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Why do trees get that tall?: Water movement in plants

1 Nov

Ever wondered why trees get so tall — or why they don’t get much taller? Me, too! People who have met me know I think about transpirational pull more than most folks. This topic has fascinated me without pause since I first heard about it, so I want to do my best to explain it in plain terms for this article.

A few years back, researchers at OSU determined that gravity and other forces would eventually overcome the water column in trees, and that this limit on the upward reach of water would limit growth to 350 – 400 feet; tabs kept on the world’s tallest trees show that so far, they conform to this range. Why is that?

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Current issues roundup: You’re not going crazy edition

3 Oct

It’s common enough to hear people jokingly refer to vegetarians as plant murderers. But today I present you with a study that may cast this notion in a strange new light. That’s right: plants can communicate using sound — and I’m not just talking about the Botanicals Twitter Kit.

Researchers from Britain, Italy and Australia recently found that plants not only respond to sound, but likely use clicking sounds to communicate with one another. The report, published in Trends in Plant Science, details experiments that used powerful acoustic equipment to record clicking sounds coming from the roots of corn plants. A simulated noise produced at the same frequency also caused young roots to grow in the direction of the sound.

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Current events roundup: Super old-school plants edition

16 Jul

We’re due up for a current events post, and this week’s theme is crazy ancient plants. Specifically, let’s talk about the intense gardening jealousy I feel toward the researcher who germinated a 32,000-year-old plant, and how in the world scientists discovered a 298-million-year-old forest underneath a coal mine in China.

So, the recipient of my botanical stink-eye is researcher Svetlana Yashina, who extracted the placenta (photo below) from the frozen seeds of a long leafed campion plant, Silene stenophylla, and grew them into flowers. While the flowers aren’t particularly dazzling (or envy-inspiring), it’s incredible that this plant sprang from a seed that lay frozen in the tundra of northeastern Siberia for 31,800 years.

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Upcoming changes & projects

8 Jun

Faithful readers! I have begun my new job on the Lower Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California. All is well in the world of silviculture, save for one thing: I do not have phone service or reliable Internet. So, I’m moving to a two-week schedule since that will be easier to swing in between evething else.

Look for upcoming posts on sudden oak death, tree physiology and maybe even the chemistry of paper milling, as well as a book review comparing various floras for the Northwest. Hooray! You know you are going to love it!

On visual assessment

29 May

Some of you wonder what I do with all my time at school and why I am always coming home wet and/or dirty. I’ve vaguely explained that it involves plenty of data collection, but I’ve always thought a serious explanation would be tedious at best. But you’re in luck, dear readers, because today I have lots of photos.

My classmates and I were lucky enough to go on an overnight camping trip to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest for silviculture lab. Lots of things were barbecued, of course, and someone may have even carved initials into a tree (for shame!) but we also spent a considerable amount of time running up and down hills at the Wind River Experimental Forest.

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The voluntary incarceration of attending grad school

28 Apr

Your faithful blog author has an admission to make that you may consider funny: Conventions freak me out.

I find them distressing, vexing and worrisome in the extreme. This probably sounds ridiculous. You see, conventions and symposia trigger my anxieties about a far more common problem — the fear of graduate school. I’m writing this post because I returned yesterday from a conference that has basically sent my midbrain red-lining.  And more importantly, because most of you reading this are students coming to crossroads just like I am.

So let’s pick my panicky heart to pieces in the name of science, shall we?

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