Home / Resources and Writings / Weblog / October 2005

Auction of Jurassic Trees Brings in Over a Million Dollars

Category(-ies): Other Botanical Gardens , Plant Conservation , Plant Discoveries

The Wollemi pine, a tree thought to have been extinct for millions of years, was discovered in Australia in 1994. Since then, the species has been a focus of fascination for botanists. Wollemia nobilis apparently survived in isolation in a small pocket of sheltered forest about 150 kilometres north of Sydney. Fewer than 40 adult trees in two small groves were discovered in the wild. The exact location of the groves has been kept secret.

The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney held a special exhibition to promote and fund research and preservation of the Wollemi pine. A display grove was created from the first generation of plants grown from cuttings taken from the wild trees. 292 of the rare trees offered in an international Sotheby's auction at the close of the exhibition, raised over $ 1 million for conservation efforts.


Posted by Eric La Fountaine at 2:08 PM

Good Harvests Bring Hope to Survivors of Indonesian Tsunami

Category(-ies): Plants, Food and Medicine

The devastating tsunami that struck 11 countries in the northern Indian Ocean on December 26 last year, destroyed vast areas of agricultural land. Initially scientist thought it would take years for the land to recover enough to produce crops, but many farmers have had great increases in crop yields from fields flooded by the massive wave. "According to U.N. surveys, 81 percent of the 116,000 acres of agricultural land damaged by tsunami waves in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, India and Thailand is again cultivable," writes Chris Brummitt of the Associated Press.

Agriculture in the region still suffers greatly. Large areas are still underwater or covered by sand, drainage systems are broken and many established trees were destroyed. Restoration and replanting will take time. In many villages there is a shortage of labour because so many people lost their lives.

Link: Tsunami Actually Aided Crops in Indonesia from Environmental News Network

Posted by Eric La Fountaine at 1:22 PM

Longer Summers in the Alaskan Tundra

Category(-ies): Climate Change

Longer summers in the Alaskan tundra appear to be causing land surface changes that are warming the arctic. Since the 1960s spring thaw has arrived a few days earlier each decade and the first freeze has come later. A greening of the tundra has been noticed by residents and observed by researchers on the ground and from satellite data. Fewer days of snow cover and the movement of trees and shrubs northward allow the land to absorb more of the sun's energy.

Longer summers trap more of the sun's heat, melting permafrost, which can release ancient organic compounds that become greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Link: Land Surface Change on Alaska Tundra Creating Longer, Warmer Summers in Arctic from Newswise

Posted by Eric La Fountaine at 10:41 AM

Weeds Harbour Grape Disease

Category(-ies): Plant Diseases and Pests , Plant Relationships

New research indicates that one of the most destructive diseases of grapes, Pierce's disease, is present in many of the common weeds found in California vineyards. Insect pests spread the bacterial infection to grapes. The level of infection varied greatly among host species in different environmental conditions. Scientists are evaluating the individual responses of weeds to the disease. The findings suggest that better weed control in fields and adjacent areas will aid in suppression of the disease.

Link: Vineyard Weeds Found to Host Pierce’s Disease of Grapes from Newswise

Posted by Eric La Fountaine at 10:00 AM

Joseph Prestele and Sons

Category(-ies): Botanical Art

Although he worked for such esteemed botanists as John Torrey and Asa Gray and artist Isaac Sprague, 19th century botanical artist, Joseph Prestele, is not well known. As a member of the Amana Society, Sprague did not sign his work, so it was often attributed to the printers who distributed it. The Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation has prepared an exhibit of the life and work of Joseph Prestele and his three sons, Joseph Jr., Gottlieb and William Henry, who followed in their father's footsteps.

Continue reading "Joseph Prestele and Sons"

Posted by Eric La Fountaine at 2:11 PM

Botswana to Open First Botanic Garden

Category(-ies): Other Botanical Gardens , Plant Conservation

Botswana is to open its first botanic garden in November this year. The nine acre garden in Gaborone, Botwsana will feature collections of living plants for education and research in a beautiful natural setting with historic buildings. Established indigenous trees and shrubs at the site were incorporated into the garden design and other native plants were brought in from various areas around Botswana.

An herbarium has been set up for research. One of the main goals of the garden's planners was to promote awareness of the biodiversity of the region and to conserve its rare indigenous plant species.

Link: First botanical garden opens from the Daily News

Posted by Eric La Fountaine at 3:45 PM

The Value of Shade Trees

Category(-ies): Plants in the Landscape

Researchers at Ohio State University have been looking at the value of shade trees in urban environments. Studies at an experimental plot planted in the mid-sixties and projects that monitored 96 urban tree plantings yielded a wealth of valuable data on the horticultural requirements of shade trees.

A recent look at the city tree plantings raised awareness of the social and economic benefits that they can have. Scientists at the university have created the Next STEP program, to look at changes in issues such as quality of life and home values in areas with urban tree plantings. A new shade tree test plot is being designed for the program.

