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  • It's Alive

    Shutdown aside, Joshua trees live an odd life

    A year when vandals trashed a Joshua tree in a national park during a U.S. government shutdown is a good time to talk about what’s so unusual about these iconic plants.

    The trees’ chubby branches ending in rosettes of pointy green leaves add a touch of Dr. Seuss to the Mojave Desert in the U.S. Southwest. Its two species belong to the same family as agave and, believe it or not,...

    02/06/2019 - 08:00 Plants, Conservation, Science & Society
  • Science Visualized

    How light-farming chloroplasts morph into defensive warriors

    Chloroplasts may seem like docile farmers of light. But inside these microscopic plant and algal cell structures lurks the spirit of a warrior.

    When a pathogen attacks a plant, chloroplasts stop making food from sunlight and rush to the site of infection to help fend off the invader. Now, researchers have identified the protein that mobilizes these organelles into a defensive army.

    ...
    01/28/2019 - 08:00 Plants, Cells, Immune Science
  • News

    A new way to genetically tweak photosynthesis boosts plant growth

    A genetic hack to make photosynthesis more efficient could be a boon for agricultural production, at least for some plants.

    This feat of genetic engineering simplifies a complex, energy-expensive operation that many plants must perform during photosynthesis known as photorespiration. In field tests, genetically modifying tobacco in this way increased plant growth by over 40 percent. If...

    01/03/2019 - 14:00 Agriculture, Plants, Genetics
  • News

    More plants survived the world’s greatest mass extinction than thought

    Some ancient plants were survivors.

    A collection of roughly 255-million-year-old fossils suggests that three major plant groups existed earlier than previously thought, and made it through a mass extinction that wiped out more than 90 percent of Earth’s marine species and roughly 70 percent of land vertebrates.

    The fossils, described in the Dec. 21 Science, push back the earliest...

    12/20/2018 - 14:12 Paleontology, Plants
  • News

    Corn domestication took some unexpected twists and turns

    Corn eaten around the world today originated via a surprisingly long and complex process that started in what’s now southern Mexico around 9,000 years ago, a new study finds.

    People brought a forerunner of present-day corn plants, also known as maize, to South America from Mexico more than 6,500 years ago. Those plants still contained many genes from maize’s wild ancestor, teosinte, say...

    12/13/2018 - 14:00 Archaeology, Plants