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.

Can Iceland Restore Forests Destroyed By Viking Ancestors?

The country lost most of its trees more than a thousand years ago, when Viking settlers took their axes to the forests that covered one-quarter of the countryside. Now Icelanders would like to get some of those forests back, to improve and stabilize the country’s harsh soils, help agriculture and fight climate change. But restoring even a portion of Iceland’s once-vast forests is a slow and seemingly endless task. Despite the planting of three million or more trees in recent years, the amount of land that is covered in forest — estimated at about 1 percent at the turn of the 20th century, when reforestation was made a priority — has barely increased. (Click on title for full story.)

In Space, Humans Will Need Plants To Maintain Mental Health

While these anecdotes do not provide direct experimental evidence in support of the psychological benefits of growing plants in space, they do show the affective responses and high level of interest by the astronauts associated with having greenery on board space vessels. (Click on title for full story.)

The Secret Colors Flowers Create: But How? And Why?

Only a few flowers, like cornflowers and Himalayan blue poppies, have achieved true blue, and all by using special chemical tricks like adding metals to their pigments, or making their petals more alkaline. “All of this is chemically quite difficult and not many species have evolved the enzymes to do it,” says Beverley Glover from the University of Cambridge. “Even with genetic modification, people have managed to make purple, bluish roses, but true blue isn’t happening.” So imagine her surprise when she found that many flowers have secret blue halos in their flowers. (Click on title for full story.)

Large Herbivores Essential To Spread Soil Nutrients

Despite the quirks, there are two important insights to this study. First, today we are rapidly losing our few remaining large animals (forest elephants have decreased by 60% in the last 10 years alone). Losing these animals will critically impair our future ecosystems as we lose their nutrient distribution capacity. Next there is an observed ecological rule called Cope’s rule that has shown that animals tend to get bigger over time. Basically, it is a good evolutionary strategy to get big because then it is harder for predators to eat you. Combining this rule, with what I have found in this study, that large animals are disproportionately important for the distribution of nutrients, indicates that the planet may have an intrinsic mechanism of increasing fertility over time. (Click on title for full story.)

New Study Underscores Value Of Nature In Controlling Climate Change

There’s a growing recognition that to get to below 2°C, we need to actively drawdown carbon from the atmosphere,” Adams says. “And while there’s lots of interest and investment in new technology solutions to capture and store carbon, this is new, experimental technology. Trees and other plants, meanwhile have already perfected this process over hundreds of millions of years of evolution—we’re unlikely to see a better carbon capture and storage technology than that which nature provides.” (Click on title for full story.)

Brown Fields + Plants = Long Term Carbon Sequestration

Although photosynthesis removes a significant amount of CO2 from the atmosphere annually, plant and soil respiration return most of the photosynthesised CO2 into the atmosphere, marking organic CO2 removal as an unstable sink. In contrast, SUCCESS (Sustainable Urban Carbon Capture through Engineering the Soil System) has shown that photosynthesised carbon can be fixed in soils as natural carbonate minerals. (CLick on title for full story.)

Some Plants Respond Aggressively To Being Clipped

Some plants behave like the mythical monster Hydra: Cut off their heads and they grow back, bigger and better than before. A new study finds that these “overcompensators,” as they are called, also augment their defensive chemistry – think plant venom – when they are clipped. (Click on title for full story.)

Case Study: How Removal Of One Invasive Shrub Species Resulted In A Riparian Rebirth

Our results indicate that management activities that result in removal of L. maackii, even within small reserves in otherwise heavily invaded forests, can have strong influences on the aquatic biota within headwater streams. (Click on title for full story.)

Durian’s Legendary Smell Is A Brilliant Adaptation

Durians developed this intense and far-reaching smell as a way to advertise the presence of ripe fruits and attract animals that occur at very low densities in the rainforests. Pollinated by bats and dispersed by elephants, the durian is “a beautiful example” of cooperation between plant and animal species,(Click on title for full story.)

Climate Change Forces Los Angeles To Say Good-bye To Iconic Palm Trees

‘The iconic association of palm trees with Los Angeles is a positive, but we’re now in a period where we have a better understanding of what’s needed,’ says a climate expert. (Click on title for full story.)