Oh trichomes, you are so amazing! Women in the Balkans have been using these morphological structures on bean leaves to battle bloodsucking bedbugs for centuries. Think of the bean leaves as a little bit like bedbug velcro, and you’re on the right track. I think my favorite quote of this story comes from a scientist at the University of California, Irvine, “If someone had suggested to me that impaling insects with little tiny hooks would be a valid form of pest control, I wouldn’t have given it credence.” And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why funding scientific research (no matter how silly it may sound) is important and vital to humanity’s future in this rapidly changing world of ours. ~AR
There’s really no need to editorialize this video showing carnivorous plants in 3D from the John Innes Centre, so I’ll just say, if you want to learn more, read this Scientific American blog post. ~AR
As if bumblebees weren’t already cool enough, this just in: they’re using electric fields to judge whether or not a flower has already been plundered of its pollen by another pollinator. This article from Scientific American says that the bees “build up a positive electrical charge as they rapidly flap their wings.” This is useful to the bees and the flowers as it helps the pollen more tightly cling to the bees. But it also turns out that it minutely changes the electrical field of flowers which have already been visited by another bee, and the bees can see this. As I have said so many times before, and will probably say a thousand times again, nature is so totally cool! ~AR
Ever wondered how beavers got the reputation for being busy, well, beavers? After checking out the nearly 200 images captured by one of our Forest critter cams of this busy, busy beaver, I think I finally understand. The Garden and the Bronx River are the proud residence of the first two beavers —José and Justin—to call New York City home in more than 200 years. Beavers were once common in our fair boroughs, but their luxurious pelts were their doom, and they were hunted and trapped to extinction in our area while simultaneously making Gotham a world capital of commerce and trade (they’re even featured on the official seal of the city).
Whether this beaver is José or Justin is almost impossible to tell, but it’s not the first time we have caught our resident critters on film. Over the summer, during an impressive heat wave, our critter cam also caught a curious fox, racoon, and one very exasperated looking great-horned owl. We’re sure there are more critter cam surprises to come, so stay tuned and keep an eye peeled when you’re visiting the Garden, you just never know who you’ll meet along the way! ~AR
ps - The awesome gifs were created by Matt Newman, aka MN.
NYBG Scientist Scott Mori has nominated the Cannon Ball Tree (Couroupita guianensis) as the most interesting tree in the world. I know we have a lot of tree and botany nerds that follow us, and if you disagree we would love to hear your nominations! If your nomination is interesting and/or passionate enough, we might even publish it here! So, is the Cannon Ball Tree the most interesting tree in the world?
Boy oh boy. If you have some kind of soft spot in your heart for ants, don’t watch the above video. However, if you have a soft spot in your heart for carnivorous plants and how they overcome the nutritional deficiencies of their soil environment by ingeniously trapping and then “digesting” small insects in order to survive, then by all means! Watch away! ~AR
And now, watch some ants slide to their doom inside a pitcher plant
This short video reveals how the carnivorous pitcher plant Heliamphora nutans traps its prey with an ingenious two-step method — even if the ants in the video are able to get a grip on the plant’s dangerously smooth pelt, some well-placed water means the ants have almost no chance of getting out alive.
Because fruit-powered nightlights would be awesome. Except for the whole ants and mice thing … ~AR
This surprisingly lovely little orange is being illuminated from the inside by a lightbulb powered by the orange itself. That’s right, it’s an orange battery:
“The electricity powering the lightbulb inside the orange is generated through a chemical reaction between citric acid and the zinc nails inserted into each wedge.”
The beautiful orange battery was built by photographer Caleb Charland (previously posted here) as part of an ongoing project using pieces of produce and other objects as light sources for his long-exposure photography. Pretty awesome stuff.
“…but before you start work on a bunch of orange lights to keep on the nightstand, the light generated was so dim this particular photograph required a 14 hour exposure.”
Visit Caleb Charland’s website to view of his wonderful photographic work.
These phenomenal images of fruits, veggies, and flowers scanned by an MRI really drive home how physics affect the shape of things. The broccoli in particular blows my mind. Look at it. It’s like watching the universe form, or watching neural pathways in the brain, or zoning out to a fractal-based screensaver. I’m just waiting for someone to set these to music. Volunteers please! Thanks to AMNH for pointing these out on Twitter.
Update: Thanks to the Internet we now know these images were taken by Andy Ellison. You can find many more on his excellent website Inside Insides.
Plants Are Cool, Too! It’s something we never forget at NYBG, we get it and totally agree; plants are cool. They feed us, they clothe us, they keep us warm and sheltered, they inspire art, music, and religion. But plants also have a bit of a PR problem. Plants aren’t (necessarily) cuddly, they don’t have big eyes that can penetrate your soul, and they’re (rarely) fuzzy. Dr. Chris Martine of Bucknell University is out to set the record straight with his really excellent “Plants Are Cool, Too!” video series. This latest installment looks at a fossilized forest in Clarkia, Idaho that had me gasping in wonder. Seriously, plants are totally cool!~AR
Thank god for Garden Rant’s Amy Stewart, who not only answers the question as to why there is a T. Rex bursting through the roof of the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, but manages to get some stellar photos and a great interview explaining the entire surreal exhibition: Plantosaurus Rex! ~AR
Wow, now that’s what I call persistence! ~AR
My Awesome Mother, the Queen of DIY and Upcycling, wears a surgical mask for work. For a whole year, she snipped off and saved the elastic bands from the mask after each day. The material proved to be excellent for making a light-weight, flexible trellis. More than the material, though, it takes a certain type of diligent and persistent person (ahem, my mother) to tie literally hundreds of knots in order to make the trellis happen.
Apparently I was not the only person inside the Garden who was as taken with the video of an LP player making music from a tree cookie. Mia D’Avanza, Reference Librarian/Exhibitions Coordinator for the LuEsther T. Mertz Library was curious enough to call in the scientific big guns, in this case, James P. Ascher, Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and “techy smartypants,” who provided the following explanation:
light sensor (Arduino or otherwise) + Max/MSP (or equivalent, Ld or cSound would work too) + the hardware setup you see + clever programming to translate the light and dark of the wood into interesting MIDI signals + a nice MIDI synthesizer to produce the piano sounds = what you see; that’s why it’s in the dark!
What does “Arduino + light sensor” mean? Mr. Ascher was kind enough to include this video clip with his answer.
Some days I love my job so much. Thank you Mia and James! ~ AR
What an absolutely fantastic botanical gif!
Vetches and passion flowers have modified some of their leaves and converted them into tendrils. These grope around in space until they touch the stem of another plant and swiftly coil around it. The tendrils then coil and pull the plant up towards the sunlight.