Staff August 25, 2016

Did You Know? August 2016

1. Did you know: that, unlike human beings, flowers become less fragrant as the world heats up? It’s true.

According to Alon Can’ani, a doctoral candidate at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “Increases in temperature associated with the changing global climate are interfering with plant-pollinator mutualism, an interaction facilitated mainly by floral color and scent.” Can’ani is studying the control mechanisms that allow plants to regulate their scent, and his research involved petunias grown at optimal temperature. When he split the group into two cohorts — one of which continued to receive the desired temp conditions and one that was exposed to increased temperature — he discovered that hotter temps resulted in a decrease in phenylpropanoid-based floral scent production.

Huh? The hotter flowers didn’t smell as much or, we assume, as nice as the control group.

But! Much to the dismay of the anti-GMO folks, he also discovered that fiddling with the plants’ genes eliminated the heat sensitivity of perfume production.

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2. Did you know: that bees are urbanites?

Apparently they’re happier in the city than in the country, at least according to their pollination habits. And, according to a recent study, those urban bees are more likely to be infected with parasites, which can shorten their lifespans. (Are they making up for perceived lost time?)

German researchers placed plants in locations inside city limits as well as in surrounding, more agricultural areas; during flowering time, they recorded which insects visited the plants and captured bees to determine which parasites affect the bees.

They discovered that the plants in urban areas were pollinated more often (especially by bumblebees) than those in agricultural sites. One theory is that city dwellers of the human persuasion cultivate more flowers, providing a more diverse banquet for pollinators than the relative monocultures of agricultural production.

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3. Did you know: that talking to your plants may actually be good for them?

We all know about Discovery Channel’s Myth- Busters, in which myth busting heroes Adam and Jamie put urban legends and oftrepeated but seldom-verified beliefs to scientific test. Well, they took on the old wives’ tale of encouraging healthy plant growth by talking to your plants. And they found that … well, yeah … it’s kinda true.

The boys separated three groups of pea plants and subjected them to silence; a soundtrack of atta-boy, you got this! encouragement; and a soundtrack of downright mean-girl insults.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not so), the group of plants that lived in silence performed the poorest, producing lower biomass. Aw … But what’s even more surprising, at least to some of us, was that there was no discernable difference between the coddled plants and those that were berated. What’s more, they both appeared to thrive on the input, positive or negative.

So go ahead and chat it up with those little seedlings, but it wouldn’t hurt to be nice.

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