The New York Botanical Garden is a museum of plants, an educational institution, and a scientific research organization. Founded in 1891 & now a National Historic Landmark, it is one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world. http://www.nybg.org/
Plants can be albino too! This is an albino redwood tree, with white needles instead of green because it’s unable to produce chlorophyll. In order to survive, albino redwoods must join their roots to those of a normal redwood to obtain nutrients. Found in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and Humboldt Redwoods State Park in the US, there are only around 20 known albino redwoods in the world, and their exact whereabouts have been kept secret as protection.
Not to be confused on a mechanical level with the Tumblr-popular ghost plant (Monotropa uniflora), which, while also devoid of chlorophyll and parasitic at the roots (it’s a myco-heterotroph, parasitizing trees’ mycorrhizal fungi), is not the product of albinism. These albino redwoods physically graft their roots to those of other redwoods, which is a species-specific talent and the only reason they survive at all.
Oh, and they may also be the proverbial unicorn of the average conifer farmer come the holidays. I’m sorry you’re so objectified, trees. —MN
Here’s a nifty bit of historical info. During World War II, fears of a German strike on major eastern U.S. cities reached a fever pitch, forcing cultural institutions to relocate many of their more valuable collections to unlikely targets elsewhere in the country. New York was a prime target, as you can probably guess.
West Virginia University was among the generous institutions to receive our books and botanical specimens for safekeeping, as this plaque explains. Thanks to WVU’s Jason Burns for passing along this photo taken outside the campus’ Clark Hall of Chemistry in Morgantown. —MN
This is the cross-section of a rose hip, the fruit that forms at the base of a rose. Many are edible and are used in everything from jellies to teas. This type of anatomy is called an inferior ovary, where the ovary sits below the other parts of the flower.
A William Morris tapestry incorporating grapevines and cabbages. To the Ancient Greeks this was an unthinkable combination- didn’t everybody know that vines and cabbages hated each other? (Which, incidentally, is why cabbage was recommended by many classical authors as a cure or a preventative for hangovers!) In fact, many plants were supposed to either harbour sympathetic or antipathetic feelings towards each other.
This afternoon I went to a seminar at the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science about the anthropomorphising of the vegetable kingdom in classical natural philosophy and literature. Of particular interest to me was the discussion of treatments of pollination events by Greek and Roman authors, who often described the reproductive processes of plants- whilst not comprehending the details- in terms of lovesick yearning followed by romantic fulfilment.
I knew none of this before reading this and I am a better person for having read it! ~AR
Ramonda nathaliae, a fascinating gesneriad that is endemic to the Balkan mountains. Not only can this species tolerate extreme desiccation (hence it is known as a ‘resurrection plant’), it can also cope with very high levels of toxic heavy metal ions in the soil. So it may look delicate, but it’s pretty damn tough!
There are many plants that can pull off this trick, going from seemingly dead to resurrected, including this fern, but few are as pretty as these. ~AR
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Sediment behind milldams in Pennsylvania preserved leaves deposited just before European contact that provide a glimpse of the ancient forests, according to a team of geoscientists, who note that neither the forests nor the streams were what they are today.
"Milldams were built from the late 1600s to the late 1800s in Pennsylvania and other parts of the east," said Peter Wilf, professor of geosciences, Penn State. "We can’t get information from historic records on what the area looked like before the dams because recording of natural history didn’t really begin until the 1730s and was not detailed."
U.S. census shows that by 1840, tens of thousands of milldams existed in the mid-Atlantic region. About 10,000 of these were in Pennsylvania. In Lancaster County, estimates were one dam for every mile of stream. The abundance of dams in the area altered the landscape dramatically, according to the researchers.
"I see a potential modern day benefit for this research," said Sara J. Elliott, recent Penn State master’s degree recipient, currently a research scientist associate at University of Texas Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology. "Attempts to restore precontact environments have been unsuccessful when the effects of milldams were not considered. Understanding the past forest makeup may provide a way to help get a successful and useful reconstruction.”
Three-hundred year old fossils discovered in Pennsylvania are helping expand our understanding of what the forests of the United States looked like before colonization by Europeans. European settlers dramatically reshaped the landscape by clearing forests, damming rivers, and razing topographical features.
This is as true for the five boroughs of New York City as it was for much of the Eastern Seaboard. Our 50-acre Thain Family Forest is a living remnant of the forests that once covered New York City, but it is not an exact replica of those long ago times. Changes in climate, imported diseases and invasive species, and the natural progression of a forest’s life have changed the makeup of this remarkable plot of land. Forests are living, breathing things, so even though we talk about our Forest as a remnant of a long ago time, discoveries like this one help us understand what it really did look like 300 years ago, without all the guesswork. ~AR
Victoria Water Lilly. Victoria regia. Model of floral section. Detail of diorama.
If you get to see this monstrous plant blossom in person, you’ll notice that its flower is about as big as a wrestler’s fist. Maybe both fists, actually. It creeps up from the water to bloom for only a couple of days, opening white on the first evening to attract a singular species of scarab with its enticing aroma.
The flower then closes back up, trapping the beetles inside for the night and into the next day. By the time it opens again on the second evening the petals have flushed red, and the beetles—covered in pollen but well-fed—move on to other white, first-night flowers to continue the plant’s life cycle. Once fertilized, the flower’s stalk cinches up, drawing the bloom back underwater for the business of forming seeds. All very neat. —MN
In which moss in a blender is equated to the broomsticks in the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment of Fantasia and we are all introduced to yet another thing we never knew moss was good for. Moss, heck yeah! ~AR
How do you save Australia’s most endangered orchid? First you have to protect it from the people who profess to love it the most. With only two plants suspected in the wild, and 50 seeds in storage, botanists are racing time and orchid lovers to protect this beautiful flower. Via Scientific American. ~AR