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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Into the loop

Mobile phones. Almost ubiquitous, it's easy to take them for granted, but our pocket computers are marvels of miniaturisation, promising unbridled connectivity. Their potential seems without limits. That is, until you take your new phone out of the box and realise that the charging port doesn't match the ends of any of the cables you already have. xkcd How annoying. U...
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Seeing the wood to save the trees

The clouds part to reveal a sea of trees, wisps of mist snagging the canopy following the afternoon's tropical rain. The trees extend as far as the eye can see: a vast bowl of varied and verdant greens, dotted here and there with red – the flowering trees of the Dipterocarp family. Some stand high over the canopy, reaching heights of 90 metres. View of the tree canopy in th...
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How does the Amazon rainforest cope with drought?

The Amazon rainforest has been feeling the heat – and now it's drying out. Droughts are expected to become more prevalent and severe because of climate change. How these droughts affect the rainforest will have a big influence on future warming and global climate. A study led by Dr Marielle Smith and Dr Scott Stark, published in New Phytologist, investigates the Amazon rain...
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Stowaway fungi hitch a ride with birds to be with their plant partners

For the first time, scientists have shown that fungal hitchhikers use birds to travel to and colonise new territories with their plant partners. In a study published in New Phytologist, the researchers provide the first evidence that birds don't just carry birds to new places, but their fungal partners too. They found what they were looking for in bird poo. Rubus ulmifol...
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Don’t go changing…

Behind the Cover: New Phytologist 221:3, February 2019 Myrcia is one of the most species-rich lineages of flowering plants in the tropical Americas. We might expect this diversity to be reflected in the genus' flowers. When researchers analysed the flowers of Myrcia, however, they found very little change during c. 25 million years of evolution. ...
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Pollen grains find safety in numbers

Behind the Cover: New Phytologist 221:2, January 2019 You might think that the image on the latest cover of New Phytologist looks a bit like falling snow, appropriate for this time of year in the northern hemisphere. But what you're actually looking at are pollen grains. The photo shows fragments of pollen tetrads connected by clear, sticky threads of v...
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