Category Archives: Plants & People

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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.)

0213001849

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.)

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The Elusive Superstar Plant of Fiji

For now, the tagimoucia continues to inspire Fijians. On a ferry that sails from Taveuni to Suva, I held a tagimoucia clipping given to me by the village chief of Tavuki. The flower turned heads. A young boy whispered “tagimoucia” as he walked past. A woman pointed and mouthed the flower’s name before breaking into a smile. (Click on title for full story.)

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Towards Food Security: This Tree Provides Fruit and Timber In Parched Saline Environments

Economically, socially and environmentally, Dobera glabra is a very valuable tree. One of its many attributes is that its fruit ripens during the drought period, providing food when food is scarce. The tree’s timber is used in heavy construction, for agricultural implements, fuelwood, watering troughs and other domestic items. The leaves can be used as fodder for livestock, and its roots and leaves are used for traditional medicines. In many villages the tree is also planted to provide shade. By domesticating Dobera glabra for on-farm cultivation, we can go a long way towards tackling food insecurity in southern and north eastern Ethiopia and similar environments. (Click on title for full story.)

0213001849

The Re-Invention Of Tasty Tomatoes

In the tasting panels, there were noticeable differences in preferences: between men and women, between foodies and nonfoodies, and, perhaps most interesting, between older people and younger people. He recalled one of the students working in his laboratory picking out the supermarket tomato as her favorite in one of the taste tests. “That bothers me a lot,” Dr. Klee said. “Have we trained a whole generation that doesn’t know what a good tomato is?” (Click on title for full story.)

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Native People Have Redesigned Arctic Ecosystems For Millenia

While the prevailing vision of the Arctic tends to be that of a vast and primordial wilderness, Dr. Oberndorfer says a more accurate picture is that of an intricate web of connections that have formed between the land and those that have inhabited it for many centuries. (Click on title for full story.)

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A Successful Strategy To Control Asian Longhorned Beetle Infestation

The Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) is one of the 10 most dangerous quarantine pests in the world. More than 30 ALB infestations have been reported in eight European countries to date; six of these infestations have now been eradicated. In most cases, it took more than 10 years to wipe out the beetle population in large outdoor infestations. The pest has killed millions of poplar trees in China. Winterthur (Switzerland) has recently shown that it is possible, however, to eradicate even large outdoor infestations within the statutory minimum period of four years. This requires decisive action right at the start of an outbreak, because only the best and most experienced people on the ground can isolate the infested area in the first year. (Click on title for full story.)

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The Lonely Archeobotanist

Now the once bustling lab is now practically empty, with Elshafaey singlehandedly attempting to keep archaeobotany alive at Helwan University. He works essentially alone in the lab researching ancient plants from archaeological sites across Egypt for his PhD. (Click on title for full story.)