Topic: Plants

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Atomic gardening

Agriculture Food and drink Plants Horticulture and Gardening Genetics

Atomic gardening is a form of mutation breeding where plants are exposed to radioactive sources, typically cobalt-60, in order to generate mutations, some of which have turned out to be useful.

The practice of plant irradiation has resulted in the development of over 2000 new varieties of plants, most of which are now used in agricultural production. One example is the resistance to verticillium wilt of the "Todd's Mitcham" cultivar of peppermint which was produced from a breeding and test program at Brookhaven National Laboratory from the mid-1950s. Additionally, the Rio Star Grapefruit, developed at the Texas A&M Citrus Center in the 1970s, now accounts for over three quarters of the grapefruit produced in Texas.

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Azolla Event

Climate change Environment Plants Arctic Palaeontology Geology

The Azolla event is a scenario hypothesized to have occurred in the middle Eocene epoch, around 49 million years ago, when blooms of the freshwater fern Azolla are thought to have happened in the Arctic Ocean. As they sank to the stagnant sea floor, they were incorporated into the sediment; the resulting draw-down of carbon dioxide has been speculated to have helped transform the planet from a "greenhouse Earth" state, hot enough for turtles and palm trees to prosper at the poles, to the current icehouse Earth known as the Late Cenozoic Ice Age.

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Crown shyness

Agriculture Plants Forestry

Crown shyness (also canopy disengagement, canopy shyness, or intercrown spacing) is a phenomenon observed in some tree species, in which the crowns of fully stocked trees do not touch each other, forming a canopy with channel-like gaps. The phenomenon is most prevalent among trees of the same species, but also occurs between trees of different species. There exist many hypotheses as to why crown shyness is an adaptive behavior, and research suggests that it might inhibit spread of leaf-eating insect larvae.

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Dyson Tree

Science Fiction Plants

A Dyson tree is a hypothetical genetically engineered plant (perhaps resembling a tree) capable of growing inside a comet, suggested by the physicist Freeman Dyson. Plants could produce a breathable atmosphere within hollow spaces in the comet (or even within the plants themselves), utilising solar energy for photosynthesis and cometary materials for nutrients, thus providing self-sustaining habitats for humanity in the outer solar system analogous to a greenhouse in space or a shell grown by a mollusc.

A Dyson tree might consist of a few main trunk structures growing out from a comet nucleus, branching into limbs and foliage that intertwine, forming a spherical structure possibly dozens of kilometers across.

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False Banana Tree

Food and drink Plants

Ensete ventricosum, commonly known as enset or ensete, Ethiopian banana, Abyssinian banana, and false banana, is an herbaceous species of flowering plant in the banana family Musaceae. The domesticated form of the plant is only cultivated in Ethiopia, where it provides the staple food for approximately 20 million people. The name Ensete ventricosum was first published in 1948 in the Kew Bulletin, 1947, p. 101. Its synonyms include Musa arnoldiana De Wild., Musa ventricosa Welw. and Musa ensete J.F.Gmel. In its wild form, it is native to the eastern edge of the Great African Plateau, extending northwards from South Africa through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to Ethiopia, and west to the Congo, being found in high rainfall forests on mountains, and along forested ravines and streams.

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Hungry Tree

Plants Ireland

The Hungry Tree is a tree in the grounds of the King's Inns in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. An otherwise unremarkable specimen of the London plane, it has become known for having partially consumed a nearby park bench. It has become a tourist attraction and is frequently photographed. The Hungry Tree was the subject of a campaign by Green Party politician Ciarán Cuffe to ensure its preservation.

Norman Borlaug

United States Biography Mexico Biography/science and academia India Plants United States/Texas

Norman Ernest Borlaug (; March 25, 1914 – September 12, 2009) was an American agronomist who led initiatives worldwide that contributed to the extensive increases in agricultural production termed the Green Revolution. Borlaug was awarded multiple honors for his work, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Borlaug received his B.S. in forestry in 1937 and Ph.D. in plant pathology and genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1942. He took up an agricultural research position in Mexico, where he developed semi-dwarf, high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties. During the mid-20th century, Borlaug led the introduction of these high-yielding varieties combined with modern agricultural production techniques to Mexico, Pakistan, and India. As a result, Mexico became a net exporter of wheat by 1963. Between 1965 and 1970, wheat yields nearly doubled in Pakistan and India, greatly improving the food security in those nations.

