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.
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The Fierce Competitive Genius of…. Bluebells

Bluebells also form carpets without a wooded canopy and point to the locations of ancient forests, long after the trees themselves have vanished. This is because, unlike trees, bluebells have most of their biomass and reproductive organs (the bulb) below ground where they are better protected. They are beautiful flowers, but have you ever wondered how bluebells pull off an even more impressive feat: being in their flowering prime when other plants have only just started to grow? Here are seven of their cleverest tricks.(Click on title for full story.)

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How The First Gardeners Adapted To New Environments: The Story Of Leaf-Cutter Ants

“If you had X-ray vision and you could look out in a wet, new-world tropical forest, you’d see the entire underground just peppered with garden chambers,” (Click on title for full story.)

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Furthest Seed Dispersal Award Goes To…. African Savanna Elephants!

The African savanna elephant holds the prize for largest living terrestrial animal, and now it apparently just set another land record: the longest distance mover of seeds. The pachyderms can transport seeds up to 65 kilometers, according to a study of elephant dung in South Africa. That’s 30 times farther than savanna birds take seeds, and it indicates that elephants play a significant role in maintaining the genetic diversity of trees on the savanna. (Click on title for full story.)

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Can The Devastation By Bark Beetles Be Stopped With A Sound Recording?

Bark beetles — whose numbers have reached outbreak levels throughout the West — are hard to keep away from trees. One solution may be to confuse them by playing their own sounds, distorted into a maddening cacophony, back at them. (Click on title for full story.)

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Plant Roots Grow Towards The Sound Of Running Water

“It indicates that the invasion of sewer pipes by tree roots may be based on the plants ‘hearing’ water and shows that their perception of their surroundings is much greater and far more complex than we previously thought.” (Click on title for full story.)

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Using Daffodils To Reveal Lost History

Historic preservation is a field that draws on information from many disciplines. It involves more than just looking at old buildings—even though that is one of my favorite things to do. Historic preservation teaches you how to think critically about your environment and reflect upon how people in the past shaped your surroundings. Through botany and horticulture, historic preservationists can not only narrow down the date of a site, but also learn more about the people who lived there. (Click on title for full story.)

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The Millipede With A Garden On Its Back

We have reported here the first known associations of bryophytes with Diplopoda, and one of the few with Arthropoda. It is also, so far as we know, the first reported case of tropical bryophyte entomochory, in which spores and propagules that fell on the backs of diplopods germinated and produced small plants (Click on title for full story.)

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China’s Massive Reforestation Being Undone By Small Forest Animals

Squirrels rarely eat bark in this way in untouched, natural forests where they live on fruits, seeds, insects and bird eggs, Fu Yiqiang, a zoologist at Leshan Normal University said. However, commercial forests, which are usually monocultures made up of one kind of tree, do not have a thriving ecosystem which can provide squirrels with a diverse diet, which leads to them mainly eating bark for sustenance, Fu said. Fu added that these kinds of forests also lack predators, so the squirrel population often explodes in size. (Click on title for full story.)

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Did Humans Make The Sahara A Desert?

The story that emerged suggests that as communities of people spread, they changed the landscape to accommodate crops and livestock, causing an exchange in plant species that covered the ground for specimens that exposed the soil. As sunlight bounced from the brighter soil, it warmed the air, building a feedback loop that shifted the atmospheric conditions enough to reduce the frequent monsoon rains and benefit scrub vegetation over grasslands until rainfall virtually vanished, leaving only a scattering of hardy desert plants. (Click on title for full story.)

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When Scientists Began Systematic Screening Of Plants To Fight Cancer

“If you look at the source of drugs used in cancer,” Newman says, “60-plus percent of them are either a natural product, a modified natural product, or depend upon what is known as a natural product pharmacophore”—in other words, a synthetic version of a natural molecule. Hartwell was “the leader” in organizing the discovery of natural products to fight cancer, Newman adds. “He was a prophet before his time. Prior to that, nobody had really looked.” (Click on title for full story.)