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The Week in Botany 🎂 100

June 3, 2019

Welcome to the hundredth email of The Week in Botany. I think, with a couple of missed weeks for Christmas, that it's around two years since we started our weekly round-up of the most popular links shared by people following @botanyone on Twitter. You can thank Alan Cann for the impetus to start the email. He wanted something with the stories from Botany One that we could email out, but with added value. Compiling this has certainly helped me keep up to speed with what people are sharing.

Next week on the blog we have a few posts scheduled already. One is something on Kangaroo paws for Tuesday, with some interesting photos. This week I learned a Kangaroo Paw is not a cake. It'll be listed in next week's newsletter which should be we you next Monday.
Alun (

From Botany One

The flower that targets its nectar to the specific needs of its pollinators
Impatiens offers its pollinators the best nectar, but the best nectar for one pollinator isn't always the best for another.

Responses of plant leaf economic and hydraulic traits mediate the effects of drought on grassland productivity
Vitra et al. used the percentage loss of conductivity (PLCp) as a plant community hydraulic trait to observe its interactions with more commonly used plant leaf economic traits (such as specific leaf area and leaf dry matter content) and its direct effects on grassland productivity under drought. 

How does Spartina alterniflora react to long-term wave exposure?
A multi-national team has been investigating how Spartina alterniflora (also Sporobolus alterniflorus) reacts to long-term wave expsoure. The findings could affect planning for ecosystem-based flood defences.

Improving sugarcane’s resilience to salinity and drought
Begcy et al. characterized a gene in response to environmental stresses. This has allowed them to gain insight into the unknown fraction of the sugarcane genome.

The orchid that mimics not just one organism but two
Why would you need a massive flower to imitate a tiny fly? A new study of a Peruvian orchid reveals something strange is going on.

Evolutionary constraints on disparity of ericaceous pollen grains
Yu et al. perform a combination of phylogeny-based and statistical tests, demonstrating that pollen disparity in Ericaceae did not evolve steadily but pulsed over the time, clearly decoupling it from the relative constant-rate pattern of species diversification inferred.

Leaf:wood allometry and functional traits explain variation in growth rate of rainforest trees
Gray et al. quantified relationships between stem diameter growth rates and functional traits of adult woody plants for 41 species in an Australian tropical rainforest. The authors demonstrate that substantial variation in growth rate of tropical trees results from differences in relative mass allocation to leaves versus wood, and in a small number of tissue-specific properties.

Miraculin: The Miracle in Miracle Fruit
The quest for a sweetener healthier than sugar continues. One possible candidate is Synsepalum dulcificum, but it isn't a simple task to create a new sweetener.

Modelling reveals how fire and water shape the life strategies of Pinus halepensis
Is it better to grow fast, or to grow slowly and invest in the future? Structural Equation Modeling reveals that Pinus halepensis cannot decide.

News and Views

Why Bt Brinjal Is a Hit in Bangladesh 
Bangladeshi politicians, unlike their Indian counterparts, have defended the country's agricultural scientists and supported farmers who wanted to adopt the improved brinjal seeds.
The Wire

Want to understand the biodiversity crisis? Look at the trees in your backyard.
Real, visible and consequential ecological catastrophes are playing out all around us.
The Washington Post

Millions 'lack access' to parks and green spaces
Millions of people in Great Britain do not have access to a nearby park or green space, a study suggests.
BBC News

Plant Diseases in the Natural Environment
Plant diseases are a natural feature of ecosystems where their effects help structure communities and can actually help support biodiversity.  However, sometimes diseases can be overwhelming and fatally damaging, causing real declines of a species. Two good examples of this in trees and forests are Dutch Elm Disease, which caused the loss of millions of elm trees in the UK, and Chestnut Blight, which virtually wiped out American chestnuts in the USA.
Plant Health Centre

Scottish climbers asked to help find endangered plants
Climbers are being asked by experts at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to help them to locate endangered plants on Scottish mountains.
The Times

The Fungus-Mimicking Mouse Plant
"The mouse plant (Arisarum proboscideum) is, to me, one of the most charming aroids in existence. Its small stature and unique inflorescence are a joy to observe. It is no wonder that this species has attained a level of popularity among those of us who enjoy growing oddball plants. Its unique appearance may be reason enough to appreciate this little aroid but its pollination strategy is sure to seal the deal."
In Defense of Plants

Rethinking impact factors: better ways to judge a journal 
We need a broader, more-transparent suite of metrics to improve science publishing, say Paul Wouters, colleagues and co-signatories.

Iconic poppies climb in retreat from climate change
Prized by gardeners worldwide, several species of the iconically beautiful Meconopsis (Himalayan poppies) could soon be threatened in their native habitat as climate change pushes them to ever smaller mountain sanctuaries. Within 50 years they could be teetering on the brink of extinction in the wild, according to a new study by scientists from China’s Kunming Institute of Botany, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and Columbus State University in the US.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Sudden oak death infects more rhododendrons than initially thought 
State officials are warning of a worsening threat from a disease discovered last week in Indiana that can prove fatal to oak trees.

