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
The secret math of plants: UCLA biologists uncover rules that govern leaf design
Life scientists from UCLA’s College of Letters and Science have discovered fundamental rules of leaf design that underlie plants’ ability to produce leaves that vary enormously in size. In their mathematical design, leaves are the “perfect machines,” said Lawren Sack, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior author of the research.
The UCLA team discovered the mathematical relationships using “allometric analysis,” which looks at how the proportions of parts of an organism change with differences in total size. This approach has been used by scientists since Galileo but had never before been applied to the interior of leaves.
Reporting in the October issue of the American Journal of Botany, the biologists focused on how leaf anatomy varies across leaves of different sizes. They examined plant species from around the world, all grown on the UCLA campus.
"Fundamental discoveries like these highlight the elegant solutions evolved by natural systems." When we understand how nature builds itself, we can then take these lessons and apply them to our human-built world. Leaves are what provide sustenance to plants, so they need to balance thickness and size with the imperative to allow light into the internal structures that feed the plants. Perhaps someday this new mathematical model will be used by architects as a way to bring more natural light into the interiors of large buildings! Science, there’s never an end to the questions needing to be answered. ~AR
Using all kinds of materials, including trees, flowers, candles, sand, and ice, London-based artist Anya Gallaccio creates site-specific artworks that explore the ephemerality of nature.
In particular, Red on Green is a stunning display of 10,000 fresh roses that were arranged within a gallery space. Gallaccio pulled the heads off of the roses and arranged them into a tightly packed rectangle.
Spore dispersal via raindrop. Aren’t you glad rain doesn’t fall with enough velocity to do anything like this to the human body? To me, that’s the amazing part of this GIF. Think about how soft raindrops feel when they hit you (most of the time), and then watch this again. ~AR
Orchids of the genus Coryanthes have evolved along with orchid bees, and depend on each other for reproduction.
Male bees are attracted to an pheromone laced wax produced under the orchid’s helmet. The wax is stored by the male and are used in courtship. However, the helmet is slippery and bees sometimes fall into the fluid filled bucket below.
Once in the bucket, their wings are wet, which prevent them from flying. The walls of the bucket are smooth and lined with downward pointing hairs, preventing the insect from escaping through climbing. A small opening towards the front of the flower is the only way out.
As the bee climbs through the narrow opening, they must press their bodies against sticky pollen packets. These are essentially glued to the bee’s body as it tries to escape. In order for fertilisation to happen, the pollen from one plant must be transferred to the stigma of another plant.
After the bee flies off and visits another flower, it goes through a similar ordeal. This time, as it exits the bucket, the pollen packet on its back brushes past the stigma of the new flower, thus achieving pollination.
They’re so cute when they’re little. Not the smartest, though, if you were to judge them by their shenanigans. Like any kid, the juvenile Red-tailed Hawks swooping about the NYBG this summer have to learn their way around the world, and that entails quite a bit of trial and error as their parents look on. Especially when it comes to the all-too-important skill of hunting.
While out and about in recent weeks, Pat Gonzalez—one of our Visitor Services Attendants—has seen this young hawk laying waste to (read: awkwardly attacking) no less than a pile of leaves, a branch, a bench, an entire tree, an active sprinkler, and a telephone pole. But effort breeds success, and the little hawk finally managed to snap up a rodent at one point—only to find itself confused as to what to do with it. After a bit of crying, mom and dad flew in to encourage the juvenile, and it took off, presumably to figure out dinner in privacy. Learn more about our visiting hawks on our blog. —MN
DAVID ATTENBOROUGH IS FUSSING AND COOING OVER AN OWL WHO IS BEING ADORABLE.
MY TWO FAVOURITE THINGS IN THE WORLD COMBINED.
Oh David Attenborough, you are the living patron of my botanical and zoological heart. The owls around here are a bit harder to spot with the trees so leafy, but if you happen to see one on your walks through the Forest, keep Attenborough’s hilarious cooing in the back of your mind. —MN
Cuckoo spit, a white frothy liquid produced by an insect known as a Froghopper.
Such neat little bugs. Sure, some species are a hassle for farmers, but we’ll look at the novel aspects of their behavior for now. Aside from being champion jumpers (they didn’t get that name for their ribbits), froghoppers are also nifty architects. Or at least their nymph stages are.
The foam you see is actually processed plant sap. The bug sucks it out of the plant and creates this “cuckoo spit” as a bitter-tasting birdguard/tent/humidifier. The frogging comes into play when they’re grown enough to leave the, er, phlegm igloo. —MN
The benefits of working at the NYBG are too many to rattle off here, but prime among them is the seclusion—the ability to disappear into the woods for an hour and shut out the city. You’d think this was a rare phenomenon in NYC, and you’d be right, depending on where you are. But with a little searching (and a few subway trains), it’s not as tough as you might think to suss out nature.
Efforts now underway to see if playing The Guess Who discography in the woods is enough to stave off chestnut blight. A second team is performing parallel research to discover whether or not Lenny Kravitz achieves similar results. —MN