VIEW HEADLINES ONLY

Evolution of the Christmas Tree:  Firs Tie Oaks in Fitness Race

In the struggle for existence, the conifers should have lost, because when angiosperms appeared, they had fancier valve jobs.  That’s the feeling of a story introduced by Elizabeth Pennisi on Science Now.  “Those of us who celebrate Christmas tend to take fir and spruce trees for granted around the holiday season,” she quipped, “But without […]

Plant Communication: How Leaf Calls Bud

Plants communicate with themselves in email (07/13/2001), and the messages are being hacked by scientists.  Miguel Blázquez, writing in Science,1 discussed three recent studies that help solve the problem of how a plant, without a nervous system, buds into flowers all at once.  Two of the studies describe a couple of proteins that, working in […]

A Day in the Life of an Evolutionary Biologist

Meet Dr. Judith X. Becerra.  She is an expert on plants of Mexico.  Her latest research strove to determine the rate of evolutionary diversification of a genus of trees with a name similar to her own surname: Bursera.  These trees inhabit a range of biomes in the tropical dry forests of Mexico and are well […]

Flower Sets Catapult Speed Record

An American team of two biologists and a physicist found that a common mountain flowering plant holds the plant acceleration record.  Reporting in Nature,1 they calculated that the bunchberry dogwood flower propels its pollen at speeds approaching 14 mph when the catapult-like petals explode open, accelerating at 24,000 meters per second squared within 0.3 second.  […]

Venus Flytrap Is Snappy-Fast

One tenth of a second is all the time the fly gets.  The traps of the Venus flytrap, an insectivorous plant Charles Darwin called “one of the most wonderful in the world,” somehow responds to stimuli quickly without muscles.  The entire mechanism is still largely unknown.  A team of French, UK and American scientists set […]

Spinach Leaf: “One of Nature’s supreme examples of nanoscale engineering”

Under the peaceful summer sun, plants deal with a life-or-death situation: too much sun.  Those of us with legs can take cover, but a poor spinach plant out in the furrow must deal with the excess energy or die.  Since it usually doesn’t die, what’s its secret?  A process called photosynthetic feedback de-excitation quenching, if […]

How To Make Instant Petrified Wood

“Want to petrify wood without waiting a few million years?  Try this,” EurekAlert teases.  The recipe: pick up some pine or poplar wood chips from your local lumber store, soak them in an acid bath for two days, then soak them in silica solution for two more.  Air dry, then put into argon-filled furnace at […]

Cretaceous Temperature Estimates Point Out Flaws in Climate Models

Nature1 this week described evidence for high temperatures in the Arctic during the Cretaceous that it termed “astounding.”  Based on work by Jenkins et al. that Arctic waters were 15°C, as warm as modern coastal waters off France and Maryland. For a region blanketed in darkness for half of the year, the Arctic Ocean was […]

How Plants Wax Their Leaves

Plants have a waxy coating on their leaves, some more and some less, a fact many gardeners may notice without much thought.  A recent paper by two plant biologists in Science1 reveals that even this seemingly ordinary feature comes about only through a complex process in plant cells.  The waxy coating, called the cuticle, is […]

News Nuggets

Here’s a collection of news items that deserve quick notice: Mars Rumbles:  Mars still has minor earthquakes, says Space.com, That’s without plate tectonics, “But scientists don’t know exactly how Mars is constructed.”  The Mars Exploration Rovers, meanwhile, awaking from a winter’s nap, are still gathering science data long past their expected lifetime.  Evidence for past […]

Biomimetics Dept: Wear a Pine Cone

EurekAlert says the British are developing new clothes using pine cone technology.  The fabric automatically adjusts to temperature by opening up or closing down, keeping the wearer comfortable in all environments.  “We’ve drawn upon nature,” said one designer of this “fundamental change in clothing.” Makes you wonder how a pine cone figured this out.  The […]

How Plants Send Email: Update

href=”crev07.htm#plant17″>07/13/2001 headline), we reported the startling finding that plants talk to themselves in email.  What’s new in this field?  Is there really an interplant intranet?     In the Oct. 5 issue of Current Biology,1 Norman, Frederick and Sieburth report evidence that a signal molecule named BYPASS1 is sent from the roots to the tips […]

Clean-Air Laws and Tree-Planting Cause Increased Air Pollution?

A major source of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), precursors of ozone pollution, is tree leaves, says a report in EurekAlert.  Surprisingly, the increase in trees due to abandoned farms has worsened the pollution.  Industry-caused nitrogen-oxygen (NOx) compounds also lead to ozone, and it is not clear how these sources interact.  Nevertheless, it appears that reductions […]

Introducing: The Spinach Cell Phone

The next spinach sandwich you hear about may not be an item at the health food bar but an electronic device powered by the sun.  According to an MIT press release, chloroplasts from spinach leaves have been successfully sandwiched into a solid-state electronic photocell that could be used before long to power cell phones and […]

Plants Use Quantum Mechanics to Harvest Light

In a News and Views item in Nature Sept. 16,1 Graham R. Fleming (UC Berkeley) and Gregory R. Scholes (U Toronto) explain how the light-harvesting centers of plant photosynthetic organs take advantage of quantum mechanics to focus energy on their reaction centers.  Their illustration shows a chromophore diagram from a photosynthetic bacterium.  Understanding energy transfer […]
All Posts by Date