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  • News in Brief

    How the poppy got its pain-relieving powers

    A draft of the poppy’s genetic instruction book is providing clues to how the plant evolved to produce molecules such as morphine.

    Scientists pieced together the genome of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). Then, they identified a cluster of 15 close-together genes that help the plant synthesize a group of chemically related compounds that includes powerful painkillers like morphine...

    08/30/2018 - 14:00 Evolution, Plants, Chemistry
  • News

    The most ancient African baobabs are dying and no one knows why

    The last 13 years have been terrible for ancient African baobab trees.

    Nine of the 13 oldest either lost trunks or died altogether after having lived for longer than a millennium, researchers report June 11 in Nature Plants. But just what the demise means for the iconic species is up for debate.

     “Whilst we are saddened about the death and collapse [of the old trees], current...

    06/18/2018 - 07:00 Plants
  • News

    A caterpillar outwits corn defenses by gorging on fattening ‘junk’ food

    Here’s the story of a caterpillar that foils gruesome violence orchestrated by corn.

    No, that’s not backward. Plants often look helpless to a human, but they fight with smells and other invisible chemistry. A growing body of evidence, for example, shows that plants under attack can waft out scents that attract help, such as tiny wasps that deal a lingering death to leaf-chewing...

    05/22/2018 - 07:00 Animals, Plants, Ecology
  • Feature

    Meet the speedsters of the plant world

    Somewhere in the wetlands of South Carolina, a buzzing fly alights on a rosy-pink surface. As the fly explores the strange scenery, it unknowingly brushes a small hair sticking up like a slender sword. Strolling along, the fly accidentally grazes another hair. Suddenly, the pink surface closes in from both sides, snapping shut like a pair of ravenous jaws. The blur of movement lasts only a...

    05/16/2018 - 12:11 Plants, Biophysics, Physics
  • News in Brief

    New genetic details may help roses come up smelling like, well, roses

    There’s new hope for making modern roses smell sweeter than the florist paper they’re wrapped in.

    By decoding the genetics of an heirloom variety, a fragrant pink China rose called “Old Blush,” an international team of researchers has uncovered some new targets to tweak. That roster of genes plus an analysis of scent revealed at least 22 previously uncharacterized biochemical steps the...

    04/30/2018 - 11:00 Plants, Genetics
  • News in Brief

    Genetically modified plant may boost supply of a powerful malaria drug

    Genetic modifications to a plant that makes artemisinin, a key compound used in malaria drugs, more than tripled the amount of the ingredient naturally produced in leaves.

    Previous attempts to genetically engineer Artemisia annua to increase the yield of artemisinin had failed. So Kexuan Tang, a plant scientist at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and colleagues determined A. annua’s entire...

    04/24/2018 - 14:56 Plants, Genetics, Immune Science
  • News

    Rising CO2 levels might not be as good for plants as we thought

    Two major groups of plants have shown a surprising reversal of fortunes in the face of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

    During a 20-year field experiment in Minnesota, a widespread group of plants that initially grew faster when fed more CO2  stopped doing so after 12 years, researchers report in the April 20 Science. Meanwhile, the extra CO2 began to stimulate the...

    04/19/2018 - 14:00 Climate, Plants, Ecosystems
  • Editor's Note

    Why it’s great to have a geologist in the house

    Science has a way of surprising us when we least expect it. Like with mud rocks.

    We science journalists can be a cranky lot, eternally skeptical as to whether a touted advance is really significant enough to warrant coverage. So when Science News’ managing editor Erin Wayman waxed enthusiastic about a study explaining how ancient plants may have played a key role in making Earth...

    03/22/2018 - 10:19 Science & Society, Earth, Plants
  • News in Brief

    Liverwort reproductive organ inspires pipette design

    The sex organs of primitive plants are inspiring precise pipettes.

    Liverworts are a group of ground-hugging plants with male and female reproductive structures shaped like tiny palm trees. The female structures nab sperm-packed water droplets by surrounding them with their fronds, like an immobilized claw in an arcade machine.

    Scientists have coopted that design to create a plastic...

    03/15/2018 - 07:00 Plants, Physics
  • News in Brief

    These petunias launch seeds that spin 1,660 times a second

    Nature may have a few things to teach tennis players about backspin.

    The hairyflower wild petunia (Ruellia ciliatiflora) shoots seeds that spin up to 1,660 times per second, which helps them fly farther, researchers report March 7 in Journal of the Royal Society Interface. These seeds have the fastest known rotations of any plant or animal, the authors say. Plants that disperse seeds a...

    03/06/2018 - 19:06 Plants, Biophysics