0 comments on “Can We Save Seeds for Doomsday?”

Can We Save Seeds for Doomsday?

While some seeds appear immortal, most seeds don’t last forever—unless they’re carefully stored in seed banks or, in some cases, preserved in liquid nitrogen or as part of living collections. This is huge because many plants are under threat of disappearing forever—about 68 percent of evaluated plant species, to be exact.

Take a crash course in ‘Seed Banking 101’ with Murphy Westwood, Tree Conservation Specialist at The Morton Arboretum and Global Tree Conservation officer for Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), and Kayri Havens, director of Plant Science and Conservation at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

0 comments on “Myth: Medicine Doesn’t Grow on Trees”

Myth: Medicine Doesn’t Grow on Trees

Pharma-farming: Can Real Medicine Come From Plants?

— by Jessica B. Turner and Daisy Simmons 

Real medicine only works when it’s made with complicated, manmade ingredients, right? Nope! For a closer look at our diverse options for healing, let’s head outside and explore Mama Nature’s surprisingly impressive pharmaceutical supplier: the mighty plant kingdom.

You heard us right—plants and the chemicals within them have the potential to save lives. For example, numerous anti-cancer drugs are derived from plants and trees, such as vinblastine and vincristine which come from the Madagascar periwinkle, and taxol, which comes from the Pacific Yew tree. In fact, right now in North America and Western Europe, plants are a key ingredient in 25 percent of all prescriptions.

0 comments on “Myth: Wild Predators Belong Anywhere But Here”

Myth: Wild Predators Belong Anywhere But Here

Meaty Topic: Are Large Carnivores Moving Into a New Neck of the Woods?

Plenty of people like the idea of big wild animals like bears, big cats, and wolves roaming the land…in theory. Large meat-eaters can exude an aura of cool, plus, their babies are ridiculously cute. But when these top-of-the-food-chain creatures, aka apex predators, begin to expand their territory closer into ours, even the biggest animal lover in the room may be tempted to ask, “uh, don’t they belong, like, somewhere else?”

Myth busted—they belong just as much as any native species in the local ecosystem. Apex predators can help keep smaller animals from overrunning the place, ultimately keeping natural areas in balance. The trick is to learn how to peacefully coexist, as much as is possible, both for the average Joe and Jane and statewide management alike…and that starts by simply better understanding these animals and their role in the balance of life.

1 comment on “Myth: Green Thumbs Are Born, Not Made”

Myth: Green Thumbs Are Born, Not Made

Step 1 to Garden Glory: Admit to Dragging Soil Through the Mud

In the dog-eat-dogwood world of gardening, plants get all the glory, while soil has, well, something of a reputation problem. Many of us think of soil as a dull means to an end—that is, if we haven’t already written it off as just plain dirty. Plants, on the other hand, are a grand reward for a job well done, or so it seems, for the happy few that were born plant whisperers.

Dark and crumbly, soft and earthy-smelling...ah, healthy soil. (NRCS)
Dark, crumbly, and soft–now that’s some good soil! (NRCS)

It’s time we give soil a reputation makeover—in truth, because the mind-boggling complexity of the stuff deserves our respect. Another solid reason to crush on dirt: Recognizing what’s beneath our feet as interesting, even wondrous, is your best bet for developing a green thumb and turning soil into the pretty flowers and tasty veggies we crave.

Why not just pour some nice fresh soil in the ground and leave uncovering its secrets to the pros? To root out the answer, we called on Bryant Scharenbroch, PhD, soil scientist with the Morton Arboretum and Liam Heneghan, PhD, a soil-loving ecologist with DePaul University.

2 comments on “Myth: Monarchs and GMO Foods Are Unrelated”

Myth: Monarchs and GMO Foods Are Unrelated

Why North America Is Losing in the Monarch Games

Wanna talk Olympic pursuits? Every fall, monarch butterflies in eastern North America embark on an epic journey. Putting in 50-100 miles a day, they travel up to 3,000 miles from the U.S. and Canada to the fir forests of Mexico’s Neovolcanic Mountains, where they settle in for a few months of subtropical sun before winging it back north in March.

Monarchs cluster on fir boughs in central Mexico (Sweet Briar College)
Monarchs cluster on fir boughs in Mexico. (Sweet Briar College)

Ground zero for scientific study on this more than 10,000-year-old migration is Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage site, where an estimated 95 percent of the eastern monarchs spend the winter, making it, as UNESCO puts it, “the most dramatic manifestation of the phenomenon of insect migration.”

This winter, though, monarchs are occupying the smallest area they have since scientists started measuring 20 years ago, according to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund-Mexico.