In 1928, a farmer digging in his garden found a flower blooming underground. Three years ago, scientists discovered that it's so well adapted to living underground that it has lost almost all of its chloroplast genes. While this species is unusual for an orchid in the extent of its parasitism, it turns out that all orchids are actually parasites--stealing nitrogen from tiny fungi in the soil without trading any carbon back as plants usually do. See photos of the underground orchid here.
Are you interested in plants? The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew aren’t just a tourist attraction -- they also run one of the world's leading botanical research institutes. To show off how important and fascinating modern plant science can be, they've commissioned a series of snazzy short videos to showcase their work. Start with the award-winning Forgotten Home of Coffee (6:00) (based on this worrying Kew study from 2012), then come back for the rest. [more inside]
Mosses Make Two Different Plants From the Same Genome, and a Single Gene Can Make the Difference
One of the most astonishing secrets in biology is this: every plant you see makes two different plants from the same genome. And, scientists recently reported, a single gene from an ancient, powerful lineage can make the difference.
Microworlds is the blog of biology student Daniel Stoupin, and he also has a photography website as well. His chosen subject is microphotography, especially of living things. Perhaps the best place to start is his latest post, where he uses fluorescent dyes to take pictures of a rotting flea embryo. Other favorites are shells of microscopic crustaceans, colorful plant seed fluorescence and mosquito larva in polarized light. He has also made a video, and explains the process here.
Thoreau was into it. Scientists are using it to understand climate change. When Project Budburst starts again on Febraury 15th, you can participate, too. [more inside]
According to a new study in Biology Letters (Royal Society journal), plants respond competitively when forced to share their pot with strangers of the same species, but when placed in a pot with their siblings are more accomodating. PDF, HTML.
The Encyclopedia of Life project will create a compendium of every aspect of the biosphere. It aims to compile data on all of Earth's 1.8 million known species on one Web site, and will include species descriptions, pictures, maps, videos, sound, sightings by amateurs, and links to entire genomes and scientific journal papers. E. O. Wilson is getting his wish. [Via BB.]
"Lost World" found in Indonesian Papua (with audio)
Wayne's World (an unfortunate name for a great website) is "An On-line Textbook of Natural History." I went looking for information on Vanilla, which I knew is the only commercial food product of an orchid, but which I didn't know is hand-pollinated, and found information on so much more. There are several extensive courses available on basic biology and botany, a huge section on chemicals in plants and animals, and tons of fun stuff like "The Truth about Cauliflory" and "Bat-Pollinated Flowers Of The Calabash & Sausage Tree." The index is extensive and covers everything from "Absinthe: An Herb That May Have Poisoned Vincent van Gogh" to "Ziricote: Beautiful Caribbean Hardwood In The Borage Family."
Plants in motion is a comprehensive archive of time-lapse movies (Quicktime format) of plants germinating and growing, flowers opening, tropic responses and circadian movements. Some of the video is quite eerie. The plants really seem...erm...alive... The site also has a guide to making your own time-lapse film.
Botanical Record-Breakers - learn about the world's most poisonous plants, the fastest growing, the most painful, the oldest, the ongoing debate about the largest, and much more. Also discussed is the rare coconut pearl - botanical jewel, or hoax?