Corpse Flower

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Published on: February 15, 2013

If you have even been close to a hawthorn tree, you will know that yesterday’s post about pretty roses and petunias didn’t tell the whole story about floral smells. Today, lets consider a flower far smellier than mildly unpleasant hawthorn blossoms – the fascinating titan arum, Amorphophallus titanum, sometimes also known as the corpse flower. It has the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world, emits a powerful, horrible smell like rotting flesh, and is thermogenic.

Shirashi et al. (2010, Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 74:2550) published observations of a titan arum in flower. When the petal-like spathe began to open, the plant emitted a smell like rotten fruit. As time went on, the smell became stronger and more unpleasant. When the spathe opened fully, revealing the tall spadix, the spadix became up to to 5°C hotter than the ambient temperature and secreted a strong smelling fluid like rotton flesh. The spathe was open for around 12 hours.

Shirashu et al. identified the odorous chemical emitted by the titan arum as dimethyl trisulphate, a product of bacterial decomposition of mammalian flesh. It is emitted by a few other plants, all of which, like the corpse flower, are pollinated by insects that feed on rotting flesh.

The titan arum is an impressive, but rather gruesome, plant. And like all gruesome things, it attracts visitors to science outreach events! The video above is about the Corpse Flower attraction at the Museum of Natural Science in Houston.

Video credit: VOA News, via YouTube. 

 

An argument for plant science funding

Categories: Friday Film, funding
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Published on: February 8, 2013

Today’s Friday Film is a sort of video blog from the Carnegie Institution. I’m not sure why it’s narrated by a computer instead of a person … but it is a concise summary of this June 2012 article in The Scientist by Tom Brutnell and Wolf B. Frommer, in which the authors argue for $100 billion funding for plant science in the US over a 10 year period.

Source: CarnegieInstitution’s Youtube channel.

Why are there no pop hits about Arabidopsis?

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Published on: February 1, 2013

Ginny from Science and Plants for Schools pointed this video out to me recently. It’s a fun but entirely accurate love song to everyone’s favourite weed, genetic treasure trove (thanks Malcolm for that great little phrase!) Arabidopsis thaliana. Listen out to the shout out for TAIR!

This video was made by Professor Karmadillo. You can find him on YouTube, on his website, and on Twitter at @singingscience.

Root development with Malcolm Bennett

Categories: Friday Film, GARNet, UKPSF
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Published on: January 25, 2013

Malcolm Bennett, Professor of Plant Sciences at the University of Nottingham, discusses here about his research into root development, the ‘hidden half of plant biology.’ He talks about working with computer scientists and soil scientists, and explains how they work toward improving water efficiency and nutrient uptake in the model plant Arabidopsis. As the four previous scientists in this series also said, he hopes the work will be translated to crop species. He also discusses funding for UK plant science, and the progress that has been made by the community in recent years.

Developmental genetics with Zoe Wilson

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Published on: January 18, 2013

In the fourth of our series of video podcasts from PlantSci 2012, Zoe Wilson from the University of Nottingham discusses about her work on Arabidopsis developmental genetics. She works on pollen, which she explains is important for food security and the cut flower industry. Like the previous interviewees Eric, Katherine, and John, she also talks about the future of plant science. She says, “The link between plants and science had been quite tenuous, more people are understanding the importance of that.”

Plant disease resistance with Eric Holub

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Published on: January 11, 2013

Here, Eric Holub from the University of Warwick describes his research on the genetics of disease resistance mechanisms as well as a bit about life in academic research in the UK. He explains the real-world application of his research on the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana by saying, “If the plant can control its own diseases, chemical control will be be much less required.”

This is the third video podcast taken at the UK PlantSci conference in 2012. See the previous ones with John Runions and Katherine Denby here and here. To register for UK PlantSci 2013, go to the website.

 

Plant defence with Katherine Denby

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Published on: December 18, 2012

The second of our video podcasts from PlantSci 2012 is from Katherine Denby, from the University of Warwick. She works on how plants respond to changes in their environment, and in particular in response to pathogens. If you have a slightly cloudy idea of what systems biology is she explains it very well here, including how it can affect future food security. She also explains why she works on Arabidopsis, saying, “It’s just so much quicker to do things in Arabidopsis!”

Looking inside cells with John Runions

Categories: Friday Film
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Published on: December 14, 2012

At April’s UK PlantSci 2012 conference, GARNet made video podcasts of five researchers talking about their work, the challenges facing plant scientists, and the state of UK plant science today. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting them on the blog.

The first video is of John Runions from Oxford Brookes. He explains how he uses fluorescent proteins and microscopy to visualize processes inside living cells, and discusses the importance of Arabidopsis thaliana research for food security and forestry science – in his words, ‘Arabidopsis has been the paradigm in plant biology research.’

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