The ecology, evolution, and genetics of plant reproductive systems

The study of plant reproductive systems provides crucial insights into ecological interactions and the process of evolutionary change. Reproductive success is closely allied to overall fitness, and understanding the mechanisms and drivers of reproductive fitness can help us understand the causes and consequences of the remarkable diversity of plant reproductive strategies. ...
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Brilliant biocrusts

Biocrust – or biological soil crust – has hit the cover of New Phytologist. New Phytologist Editor Sasha Reed introduces an ecosystem you may not have heard much about. The photograph shows a dryland landscape on the Colorado Plateau, USA. In the photograph you can see biological soil crust (the dark, bumpy soil in the foreground). Biocrusts are communities of cyanobacteria...
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The loneliest tree in the world

Standing and watching the loneliest tree in the world, my first reaction was one of sadness – that with all of humankind's collective knowledge and ingenuity, we haven’t been able to propagate this plant. Hyophorbe amaricaulis has lived in the Curepipe Botanical Garden in Mauritius for the past 150 years or so. Today, it is enclosed by a kind of cage and supporting platform, a...
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The Gunnera trick

Lofty peaks and a very high rate of succession grace the cover of New Phytologist 223:2, courtesy of Alberto Benavent-González. Below he explains the story behind his research. We are looking at the very front of the Pia Glacier, located at the southern side of the Darwin Range in Tierra del Fuego (Chile). This glacier, as many others in the region, is retreating rapidly an...
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Pathways to ploidy

I caught up with Andrea Genre to talk about the research behind the latest image to appear on the cover of New Phytologist (volume 223, issue 1). Medicago truncatula root colonisation by the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus Gigaspora margarita (outlined by the white dashes) induces a local increase in the host tissue ploidy. Coloured dots tag nuclei with putative ploidy levels...
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From wild crocus to fields of gold

Mystery solved – biologists in Dresden explain the genetic origins of the saffron crocus. Saffron, the world's most expensive spice, comes from the stigmas of saffron crocus flowers, Crocus sativus. For many farmers in Mediterranean countries, Kashmir, India, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, saffron production is the main source of income, since the saffron crocus thrives in...
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Snow is not always white

In some coastal areas in Antarctica, the snow can look red, orange, green, or a blend of all three. This colour is natural and is actually made up of tiny microscopic living cells called snow-algae. Red snow‐algae bloom on Léonie Island, Ryder Bay, Antarctic Peninsula. Courtesy of Matthew Davey. Snow algae are tiny plants that can survive and bloom in the slushy snow du...
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Feeding plants, feeding people – but what about the planet?

The impact of humans on our planet is something which is (quite rightly) receiving increasingly urgent coverage. But what might not be quite so obvious – amongst a sea of stock photos featuring industrial chimneys and car exhausts – is the contribution of agriculture to these damaging processes. The Earth’s human population is currently 7.7 billion people and growing – that...
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Grow your own food security?

There is an increasing recognition in both the scientific literature and amongst the general population of the benefits of 'grow your own' food. Not only does growing your own provide you with fresh and healthy produce straight from your own back yard, there are a myriad of social and environmental benefits as well. Gardening can support a wide range of biodiversity and hel...
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How to pick your pollinator

This story about the birds and the bees might be different to the one you've heard before. Colour is the main tool that plants use to communicate with pollinators. The often bright, showy displays, sometimes including instructions invisible to the human eye, have evolved to attract creatures that will end up transferring pollen from one plant to another. But what if ther...
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