Behind the Cover: New Phytologist 217:4, March 2018

How to make a tumour Ustilago maydis is a biotrophic fungus that causes smut disease on maize, by reprogramming plant cells to produce massive tumours. Just how this happens at the cellular level in maize leaves has remained unknown, until now. In the paper behind the cover of New Phytologist 217:4, Alexandra Matei and Gunther Doehlemann, of the University of Cologne, tog...
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When did flowers originate? Solving the ‘abominable mystery’

Flowering plants likely originated between 149 and 256 million years ago according to new UCL-led research. The study, published today in New Phytologist by researchers from the UK and China, shows that flowering plants are neither as old as suggested by previous molecular studies, nor as young as a literal interpretation of their fossil record. The fossil record suggests...
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Less chewing the cud, more greening the fuel

A 'significant breakthrough' that makes grasses more digestible promises improved feed for ruminants and better biomass for biofuel. Plant biomass contains considerable calorific value but most of it makes up robust cell walls, an unappetising evolutionary advantage that helped grasses to survive foragers and prosper for more than 60 million years. The trouble is that thi...
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Deeper purple: how temperature affects pollen colour

There are plenty of studies on how petal colour varies, but new research looks at differences in the performance of pollen under varied environmental conditions based on its colour. In the study of the North American herb Campanula americana, published in New Phytologist, investigators found that differences in heat tolerance among pollen colour variants could contribute to geo...
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Behind the Cover: New Phytologist 217:2, January 2018

Beeten to it: the early origins of beetroot red Millions of years ago, one family of plants — the beets and their cousins — hit upon a brand new pigment and discarded the red used by the rest of the plant world. In the paper behind the cover of New Phytologist 217:2, Hiroshi Maeda and his colleagues describe an ancient loosening up of a key biochemical pathway that set the ...
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New research examines the origin of xanthones in plant roots

New research shows how antimicrobial compounds are formed in plants, and where to find them. Xanthones are specialised compounds with antimicrobial properties. Derivatives of xanthones have attracted attention for medicine design. A new study in New Phytologist reveals where and how xanthones are formed. Plants have to defend themselves against damage by herbivores an...
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Unlocking the patterns of climate change

How will plant species respond to climate change? Amid thickets of fragrant rosemary and thyme, researchers from the University of Tübingen have developed a technique that will help to answer this question. Dr Mark Bilton and Professor Katja Tielbörger, from the Institute of Evolution and Ecology, reanalysed data with Spanish collaborators from their unprecedented 16-year ex...
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The yin-yang of uranium in Arabidopsis

Uranium isn't something people tend to think about in a positive light. But scientists from the Université Grenoble Alpes and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energies Commission (CEA) have shown how the toxic radionuclide can be beneficial in plants. Uranium is naturally present in the environment and can be redistributed by mining, military and agricultural activ...
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Once bitten… caterpillar attacks allow aphids to sneak up on plants

Plants face a formidable array of attackers and have to defend themselves. In a new paper published in New Phytologist, scientists describe two surprising discoveries: that plants prioritise the protection of flowers over leaves, and that simultaneous attack by aphids, caterpillars and bacteria leaves plants vulnerable to aphids but more protected from caterpillars. When pla...
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Heavy metal hyperaccumulators: plants that clean up

Hyperaccumulators are unusual. Able to absorb much larger amounts of metal compounds in their leaves and stems than normal plants, they are very useful for cleaning up contaminated land. Now researchers have published a database that provides easier access to information on the plant world’s hyperaccumulators. Writing in New Phytologist, the researchers describe the new Glob...
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