Problem Solving Plants

By Anupum Pant

Neurobiological research on plants, sounds absurd, right? Not at all. Stefano Mancuso from University of Florence, Italy has devoted years of his life studying plants and he firmly believes that plants can communicate.

He often uses bean plants to demonstrate their mystical ability to communicate and their amazing ability to sense the environment. He has grown bean plants in a number of conditions (lighting, temperature, humidity, magnetic field etc.), while recording their growth through a time-lapse camera.

In his time-lapse videos it’s fascinating to see bean plants shooting out and making movements, as a blind man would do with his hand to sense the environment. Every single time, irrespective of its distance, bean plants are able to find the support stick to wind on…

This remarkable ability of bean plants, lacking eyes or any other known sensing techniques, has stunned scientists. Since it is sped up, the video of this shoot moving up the support stick looks a lot like some reptile’s movement.

Here, watch the time-lapse, you’ll see how amazing this little marvel of nature is…

Like a bean plant, there is another plant (if you could call it that), whose movements have interested scientists. Exactly like a bean plant does, this plant comes out too, searches and always is able to find another plant to grow on. At the same time, it is quite different from the bean plant.

Cuscuta Pentagona, as scientists call it, is a true parasite. That means, it has no roots, nor can it make food on it’s own – no photosynthesis. So, for food, it relies on neighbouring plants. And every single time, like bean plant, after coming out from the ground, cuscuta parasite is able to sense the healthiest plant. It then sinks in its suckers to suck out food from the host plant. Now watch the serial killer in action, in the voice of Morgan Freeman.

This Green Slime Like Thing is a 3000 Year Old Plant

By Anupum Pant

It looks like moss, but it isn’t. Nor is it slimy.

This gooey or slimy looking thing is actually a plant which grows in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Peru, up in the Andes at altitudes between ten to fifteen thousand feet. Believe it or not, some of these plants are more than 3000 years old. Yes, they are one of the oldest living organisms on the planet earth – older than the golden age of Greece.

Even though the plant looks slimy goo-like from a distance, when you go closer, it is actually solid and dry to the touch. The surface of the plant consists of densely packed tens of thousands of tiny buds and flowers which make the surface feel like a pillow. That is the reason it is also  known as the Andes Pillow. In fact the surface is so stiff that a person can lie on it and the plant won’t get crushed.

It is sort of a cousin to parsley and carrots. And it is interesting to note that the plant smells like mint. Locals often boil it in water and use it to cure muscle pain.

Llareta grows extremely slowly. It grows about 1.5 cm every year. The ones which are about 2.5 to 3 meters in size can be said to have grown for hundreds of years to reach that size.

Since Llareta is dense and dry, it burns like wood, and has been known to be used by the climbers/hikers to make fire. Some say that it was also used in steam engines instead of coal. This careless burning of the extremely slow-growing living museum has endangered their long-term survival.

via [RadioLab]

2000 Year Old Extinct Tree is No Longer Extinct

By Anupum Pant

At Herod the Great’s palace in Masada, Israel, from the year 1963 to 1965 an excavation was carried out. It was an excavation which blew everyone’s mind. As a result of this archaeological endeavour, an ancient jar containing date palm (Judean Palm) seeds was unearthed. The radio dating of these seeds confirmed that they were about 2000 years old. Like all other excavated material, the seeds too were sent into a safe storage at the  Bar-Ilan University. For the next 40 years, these seeds remained in the storage.

The seeds which were unearthed belonged to a plant which in its time had flourished for thousands of years. Around 150 AD the tree went extinct. None of them remained. However, the seeds did…

In the year 2005, a researcher, Elaine Solowey, decided to plant the seed. Elaine was pretty sure that a 2000 year old seed would be totally dead by now, and there’s a little chance it would even sprout. She went ahead anyway.

Elaine did a deep research on how to revive old seeds. Then, she first soaked them in hot water. And then in a nutrient rich solution. Finally they were put in contact with an enzymatic fertilizer.

To her surprise the seed did germinate. But when it did come out, Elaine was pretty sure that the sapling would die out. It didn’t. Although there were claims of a 32,000 year old germinated seed later in the year 2012, in its time, the Judean palm’s name had gone into the record books as the oldest seed to have ever sprouted

The tree has been named Methuselah after the oldest person named in the Old Testament of the Bible. Today the plant still continues to grow and has even made its first flowers.

[More about it]