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  • It's Alive

    The flowers that give us chocolate are ridiculously hard to pollinate

    It’s a wonder we have chocolate at all. Talk about persnickety, difficult flowers.

    Arguably some of the most important seeds on the planet — they give us candy bars and hot cocoa, after all — come from pods created by dime-sized flowers on cacao trees. Yet those flowers make pollination just barely possible.

    Growers of commercial fruit crops expect 50 to 60 percent of flowers to...

    02/20/2018 - 07:00 Plants, Animals, Agriculture
  • News in Brief

    Ancient ozone holes may have sterilized forests 252 million years ago

    Volcano-fueled holes in Earth’s ozone layer 252 million years ago may have repeatedly sterilized large swaths of forest, setting the stage for the world’s largest mass extinction event. Such holes would have allowed ultraviolet-B radiation to blast the planet. Even radiation levels below those predicted for the end of the Permian period damage trees’ abilities to make seeds, researchers report...

    02/12/2018 - 07:00 Plants, Earth, Ecosystems
  • Wild Things

    Pollinators are usually safe from a Venus flytrap

    Out of the hundreds of species of carnivorous plants found across the planet, none attract quite as much fascination as the Venus flytrap. The plants are native to just a small section of North Carolina and South Carolina, but these tiny plants can now be found around the world. They’re a favorite among gardeners, who grow them in homes and greenhouses.

    Scientists, too, have long been...

    02/06/2018 - 07:00 Plants
  • Year in Review

    2017 delivered amazing biology finds from organisms large and small

    2017 revealed some surprising biology of organisms large and small, from quick-dozing elephants to sex-changing lizards and carbon-dumping sea creatures.

    Switch it up

    Toasty temperatures trump genetics when it comes to the sex of a bearded dragon lizard. Now researchers have found how RNA editing helps turn overheated male embryos into females (SN Online: 6/14/17).

    Homegrown...
    12/27/2017 - 07:00 Animals, Plants, Evolution
  • News

    The dietary habits of the emerald ash borer beetle are complicated

    DENVER — An invasive beetle has unexpected — and potentially troublesome — tastes in trees. Now two new studies are clarifying the insects’ dining habits, researchers reported at the annual Entomological Society of America meeting.

    Metallic-green Asian beetles called emerald ash borers (Agrilus planipennis) have devastated wide swaths of forest in North America. For years, researchers...

    11/21/2017 - 11:00 Plants, Animals
  • News in Brief

    Honeybees fumble their way to blueberry pollination

    DENVER — Honeybees may be the world’s most famous pollinator, but a new study shows that blueberry blooms reduce the insects to improvisational klutzes. Not useless ones though.

    Pollination specialists have realized that the pollen haul found in hives of Apis mellifera honeybees has little, if any, from blueberry flowers, ecologist George Hoffman said November 5 at the Entomology 2017...

    11/09/2017 - 09:00 Animals, Plants, Agriculture
  • Reviews & Previews

    Invasive species are a growing global threat

    The Aliens Among UsLeslie AnthonyYale Univ. Press, $30

    Remote Bouvet Island, a tiny, glacier-smothered landmass in the South Atlantic rimmed by 500-meter-tall cliffs, has a notable distinction: It’s the only known spot on Earth, scientists say, that has zero invasive species. Every other place, and every person, on the planet is at least indirectly affected by one or more...

    11/05/2017 - 07:00 Ecology, Animals, Plants
  • News

    As ice retreats, frozen mosses emerge to tell climate change tale

    SEATTLE — Some mosses in the eastern Canadian Arctic, long entombed in ice, are now emerging into the sunlight. And the radiocarbon ages of those plants suggest that summertime temperatures in the region are the warmest they’ve been in tens of thousands of years.

    As the planet warms and the ice retreats on Canada’s Baffin Island, the change is revealing plants long buried beneath the ice...

    10/26/2017 - 07:00 Climate, Earth, Plants
  • News

    Nanoscale glitches let flowers make a blue blur that bees can see

    A bit of imperfection could be perfect for flowers creating a “blue halo” effect that bees can see.

    At least a dozen families of flowering plants, from hibiscuses to daisy relatives, have a species or more that can create a bluish-ultraviolet tinge using arrays of nanoscale ridges on petals, an international research team reports online October 18 in Nature. These arrays could be the...

    10/25/2017 - 10:00 Biophysics, Plants, Animals
  • News in Brief

    During El Niño, the tropics emit more carbon dioxide

    The tropics of Asia, Africa and South America all puffed out more carbon dioxide during the strong 2015–2016 El Niño than during the 2011 La Niña, new satellite data show. Because El Niño’s warmer, drier conditions in tropical regions mimic the effects of climate change expected by the end of the century, those observations may be a sobering harbinger of the tropics’ diminishing role as a...

    10/12/2017 - 14:09 Climate, Earth, Plants