Scare your plants to produce stronger offspring


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — By temporarily silencing the expression of a critical gene, researchers fooled soybean plants into sensing they were under siege, encountering a wide range of stresses. Then, after selectively cross breeding those plants with the original stock, the progeny “remember” the stress-induced responses to become more vigorous, resilient and productive plants, according to a team of researchers.

This epigenetic reprogramming of soybean plants, the culmination of a decade-long study, was accomplished not by introducing any new genes but by changing how existing genes are expressed. That is important because it portends how crop yields and tolerance for conditions such as drought and extreme heat will be enhanced in the future, according to lead researcher Sally Mackenzie, professor in the departments of Biology and Plant Science at Penn State.

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Lycoris radiata ( Red Spider Lily, Hurricane Lily, Corpse Flower )

Hurricane lily blooming 3rd week of Sept

Like most flowering bulbs in Houston this is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family. It only flowers after heavy rainfalls. I had forgotten all about it, and there it was blooming as I left for a morning run. It’s been a rainier year than usual. The total rainfall is typical, the frequency is much higher.

First brought to US in 1854 when Japan and the US opened trade. They are planted in Asia along the edges of rice patties to keep rodents out of the rice.

Prefers full sun, this one is in shade with dappled light only.
Not frost hardy, but this one has been out there for several years, through several cold winters.
Toxic: I think all lilies and Amaryllis are toxic
Prefers lots of water, does best along the edges of rivers
Blooms in Autumn after heavy rain
Propagate by division
Planting depth ~4″

Origin: China, Korea, Nepal

Pseuderanthemum variable

Funny how the most common plants are the most difficult to identify. This one had me stumped for a long time.

It’s a weed, grows in shady areas, not invasive. It shows up some years and not others. This year has been very rainy, winter was cold, one or both or something else must trigger it.

Typically grows in zones 11-9b
Blooms late summer – early fall ( in Houston )
Propagate by dividing rhizomes, will self sow
Stays under 6″ in height
Grows in shady rain forests

Native to Australia
Host plant for Australian Leafwing butterfly
Relative of African Violet

( Australians claim it is impossible to remove by hand or weed killer, so it’s a good thing it’s not invasive )

It’s also a food for White Bearded Dragons. How could you not like it?

Pseuderanthemum is from Greek ‘false Eranthemum’

Information is scarce, as is often the case with common plants
Some Magnetic Island Plants

Acer macrophyllum aka Big Leaf Maple aka Oregon Maple

This plant caught my eye along a pathway through the woods. I’d swear I’d never seen it before but now that I’ve ID it I seem to keep finding it. Every one I’ve found has been along a pathway at the edge of a heavily wooded area.

Its leaves are the largest of any maple, fitting its large size when grown in the right climate

It can grow over 150′, usually tops out at about 20′, spreading wider than its height. Not suitable for home gardens because of its size and water demands.

Native to wet areas along the western coast and mountains of the US. Doesn’t handle frosts well or droughts

Zones 5-9
Full sun to full shade

The Wild Garden, Acer mactophyllum
Fire effects of Acer macrophyllum

Justicia chrysostephana “Orange Flame”

This is a pretty easy plant to grow. I’ve had it in part sun – full shade and it happily grows and flowers all summer. Drought tolerant, but like most plants prefers damp, well drained soil. It starts blooming as soon as it leafs out and keeps blooming until well into winter.

It’s rated to 20’F but I find it dies back to the ground if winter temps go below freezing, and returns from the roots mid-spring.

There is also a yellow flowered variety, old Victorians claim there is also a pink variety

Loved by hummingbirds and bees

Grows rapidly
Grows 4′-6′ tall
Rated for zones 9b-11

Easy to grow from cuttings, plant in spring

If you’re in the Houston area it can often be found at Master Gardener Plant Sales

Building a better mosquito trap

I have not tried these yet, I will build a few in the spring and see how they do and report back here. In the meantime, it’s too cool not to post it.

A scientist in Australia has come up with an insecticide-free way to control a particularly pesky species of mosquito.

The approach involves two things: deploying a decidedly low-tech mosquito trap called a GAT and getting to know your neighbors.

GAT stands for Gravid Aedes Trap. Aedes is short for Aedes albopictus, known colloquially as the Asian tiger mosquito, which bites aggressively night and day.

The trap doesn’t look particularly impressive — it’s basically three plastic buckets stacked together. The top and bottom buckets are black. The mosquitoes fly into the trap through a hole in the top bucket, but they seem to have a hard time flying back out through the hole. To make matters worse (for the mosquito) you can dangle a piece of sticky paper inside the top bucket to catch a wayward pest that happens to land there.

Building A Better Mosquito Trap — One Scientist Thinks He’s Done It


GAT Mosquito Traps Can Be Effective Even without Pesticides

More…
Take Back Our Yards: Using GATs to Control Mosquitoes in Our Town

I looked around a bit and there are trap kits for sale online. There are plastic cups that are all black and plenty of clear plastic containers available on Amazon or Walmart

Dandelion vortexes

Surprisingly, dandelion seeds use a method of flight previously thought impossible.

Abstract
Wind-dispersed plants have evolved ingenious ways to lift their seeds1,2. The common dandelion uses a bundle of drag-enhancing bristles (the pappus) that helps to keep their seeds aloft. This passive flight mechanism is highly effective, enabling seed dispersal over formidable distances3,4; however, the physics underpinning pappus-mediated flight remains unresolved. Here we visualized the flow around dandelion seeds, uncovering an extraordinary type of vortex. This vortex is a ring of recirculating fluid, which is detached owing to the flow passing through the pappus. We hypothesized that the circular disk-like geometry and the porosity of the pappus are the key design features that enable the formation of the separated vortex ring. The porosity gradient was surveyed using microfabricated disks, and a disk with a similar porosity was found to be able to recapitulate the flow behaviour of the pappus. The porosity of the dandelion pappus appears to be tuned precisely to stabilize the vortex, while maximizing aerodynamic loading and minimizing material requirements. The discovery of the separated vortex ring provides evidence of the existence of a new class of fluid behaviour around fluid-immersed bodies that may underlie locomotion, weight reduction and particle retention in biological and manmade structures.

Dandelion seeds fly using ‘impossible’ method never before seen in nature
Nature, Revealed: the extraordinary flight of the dandelion
Paper, A separated vortex ring underlies the flight of the dandelion
Research Gate project, The form and function of the dandelion fruit

Dandelion pollen
2018 PhotoMicrography Competition
Dandelion fiber
2018 PhotoMicrography Competition