Plants of the week

This is the spot for plants in the UMass greenhouses, plants around campus, and plants on the internet that catch our fancy.

The first mutant of the year

This albino guy was the first mutant I noticed this year. Summer has officially begun! A mutation in any one of the key enzymes in the chlorophyll synthesis pathway will cause an albino phenotype like this. Without chlorophyll, this plant can't photosynthesize, and will die pretty soon.  

Blooming in Amherst: heavy metal relatives

I picked some Thlaspi arvense on the way in this morning. Shown here is one of T. arvense's distinctive fruits, which make it easy to identify. It's a weed, originally from Eurasia, but now all over the US. It's in the same family (Brassicaceae) as the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, which in turn is in the same family as cabbage, broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts.

Biodiversity in focus (algae are plants, too)

The NSF has put out a great video and a nice write-up  talking about the importance of studying biodiversity. Light receptors from today's plant of the week, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, have been harnessed as critical tools in optogenetics, a revolutionary new field in the study of neurobiology.

Blooming in the greenhouse: dangerous carnivores

Nepenthes maxima is a carnivorous pitcher plant. Some of its leaves develop as elaborate 'pitchers' that trap insects unlucky enough to fall in (shown on the right). Special glands are housed inside the pitcher that secrete insect-dissolving enzymes. The leaves are so spectacular that the flowers are all but ignored. Shown here are the tiny, but beautiful, male flowers (All ~140 Nepenthes species produce male and female flowers on separate plants).

Horizontal gene transfer in plants

While analyzing the genome of the hornwort Anthoceros punctatus, a team of plant biologists found evidence for an ancient case of horizontal gene transfer between bryophytes and ferns. It seems as if ferns got a key light-sensing protein that allows them to be more successful in low-light conditions from a hornwort.

Fruits in an MRI

These videos make you think about produce in a whole new light. Of course my favorite is the corn (Zea mays).

The bruise of bracts

Not the first flower to inspire an artist, just the latest, Cerinthe major in all of its glory.