Widespread across moist forests of eastern North America, jack-in-the-pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum) are unique and distinctive. The flower spike (spadix) inside the “pulpit” (spathe) produces a faint odor that lures in its primary pollinator, flies. The spike is composed of many flowers; the first ones to bloom are male, but as the plant ages later flowers are female. The plants are quite variable, ranging from all green to heavily striped with dark purple, sometimes in the same population.
Three subspecies have been recognized - two diploid forms with two sets of chromosomes, and one tetraploid form with four sets of chromosomes that may have originated from a hybridization of the first two. (Humans are diploid. Tetraploids are typically the result of a cell-division error, and usually either don’t grow or are infertile. Fertile tetraploids such as this subspecies are relatively rare.)
We’ve all seen little Venus Flytraps in the grocery store or garden center, but do you know where they come from?
This unique species is actually native to a small area of the Carolinas - specifically, within a one to two hour drive of Wilmington, North Carolina. Like all carnivorous plants, they grow in nutrient-poor habitats such as bogs.
They’re one of just a handful of plants capable of rapid movement - the traps, once triggered, can close in less than a second. The captured prey is digested in about ten days using enzymes secreted once the trap is closed. In the spring, healthy plants will put up a long scape topped with small white flowers, but they also reproduce vegetatively by growing new plants as offshoots from the underground rhizome. An individual plant will never grow more than 7 trap leaves - clusters with more than 7 leaves are actually a parent and its cloned offspring.
Scientific Expeditions into the Heart of Borneo Reveal Plant Species New to Science
A scientific expedition into the trans-boundary area between Limbang division and neighbouring country Brunei Darussalam is likely to yield a treasure trove of valuable research about Borneo’s unique flora and fauna.
Sarawak project coordinator Michael Ngelai from Forestry Department told The Borneo Post when met recently that the Mentawai Scientific Expedition (MSE) would mark the fifth such expedition in the state under the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative.
Based on the results and findings of the previous four expeditions, Michael is optimistic that the MSE will be able to make significant contributions to the scientific study and records of flora and fauna in Borneo…
(read more: Borneo Post)
T - two potentially new Bulbophyllum species found at Lanjak Entimau. (Photo by Heart of Borneo Initiative)
B - Rhizanthes kamarudini, a new species of Rizhanthes (of the same family as the Rafflesia) was discovered by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia professor Dr Kamarudin Mat Salleh and his team during the Lanjak Entimau expedition in June 2008. (Heart of Borneo Initiative)
The bladderwort, named for its water-filled bladders (shown left) that suck in unsuspecting prey, is a relative of the tomato. Since their evolutionary split 87 million years ago, both plants have experienced episodes of genetic duplication where the plants’ DNA doubled in size…
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.
… is a rare plant endemic to Marin County, California. Only a single population is known from serpentine soils on Ring Mountain, Tiburon Peninsula on the northwestern side of San Francisco Bay.
While the land on which it grows is protected, the limited distribution of this species puts it at high risk of extinction due to random events like drought or wildfires. It is also threatened by damage from off-leash dogs, hikers, cyclists, wildflower collectors, and other vandals.
The Hawaiian Silversword: Another Warning on Climate Change
by Zach Fitzner
The Hawaiian silversword (Argyroxyphium sandwicense), a beautiful, spiny plant from the volcanic Hawaiian highlands may not survive the ravages of climate change, according to a new study in Global Change Biology. An unmistakable plant, the silversword has long, sword-shaped leaves covered in silver hair and beautiful flowering stalks that may tower to a height of three meters.
The Hawaiian silversword flowers only once in its life of 20 to 90 years, not unlike the much-loved agave. Because of this, records show that the number of silversword flowering in any given year varies wildly from zero to 6,632 plants. It depends on pollination from other individual plants for reproduction, so the trigger for flowering events is a key piece of a puzzle not currently understood, like many aspects of ecology…
Fruit bats and bat fruits: the evolution of fruit scent in relation to the foraging behaviour of bats in the New and Old World tropics
by Hodgkison et al.
