, presumably to attract mosquitos. Now here’s another weird flower smell… “A…

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Do Leaf Bacteria Fertilize Plants?

The “Inside” Story? An article in Science magazine (see Ref. 1 below) reports evidence supporting the hypothesis that leaf-dwelling, nitrogen-fixing bacteria may provide host plants with significant amounts of nitrogen. In the past, we briefly explored the microbial phyllosphere, that is, the microbes – including nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria – that dwell…

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Eau de Zombie? – The Malodorous “Voodoo Lilies” and “Corpse Flowers” – Why Do They Smell So Bad?

Signature Scents of Death & Decay In a previous post, we explored the discovery that plants emit a wide array of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and that, because of this, sometimes plants stink. But I think few would argue that the prize for the “stinkiest” plants would have to go…

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“Farmaceuticals” and “Plantibodies” – Using Genetically-Engineered Plants to Produce Drugs and Vaccines

New Meanings For “Medicinal Plants”? Plants have been used by humans for thousands of years as a source of medicines, some effective, many not so much (except perhaps as placebos). The first botanists were likely shaman herbalists who possessed the knowledge of which plants would kill and which plants would…

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Self-Digesting Plants = The Ultimate Solution to Biofuel Production from Plant Biomass?

I’m Melting!! Remember the melting witch in The Wizard of Oz? What if corn stalks, for instance, could be induced to “melt” – that is, to go from tough biomass into a sugary puddle? In biochemical terms, it would be the equivalent to the conversion of cellulosic biomass into a…

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Why Herbicides Kill Plants (But Not You) – Part 2: Roundup®

Roundup® Kills All Plants (Mostly) The herbicide that most Americans are likely familiar with is Roundup®. Unlike the auxin-based herbicides I discussed in the previous post, Roundup® is not a selective herbicide. That is, it usually kills all green plants (except if the plant is Roundup Ready® or if the…

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