An Interview, by Richard Powers 
"His novels have explored a varied, broad range of themes over the years—from science to music, from war to commerce, from computer technology to the enigmatic nature of the mind—but when he told me last fall that his new novel, The Overstory, was “about trees,” I was a little surprised and a lot intrigued."

Scientific Papers

Evolution of vascular plants through redeployment of ancient developmental regulators
van ’t Wout Hofland et al. reveal the evolutionary trajectory for the heterodimeric TMO5/LHW transcription factor complex, which is rate-limiting for vascular cell proliferation in Arabidopsis thaliana. Both regulators have origins predating vascular tissue emergence, and even terrestrialization. They further show that TMO5 evolved its modern function, including dimerization with LHW, at the origin of land plants.

De novo gene birth
De novo gene birth is the process by which new genes evolve from DNA sequences that were ancestrally non-genic. De novo genes represent a subset of novel genes, and may be protein-coding or instead act as RNA genes.
PLOS Genetics

Hierarchical generalized additive models in ecology: an introduction with mgcv
Pedersen et al. discuss an extension to two popular approaches to modeling complex structures in ecological data: the generalized additive model (GAM) and the hierarchical model (HGLM). The hierarchical GAM (HGAM), allows modeling of nonlinear functional relationships between covariates and outcomes where the shape of the function itself varies between different grouping levels. They describe the theoretical connection between HGAMs, HGLMs, and GAMs, explain how to model different assumptions about the degree of intergroup variability in functional response, and show how HGAMs can be readily fitted using existing GAM software, the mgcv package in R.

The niche is not the range: Dispersal and persistence shape mismatches between ecological niches and geographic distributions of plants
The ecological niche of a species describes the variation in population growth rates along environmental gradients that drives geographic range dynamics. Niches are thus central for understanding and forecasting species’ geographic distributions. However, theory predicts that migration limitation, source-sink dynamics and time-lagged local extinction can cause mismatches between niches and geographic distributions. It is still unclear how relevant these niche-distribution mismatches are for biodiversity dynamics and how they depend on species life history traits.

Natural depletion of H1 in sex cells causes DNA demethylation, heterochromatin decondensation and transposon activation
He et al. show that about 100 heterochromatic TEs are activated in VCs, mostly by DEMETER-catalyzed DNA demethylation. They further demonstrate that DEMETER access to some of these TEs is permitted by the natural depletion of linker histone H1 in VCs. Ectopically expressed H1 suppresses TEs in VCs by reducing DNA demethylation and via a methylation-independent mechanism. They demonstrate that H1 is required for heterochromatin condensation in plant cells and show that H1 overexpression creates heterochromatic foci in the VC progenitor cell.

Breeding for broad-spectrum disease resistance alters the maize leaf microbiome
Wagner et al. demonstrate that breeding for broad-spectrum disease resistance altered leaf microbiome composition in field-grown maize. Quantitative trait loci (QTL) conferring resistance to multiple fungal pathogens were introgressed into a disease-susceptible genetic background, and microbiome composition of the resulting near-isogenic lines was compared to that of the original susceptible parent line in five fields over two years. Introgression of disease-resistance alleles shifted the relative abundance of diverse fungal and bacterial taxa by up to 1000-fold in both 3-week-old and 7-week-old plants; however, these effects varied among fields and years.

Cysteine-rich peptides promote interspecific genetic isolation in Arabidopsis
Pollen tubes, which carry plant sperm, need to grow from where they land in the flower to where the ovule is. Zhong et al. now show how pollen from related plant species race to reach the ovule first.

A few Ascomycota taxa dominate soil fungal communities worldwide
Despite having key functions in terrestrial ecosystems, information on the dominant soil fungi and their ecological preferences at the global scale is lacking. To fill this knowledge gap, Egidi et al. surveyed 235 soils from across the globe.
Nature Communications

Rapid evolution in plant–microbe interactions – a molecular genomics perspective
Frantzeskakis et al. review recent insights in genomic characteristics and mechanisms that enable rapid evolution of both plants and phytopathogens. These comprise fresh insights in allelic series of matching pairs of resistance and avirulence genes, the generation of novel pathogen effectors, the recently recognized small RNA warfare, and genomic aspects of secondary metabolite biosynthesis. In addition, they discuss the putative contributions of permissive host environments, transcriptional plasticity and the role of ploidy on the interactions.

Tiny Rhizomorphic Rooting Systems from the Early Permian Abo Formation of New Mexico, USA
Hetherington et al. describe small fossilized rooting systems from the early Permian Abo Formation of New Mexico, increasing our knowledge of the diversity of small Paleozoic rhizomorphic rooting systems.International Journal of Plant Sciences


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