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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Behind the Cover: New Phytologist 217:1, January 2018

The sunflowers on the cover of New Phytologist 217:1 provide much more than a cheerful picture – they could be vital for human health, explains author Laurent Mène-Saffrané in this guest post about the research behind the cover. Vitamin E is one of 13 essential vitamins that we need in our diet, since we can't produce it ourselves. This isoprenoid vitamin is produced exclusi...
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Partner swapping: a climate change survival strategy

Some species of lichen grow under very different climatic conditions. They are true survival artists. Now new research published in New Phytologist suggests that the secret to their success lies in their willingness to be unfaithful to their algal partners. Lichens are a classic example of symbiosis, in which a species of algae moves in with a fungus and, in exchange for she...
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Keeping the salt out of grapes

New research published in New Phytologist points the way towards the breeding of salt tolerant grapevines that are likely to improve the sustainability of the Australian wine sector. With funding from Wine Australia, a team of scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology at the University of Adelaide and CSIRO Agriculture and Food identified genes exp...
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Camel crickets carry seeds

Heterotrophic plants can often be found on the forest floor. Down there, in the dark, where the wind seldom reaches, common methods of seed dispersal stop working. But new research by Professor Kenji Suetsugu (@tugutuguk) of Kobe University shows that heterotophic plants have evolved a novel solution, in the form of camel crickets (Tachycines elegantissima). Heterotrophic pl...
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Tricks, traps & tree shrew toilets

In this guest post, Chris Thorogood writes about some of the ingenious mechanisms that pitcher plants use to trap prey, reviewed in his recent Tansley insight. The pitcher trap is a striking example of convergent evolution: unrelated lineages of pitcher plants have independently evolved remarkably similar traps as adaptations to growing in nutrient-poor environments. In fact...
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Under-ground, over-ground – exploring trait diversity

The study and organisation of plants into groups based on their traits has arguably been a popular and important topic since Theophrastus attempted it in 300 BC. The continuing endeavours of plant trait ecologists, from the top of the canopy to the depths of the soil, were brought together at the 39th New Phytologist Symposium: Trait covariation – structural and functional rela...
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Behind the Cover: New Phytologist 216:4, December 2017

Winter has come to Lake Miroir. Below the surface, deep down in the dark, the lakebed sediments tell a story of ice and fire. These days, snow covers the landscape from December to April, but this hasn't always been the case. This lake contains sediments from the last glaciation, which ended about 15,000 years ago in the Alps. Interestingly these sediments contain proof of a...
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