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  • Discoveries in the Garden cover

    Discovering Discoveries in the Garden

    Discoveries in the garden by James Nardi, 2018. University of Chicago Press. I must have reached some level of fame because a few weeks ago a copy of Discoveries in the Garden by James Nardi arrived in my pigeon hole at work. Although it contained no specific instructions as to what I was supposed to […] More

  • Map of the Silk Road crossing the deserts and Eurasian Steppe in Central Asia

    The increasingly fluid Silk Road

    What would you imagine was carried along the Silk Road(s), that ancient route that connected the far-East to the near-East and Europe? Silks? Well, yes, and spices, etc. (and not forgetting traffic in infectious human diseases). But those are tangible, tradable, items, ‘things’. What is being better appreciated nowadays is that it was also ideas […] More

  • Roots holding on to soil

    Roots create … rock

    The more I learn about roots, the more amazing they appear. Not only do they provide essential support for, and anchorage of, the aerial, above-ground, parts of the plant, they are the prime organs for abstracting water and a wide range of chemicals from the soil and transporting those throughout the plant. Furthermore, their ancient […] More

  • Three elephants

    Mammoth news: Bees help plants

    What! That’s news?? Surely everybody knows that many plants are pollinated by bees? Hopefully, yes, but this item is not about that well-known plant-insect association. OK, but does it feature mammoths? No, but it does have an elephantine dimension. Having laboured long and hard to plant and grow crops – to feed the family, and […] More

  • Diagram of fungus types
    in ,

    How fungi oxygenated the Earth

    Now that’s an eye-catching headline, isn’t it? The thought of mushrooms and toadstools – that famously don’t produce oxygen, unlike green plants with their oxygenic photosynthesis – adding oxygen to the planet’s atmosphere. What? How? Tell me more… Well, and as you probably suspect, it’s not direct activity of the fungi that generates the oxygen, […] More

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    What do you know about leaves???

    Nature’s Fabric: Leaves in Science and Culture by David Lee, 2017. University of Chicago Press. Ever so occasionally one comes across a book that makes one think, “That’s the book I’d like to have written”. Well, for me, David Lee’s Nature’s Fabric: Leaves in Science and Culture [hereafter referred to as Lee’s Leaves], is just […] More

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    Diving into the neglected world of seaweeds

    Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland, 2nd edition by Francis StP. D. Bunker, Juliet A. Brodie, Christine A. Maggs and Anne R. Bunker, 2017. Wild Nature Press. The second edition of Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland by Francis Bunker et al. [hereafter referred to as Seaweeds 2] is an important addition to the recorded natural history […] More

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    Plant records: Can a plant be too trusting?

    Name: Orchids Scientific name: Family: Orchidaceae Known for: Beauty, epiphytism, providing vanilla flavouring, tiny seeds, mycorrhizae, deceptive pollination, mycoheterotrophy, medicinal usage, vegetating Krakatoa… Record broken: The world’s most trusting plant… The orchid family, the Orchidaceae, is one of the biggest flowering plant families with an estimated number of species ranging from 26,460 [Maarten Christenhusz et […] More

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    Seed dispersal, the Ecuadorian dimension…

    Rather belatedly in our look at animals and seed dispersal, we have our Darwin connection (after all, what biological item would be complete without mention of that venerable Victorian vegephile, Charles Darwin?). If your habitat is devoid of elephants or chimpanzees (see parts 2 and 3 of this series), what other animals could the intrepid […] More

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    Cocoa, chimpanzees, and the restorative value of gorilla dung…

    Having reached mammals in our meanderings, and the human involvement in global plant dispersal (admirably explored in Michael Pollan’s book The Botany of Desire) notwithstanding, we couldn’t ignore our nearest and dearest living relative, the critically-endangered chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus), in this curious catalogue of –chory. Kimberley Hockings et al. report on the dispersal of […] More

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