The Chugach people of southern Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula have picked berries for generations. Tart blueberries and sweet, raspberry-like salmonberries — an Alaska favorite — are baked into pies and boiled into jams. But in the summer of 2009, the bushes stayed brown and the berries never came.
For three more years, harvests failed. “It hit the communities very hard,” says Nathan Lojewski...
Don’t blame the tomato. Tiny pests called silverleaf whiteflies can make a tomato plant spread deceptive scents that leave its neighbors vulnerable to attach.
Sap-sucking Bemisia tabaci, an invasive menace to a wide range of crops, are definitely insects. Yet when they attack a tomato plant, prompting a silent shriek of scents, the plant starts smelling as if bacteria or fungi have...
Letters to the Editor
Which way is up?03/07/2019 - 06:00 Astronomy, Plants, Health
Initial observations of the Kuiper Belt object MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule, suggested it had a snowmanlike shape. Ultima Thule’s two lobes are connected by a narrow neck that appears brighter than the rest of the space rock’s surface, Lisa Grossman reported in “New Horizons shows Ultima Thule looks like a snowman, or maybe BB-8” (SN: 2/2/19, p. 7).
“The photo of...
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,...
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....
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...
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...
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...
After more than 20 years of theorizing about it, scientists have tweaked a hybrid variety of rice so that some of the plants produce cloned seeds. No plant sex necessary. The feat, described December 12 in Nature, is encouraging for efforts to feed an increasingly crowded world.
Crossing two good varieties of grain can make one fabulous one, combining the best versions of genes to give...
News in Brief
Scientists have unraveled some of the mechanical mysteries behind the pokes and prods of cacti.
Like porcupine quills, the barbed spines of some cactus species easily puncture their prey but are difficult to remove. Smooth spines, however, puncture flesh easily and are removed just as readily, researchers report in the Nov. 21 Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
That variation is...