Gardeners and Nature lovers already appreciate the botanical wonders around us, but plants are more than floral beauties. We owe the air we breathe to them, all of our food, and most of our medicine, chemicals and housing. Animals from elephants to ants depend on plant-life. And the world's flora has an equally intimate relationship with the birds, insects, mammals and humans around them. Explore these relationships and find the latest botany discoveries through the links below. Check out the categories in the menu or try the search using the magnifying glass above.

Move Over Birds, In Pacific Northwest Bears Are Primary Seed Dispersers

This is the first instance of a temperate plant being primarily dispersed by mammals through their gut, and suggests that bears may influence plant composition in the Pacific Northwest. It was well-known that bears were dispersing seeds through their scat, but it was not known that they were dispersing more seeds than birds, or the relative contribution of brown and black bears to seed dispersal, or whether the two species bears were eating berries at different times of the year. (Click on title for full story.)

Artificial Light Is Changing Ecosystems In Ways We Are Only Beginning To Study

Ecologists face challenges such as measuring light accurately and assessing how multiple species behave in response. But early results suggest that light at night is exerting pervasive, long-term stress on ecosystems, from coasts to farmland to urban waterways, many of which are already suffering from other, more well-known forms of pollution. (Click on title for full story.)

To Improve Students’ Engagement In Lessons, Take Them Outside

This study is the first to our knowledge to directly examine the effects of lessons in nature on subsequent classroom engagement. We found higher levels of classroom engagement after lessons in nature than after carefully matched classroom-based counterparts; these differences could not be explained by differences in teacher, instructional approach, class (students, classroom, and class size), time of year, or time of day, nor the order of the indoor and outdoor lessons on a given topic. It would seem that lessons in nature boost subsequent classroom engagement, and boost it a great deal; after a lesson in nature, teachers were able to teach for almost twice as long without having to interrupt instruction to redirect students’ attention. This nature advantage persisted across 10 different weeks and lesson topics, and held not only for a teacher with positive expectations for nature-based lessons but also for a teacher who anticipated negative effects of such lessons. The findings here suggest that lessons in nature allow students to simultaneously learn classroom curriculum while rejuvenating their capacity for learning, or “refuel in flight.” (Click on title for full story.)

Irrigation Technique To Farm Arid Lands Passed Along The Ancient Silk Road From Lebanon To China’s Desert

Small-scale irrigation systems similar to MGK were established at the Geokysur river delta oasis in southeast Turkmenistan about 3,000 B.C. and further west at the Tepe Gaz Tavila settlement in Iran about 5,000 B.C. The Wadi Faynan farming community, established in a desert environment in southern Jordan during the late Bronze Age, has an irrigation system nearly identical to the one at MGK, including boulder-constructed canals, cisterns and field boundaries. (Click on title for full story.)

The Plant That Abandoned Photosynthesis And Cross-Pollination

As well as abandoning photosynthesis, the L. nigricans also self-pollinates – its flowers remain buds until they fall. Non-photosynthesizing plants such as L. nigricans often grow on the dark forest floor, an environment that bees and butterflies rarely visit. Because of this, L. nigricans and L. nigricans var. patipetala are both self-pollinating species. L. nigricans may have stopped opening its flowers because this used up too many resources. Similar evolutionary patterns are occurring in other mycoheterotrophic plants. (Click on title for full story.)

Is Your Native Plant Really What It Claims To Be?

The analysis revealed that 54 percent of the purchased plants labeled “American bittersweet” and/or “Celastrus scandens” were in fact oriental bittersweet. Seven of the 11 vendors tested were selling mislabeled plants. Four of these were located in Illinois, where it is illegal to sell oriental bittersweet. (Click on title for full story.)

Wearable Sensors For Plants Enable Precise Monitoring

“The concept of wearable electronic sensors for plants is brand new. And the plant sensors are so tiny they can detect transpiration from plants, but they won’t affect plant growth or crop production.” But that’s not all the sensors can do. The technology could “open a new route” for a wide variety of applications, the authors wrote in their paper, including sensors for biomedical diagnostics, for checking the structural integrity of buildings, for monitoring the environment and, after appropriate modifications, for testing crops for diseases or pesticides.(Click on title for full story.)

Case Study: Introduced Tree Species Devastating A Tropical Biological Hotspot

At first, the species took over land abandoned from the cultivation of coffee and tree crops, but more recently it has expanded into the natural forests of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park. This invasion was accelerated by the damage caused to the forests by Hurricane Gilbert 29 years ago, and it is likely to be further advanced by future major hurricanes. The National Park is a globally important hotspot of biodiversity with many rare and endangered species, including orchids, butterflies and birds, some of which are found nowhere else in the world except for the mountain forests of Jamaica. (Click on title for full story.)

Devastating Plant Disease May Be Coming Our Way

Experts describe Xylella fastidiosa as one of the “most dangerous pathogens worldwide”. The bacterium invades the vessels that a plant uses to transport water, causing it to display symptoms such as scorching and wilting of its foliage, eventually followed by the death of the plant. (Click on title for full story.)

Photosynthesis On Earth Began 1.25 Billion Years Ago

To pinpoint the fossils’ age, the researchers pitched camp in a rugged area of remote Baffin Island, where Bangiomorpha pubescens fossils have been found There,despite the occasional August blizzard and tent-collapsing winds, they collected samples of black shale from rock layers that sandwiched the rock unit containing fossils of the alga. Using the Rhenium-Osmium (or Re-Os) dating technique, applied increasingly to sedimentary rocks in recent years, they determined that the rocks are 1.047 billion years old. (Click on title for full story.)