Link: Trees' effect on quality of life under review from the Akron Beacon Journal

Posted by Eric La Fountaine at 10:27 AM

Green Glow Attracts Pollinators

Category(-ies): Plant Discoveries

Scientists at University of Murcia in Spain have discovered a pigment in flowers that produces a green fluorescence. It appears that the glow is emitted to attract pollinators. Researchers extracted the pigments from Mirabilis jalapa flowers. Visible fluorescent patterns as a method of luring pollinators had not been observed in plants before.

Link: Flowers that glow green to attract the bees from the Telegraph

Posted by Eric La Fountaine at 9:47 AM

Burning to Regenerate Aspen Woodlands

Category(-ies): Plant Conservation , Plant Relationships

Aspen woodlands are declining in western Canada and the US. The hardwood groves provide a wildlife habitat that is much more diverse than the coniferous forests that are replacing them in many areas. Populus tremuloides reproduce primarily by vegetative means, sprouting suckers from existing root systems after fires or other disturbances. Without periodic wildfires aspen groves become dominated by conifers that tower over them, blocking needed sunlight.

Continue reading "Burning to Regenerate Aspen Woodlands"

Posted by Eric La Fountaine at 11:39 AM

A Plot of One's Own

Category(-ies): Plants, Food and Medicine

In 1975 the late Irma Scavenius, a schoolteacher from Anchorage, Alaska proposed that the city create community gardens to help residents with rising food costs. For thirty years city plots have nourished people who do not have land of their own. The use of the city land has been particularly helpful for Hmong refugees who have settled the area. Farming was a way of life for many of the refugees. The gardens present a way for the new immigrants to save money while providing familiar foods for the family.

Link: Community gardens nourish those with no land from the Anchorage Daily News

Posted by Eric La Fountaine at 12:36 PM

Peyote Harvest Dwindling

Category(-ies): Plant Conservation

Conservationists are concerned by the overharvesting of peyote, a small cactus used by Native Americans in religious ceremonies. The hallucinogenic Lophophora williamsii cactus grows wild only in portions of four southern Texas counties and in the northern Mexico desert. Use of the cactus is limited to members of tribes recognized by the government. An estimated 200,000 to 500,000 members of the Native American Church in the US and Canada consume the plant for ceremonial purposes.

The Native American Church along with conservationists and other Indian rights advocates are looking at ways to alleviate the pressure being put on wild populations of the plants in Texas. Currently legal restrictions prevent cultivation of the plant or importation from Mexico.

Link: In Deep South Texas, peyote harvest dwindling from the Seattle Times

Posted by Eric La Fountaine at 4:27 PM

New Findings on the Development of Maize from Teosinte

Category(-ies): Plant Discoveries

Many people believe that corn, the most important crop to early American societies, developed from teosinte, a wild Mexican grass. The differences between the two are great and some doubt the possibility that corn could have developed directly from the wild plant. For example teosinte seeds have a hard shell that is difficult to crack whereas corn kernels are exposed. New research shows that this difference, perhaps the greatest differences between the two, is controlled by a single gene.

A research team led by University of Wisconsin geneticist John Doebley, made the discovery from analysis of the genetics of plants from an experimental plot of teosinte-maize hybrids. Professor Doebley feels that this single mutation would have made teosinte a useful crop, after which human selection could have led to the development of modern corn.

Link: A single gene controls a key difference between maize and its wild ancestor a University of Wisconsin news release

Posted by Eric La Fountaine at 10:00 AM

Urgent Action Needed to Combat Emerald Ash Borer

Category(-ies): Plant Diseases and Pests

The emerald ash borer (EAB) has killed at least 8 million trees, since it was first discovered in Michigan in 2002. Authorities in the affected areas have set up quarantines and pesticide programs for uninfected trees, but fear that the destruction of all ash trees in the region will be necessary. If the pest cannot be contained it could wipe out all Fraxinus species in N. America.

Frank W. Telewski of the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden and Campus Arboretum at Michigan State University has initiated a conservation effort for native Fraxinus spp. with Dave Ellis of the Plant Genetic Resources Preservation Program to collect and store seeds as a precaution in case efforts to exterminate the pest are not successful. To read the letter posted to the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta Listserv by Dr. Telewski see Call to action re: Emerald Ash Borer.


Posted by Eric La Fountaine at 12:08 PM

Protein that Brings out Fall Colour Identified

Category(-ies): Plant Discoveries

Plant pigments are bound to specific proteins. In the fall, environmental changes signal the plant to break down the protein that is bonded to the chlorophyll, so that the plant can recycle the amino acids. As the green pigment fades other pigments found in the leaves of the plants can be seen, resulting in the bright autumn splendor enjoyed in temperate regions.

Researchers at Umeå Plant Science Centre have identified a protease, a type of protein that degrades other proteins, that appears to be responsible for the breakdown of the protein bonded to chlorophyll.

Link: Protein Behind Autumn Colour Splendour Identified from I-Newswire.com

Posted by Eric La Fountaine at 9:44 AM