articles

Banana-nana-no?

Living in a globalised world certainly has its perks – goods and people travel around the globe, and more and more people have access to things deemed unobtainable 100 years ago. But travelling the world with those goods and people are less desirable things, including pathogens. Now, a fungus made its way onto the South American continent, threatening to wipe out the local banana production. So, how bad is it?… Read more

The thin tree line between life and death

If you’re as bad a plant parent as me, you’ve probably been in the position of coming home from a long summer vacation and being faced with crispy plants and the big question: is it worth watering your plants and hoping for their recovery, or should you immediately chuck everything in the bin and start from scratch?… Read more

See-through Soil

Observing plant growth relies in many ways on actually being able to see the plant parts you’re interested in. The aerial tissue, the bits growing above ground, are easy enough to view. It’s no issue to count leaves or fruit, describe the colour of a flower, or studiously note the branching architecture of the stems. But when it comes to the roots- those underground organs that have such an important role in defining the water and nutrients available to the organism, it gets a bit trickier.… Read more

Getting a new pair of genes

Evolutionary progress requires genetic material to build on- building blocks that can be shaped and changed with time and selective pressure. Plants are especially good at copy-pasting large chunks of their own DNA or even entire chromosomes, and then altering them, slowly but surely, to make new functional genes.

Sometimes however, they get fresh material from the outside.

Let’s talk about horizontal gene transfer: nature’s own way of creating GMOs.… Read more

One hungry caterpillar, and the communication of vibrations.

Plants are great listeners. Your average houseplant will happily spend hours hearing about your daily troubles, and won’t bat an eye if you sing Brittney’s ‘Toxic’ out of key for the best part of an hour. Out in the wild, this ‘listening’ has a more practical side- plants listen, by feeling sound vibrations on their leaves, for signs of attack. And when they hear the angry munchings of a hungry caterpillar, they prepare to fight for their lives!… Read more

The grass is greenest on the inside

Sometimes, the world doesn’t seem to work in your favour. Your co-worker’s experiment works on the first try, everyone finds a seat on the train but you, and your lawn can’t really compete with your neighbour’s. Today we’re looking at whether the grass really is greener on the other side, a journey that takes us deep into the centre of the leaf.… Read more

GMOnstera? Would you keep a GMO houseplant?*

*If it actually helped reduce air pollutants?

There’s a lot of talk on the internet about the ability of certain houseplants to clean ‘toxins’ out of the air. Take a deep dive into Pinterest, and you’ll see hundreds of pictures suggesting the best ‘pollutant purifier plants’. Unfortunately, so far, the scientific evidence for our chlorophyllous friends actually cleaning is pretty scant. But what if plants could be genetically modified to improve them in this manner?… Read more

Your name is not on the list

Plants can’t really choose whose pollen they get covered with. All kinds of pollinators bring all kinds of pollen to the party. And with it they bring the burden, to the plant, of figuring out which pollen to allow in and which to send away. But as it turns out, plants know just which molecular bouncers to use, to keep the party going.… Read more