Category Archives: Plants & People

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American Chestnuts Will Return… Eventually

Very few people understand the magnitude of the breeding challenge embarked upon by The American Chestnut Foundation when it began in 1983. Just to complete the B3F2 generation of breeding and selection — the final generation as originally envisioned — has meant that 73,000 trees must be created by hand pollination and grown and tested in plantations for a minimum of three years. (Click on title for full story.)

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Did Early Hunter-Gatherers KNOW They Were Domesticating Crops?

“We know very little about how agriculture began, because it happened 10,000 years ago – that’s why a number of mysteries are unresolved. For example why hunter-gatherers first began farming, and how were crops domesticated to depend on people. One controversy in this area is about the extent to which ancient peoples knew they were domesticating crops. Did they know they were breeding domestication characteristics into crops, or did these characteristics just evolve as the first farmers sowed wild plants into cultivated soil, and tended and harvested them?” (Click on title for full story.)

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How Marketing Turned The Unfortunate “Alligator Pear” Into A Foodie Superstar

So the avocado growers rallied. They funded research and put out studies meant to extoll the virtues of the fruit. They leaned on the fat-friendly Mediterranean diet, and ran television ads. they skated by into the nineties, but sales still lagged. People simply didn’t know how to eat the fruit. They weren’t waiting for it to ripen; the growers began to educate supermarkets on the difference between a ripened fruit. It was around this time they hired Hill & Knowlton, a public relations firm. Their mission was to make avocado an everyday, accessible item to American shoppers. (Click on title for full story.)

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4,000 Year Old Garden Uncovered And It Is Just As The Tomb Paintings Showed It

“The plants grown there would have had a symbolic meaning and may have played a role in funerary rituals. Therefore, the garden will also provide information about religious beliefs and practices as well as the culture and society at the time of the Twelfth Dynasty when Thebes became the capital of the unified kingdom of Upper and Lower Egypt for the first time. We know that palm, sycamore and Persea trees were associated with the deceased’s power of resurrection. Similarly, plants such as the lettuce had connotations with fertility and therefore a return to life. Now we must wait to see what plants we can identify by analysing the seeds we have collected. It is a spectacular and quite unique find which opens up multiple avenues of research”. (Click on title for full story.)

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Using Botany To Understand Art

Millais’ painting is mystical, romantic and most importantly botanically fascinating. Forget the dead woman, it is a plant-inspired masterpiece. (Clcik on title for full story.)

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Study Shows That Rosemary Is Indeed For Remembrance.

A study found that pupils working in a room with the aroma of rosemary, in the form of an essential oil, achieved 5% to 7% better results in memory tests. (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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Why Would A Melon Sell For $13,000 In Japan?

By all accounts, Japan’s obsession with luxury fruits begins with Sembikiya, the country’s largest and oldest high-end fruit provider. So, ahead of a trip to Japan last fall, I emailed Sembikiya to see about arranging an interview at their flagship store in Nihonbashi, a tony part of downtown Tokyo that’s home to luxury hotels, lacquer bowl purveyors, and washi paper boutiques. (Click on title for full story.)

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Even Amazonia Was Shaped By Ancient Human Agriculturists

The Amazon has long been held up as an example of untamed wilderness. But people have lived in the world’s largest rainforest for thousands of years, hunting, gathering and farming1. For years, researchers have debated how much of an influence human activities have had on the Amazon. And now, a study describes the extent to which ancient peoples changed the distribution of trees in the forest around them. (Click on title for full story.)

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Botanical Residue Reveals Story Of Ancient Buried Artifacts

“It has been an absolute pleasure to examine this unique assemblage. By combining the plant macro and pollen evidence we have been able to identify the time of year the vessels were buried, the packing material used, the nature of the surrounding vegetation and the likely date of burial.” (Click on title for full story.)