Borlaug was often called "the father of the Green Revolution", and is credited with saving over a billion people worldwide from starvation. According to Jan Douglas, executive assistant to the president of the World Food Prize Foundation, the source of this number is Gregg Easterbrook's 1997 article "Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity." The article states that the "form of agriculture that Borlaug preaches may have prevented a billion deaths." He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply.

Later in his life, he helped apply these methods of increasing food production in Asia and Africa.

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Old Tjikko, the oldest living clonal Norway Spruce

Plants Sweden

Old Tjikko is a 9,550 year-old Norway Spruce, located on Fulufjället Mountain of Dalarna province in Sweden. Old Tjikko originally gained fame as the "world's oldest tree." Old Tjikko is, however, a clonal tree that has regenerated new trunks, branches and roots over millennia rather than an individual tree of great age. Old Tjikko is recognized as the oldest living Picea abies and the third oldest known clonal tree.

The age of the tree was determined by carbon dating of genetically matched plant material collected from under the tree, as dendrochronology would cause damage. The trunk itself is estimated to be only a few hundred years old, but the plant has survived for much longer due to a process known as layering (when a branch comes in contact with the ground, it sprouts a new root), or vegetative cloning (when the trunk dies but the root system is still alive, it may sprout a new trunk).

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Pando (tree)

United States Plants United States/Utah

Pando (Latin for "I spread out"), also known as the trembling giant, is a clonal colony of an individual male quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) determined to be a single living organism by identical genetic markers and assumed to have one massive underground root system. The plant is located in the Fremont River Ranger District of the Fishlake National Forest at the western edge of the Colorado Plateau in south-central Utah, United States, around 1 mile (1.6 km) southwest of Fish Lake. Pando occupies 43 hectares (106 acres) and is estimated to weigh collectively 6,000,000 kilograms (6,600 short tons), making it the heaviest known organism. The root system of Pando, at an estimated 80,000 years old, is among the oldest known living organisms.

Pando is currently thought to be dying. Though the exact reasons are not known, it is thought to be a combination of factors including drought, grazing, human development, and fire suppression. The Western Aspen Alliance, a research group at Utah State University’s S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources, has been studying the tree in an effort to save it, and the United States Forest Service is currently experimenting with several 5-acre (2 ha) sections of it in an effort to find a means to save it. Grazing animals have threatened Pando's ability to produce young offsprings to replace trees that are dying. Human development in the area is another threat, these two threats have caused pando trees to shrink in size and decrease over the past 50 years.

A study published in October 2018 concludes that Pando has not been growing for the past 30–40 years. Human interference was named as the primary cause, with the study specifically citing people allowing cattle and deer populations to thrive, their grazing resulting in fewer saplings and dying individual trees.

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Silphium: Did Greek science die out because their elite discovered The Pill?

Food and drink Plants Alternative medicine Women's Health

Silphium (also known as silphion, laserwort, or laser) was a plant that was used in classical antiquity as a seasoning, perfume, as an aphrodisiac, or as a medicine. It also was used as a contraceptive by ancient Greeks and Romans. It was the essential item of trade from the ancient North African city of Cyrene, and was so critical to the Cyrenian economy that most of their coins bore a picture of the plant. The valuable product was the plant's resin (laser, laserpicium, or lasarpicium).

Silphium was an important species in prehistory, as evidenced by the Egyptians and Knossos Minoans developing a specific glyph to represent the silphium plant. It was used widely by most ancient Mediterranean cultures; the Romans who mentioned the plant in poems or songs, considered it "worth its weight in denarii" (silver coins), or even gold. Legend said that it was a gift from the god Apollo.

The exact identity of silphium is unclear. It is commonly believed to be a now-extinct plant of the genus Ferula, perhaps a variety of "giant fennel". The still-extant plants Margotia gummifera and Ferula tingitana have been suggested as other possibilities. Another plant, asafoetida, was used as a cheaper substitute for silphium, and had similar enough qualities that Romans, including the geographer Strabo, used the same word to describe both.

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