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Knowing when it’s wintertime.

Winter time can be hard for plants, and many species that live in particularly cold climates do their best to ‘opt out’. When autumn comes, leaf shedding deciduous species effectively shut it all down. They reabsorb as many nutrients as they can from their leaves, throw the remaining orange-red husks to the ground, and hunker down for the cold times.

Evergreen trees, like pines and spruces, aren’t quite as dramatic. But they still need to find ways to protect themselves and their most valuable assets from the killer cold.… Read more

CTRL-C, CTRL-V: Plants plagiarize to make new mitochondrial proteins

You’ll probably remember this one from grade school biology. Mitochondria are ‘the powerhouse of the cell’. Which basically means that mitochondria take sugars and break them down to make energy.

But those little powerhouses were once so much more- they were an entire organisms. A very long time ago, a certain type of proteobacteria was engulfed by a single celled host organism, but that organism decided that instead of digesting the proteobacteria, it would hold onto it. With time, the proteobacteria evolved into the modern mitochondria, a process that involved most of its very own bacterial genome being stolen away, and sequestered in the nucleus of the host.… Read more

We were at PTDW

Hi all. Something a bit different today.

On the weekend, Joram and I went to Communicate Plant Science at the Potsdam Day of Science. Although the communication was in German, which gave me a bit of stress (Figure 1), we managed to have a nice time chatting to the public, giving away some sunflower seeds, and asking them to ask us questions!… Read more

Poison Peas and the Australian Arms Race

The synthetic poison 1080 (pronounced ten eighty), is used widely in Australia and New Zealand to control the population of feral animals that threaten local species with extinction. While 1080 is fatal to feral fauna, the scientific magic of it, is that many native species can snack on the substance without any harm. All because of some peas, their poison, and a plant v. herbivore arms race.… Read more

‘You’ve got babies on your leaves’

Welcome to another episode of #didtheyreallycallitthat?!, in which we discuss the bizarre names that plant scientists give their favourite genes, proteins or mutants. Up today is the Arabidopsis transcription factor BABY BOOM. Can you guess what it does?… Read more

Fatherless super plants

Breeders have spent decades, centuries even, creating near-perfect crop lines. Meanwhile, scientists argue that these plants might still be further improved, and that new technologies can provide shortcuts in creating new lines. However, as is often the case, the theoretical discussion leads in practice to a dead end: the new technology simply doesn’t work when used with certain optimised lines. Recent work from Kelliher et al. demonstrates a neat way to ignore this problem. All you need is a few genetic glitches (or deliberately programmed errors), and a sprinkling of the right drugs.… Read more

Arbour Day- go plant a fig!

Seriously. Stop what you are doing right now, and go plant a fig. Or, I guess, keep reading, to learn some facts about our new favourite ficus, Ficus macrophylla, a.k.a, the Moreton Bay fig.… Read more

Happy Easter Lily

Hi all,

We’re taking a break to celebrate non-denominational Spring Festivities.

Here’s a slightly-related flower Joram drew.

T+J… Read more

Pigheaded pigweed- an amaranth that can’t be killed by Roundup

Earlier in the week we introduced Amaranthus. A genus containing ornamental plants, various species with edible leaves and stems (i.e. vegetables), and plants producing grains filled with desirable products like proteins, the limiting amino acid lysine, fiber, and several minerals like iron. And we mentioned the resilience of the genus- its ability to withstand various environmental conditions. Well, today we’ll discuss the flipside of that coin: the role of an amaranth species as one of the most competitive and damaging weeds there is.… Read more

Unfading Amaranth

Many of you have probably already heard of amaranth. The pseudocereal jumped to global attention a few years back, as another ‘ancient superfood’ that could cure our health woes, following in the footsteps of foods like quinoa and chia.

I’m a little late to jump on the amaranth bandwagon, but last week I heard about some cool new scientific research that made me want to know more about the wondergrain.  So here are five facts about #ourfavouriteplant of the week, amaranth… Read more