Frugivory among bats (Chiroptera) has evolved independently in the New and Old World tropics: within the families Phyllostomidae and Pteropodidae, respectively. Bats from both families rely primarily on olfaction for the location of fruits. However, the influence of bats on the evolution of fruit scent is almost completely unknown.
Using the genus Ficus as a model, the aims of this study were to explore the chemical composition of fruit scent in relation to two contrasting seed dispersal syndromes in Panama and Malaysia and to assess the influence of fruit scent on the foraging behaviour of neo- and palaeotropical fruit-eating bats…
A Hard Look at 3 Myths about Genetically Modified Crops
Superweeds? Suicides? Stealthy genes? The true, the false and the still unknown about transgenic crops
by Natasha Gilbert and Nature magazine
In the pitched debate over genetically modified (GM) foods and crops, it can be hard to see where scientific evidence ends and dogma and speculation begin. In the nearly 20 years since they were first commercialized, GM crop technologies have seen dramatic uptake. Advocates say that they have increased agricultural production by more than US$98 billion and saved an estimated 473 million kilograms of pesticides from being sprayed. But critics question their environmental, social and economic impacts.
Researchers, farmers, activists and GM seed companies all stridently promote their views, but the scientific data are often inconclusive or contradictory. Complicated truths have long been obscured by the fierce rhetoric. “I find it frustrating that the debate has not moved on,” says Dominic Glover, an agricultural socioeconomist at Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands. “The two sides speak different languages and have different opinions on what evidence and issues matter,” he says.
Here, Nature takes a look at three pressing questions: are GM crops fuelling the rise of herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds’? Are they driving farmers in India to suicide? And are the foreign transgenes in GM crops spreading into other plants? These controversial case studies show how blame shifts, myths are spread and cultural insensitivities can inflame debate…
Until 2013, the oldest individual tree in the world was Methuselah, a 4,845-year-old Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) in the White Mountains of California.
But then researchers announced the dating of a 5,062-year-old P. longaeva, which isalso in the White Mountains, according to the Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research group. The tree has not yet been named.
The next oldest tree on the list is a national monument in Iran: The Zoroastrian Sarv (Sarv-e-Abarkooh), estimated to be about 4,000 years old, or older. This Mediterranean cypress tree (Cupressus sempervirens), which is in Abarkuh, Yazd, Iran, may well be the oldest living thing in Asia…
For most of the U.S., winter is finally loosening its icy grip. Besides freshening your wardrobe, cleaning house, or planning your next national parks trip, why not celebrate by admiring some flowers and plants, perhaps the most telltale signs of spring’s arrival?
Sure, you can stop and smell the roses, but why not also marvel at the rafflesia arnoldii, touch-me-not, Eastern Skunk Cabbage, corpse flower, voodoo lily, and hydnora africana? While you could trek across the globe to view these bizarre blooms, in some cases, you need only venture as far as your local botanical garden…
Trachyandra tortilisis a small bulbous plant from South Africa’s “Namaqualand” region. Usually seen growing in deep sany soils, sometimes in heavier, silt-like soils, where the plants tend to be dwarfed growing only to a maximum of 15cm in height.
For many, their vision of the Sonoran Desert, located in the southwest part of the United States and northern Mexico, is one of a vast and barren wasteland of rolling sand dunes and desolate landscapes. But nothing could be further from the truth, as the Sonoran Desert annually becomes a lush environment of amazing springtime color when the indigenous plants bloom after a winter of rain…
It is common knowledge that flowers have evolved specifically to attract certain pollinators. Recently, however, it was found that some plants have gone even further by attracting insects to ward off any inefficient pollinators.
Recent studies have found that the Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum) actively attracts Oecophylla smaragdina, a type of weaver ant. These ants then work to fight off small insects that approach the flower. This prevents most small pollinators, which prove to be less efficient than large pollinators, from pollinating the flower. The mechanism by which the plant attracts the ants is yet unknown.