Salt tolerance and survival

Growing successfully in saline conditions is not an easy feat for land plants. Not only does the high osmotic pressure around the roots make water uptake more challenging, high concentrations of sodium and chloride ions are toxic if they build up in the cytoplasm of plant cells. In addition, the ion transport needed for maintaining ion homeostasis under salinity and minimising...
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Cyanobacterial photosynthesis: finding the function of the ALC

When ancient cyanobacteria evolved the ability to fix carbon through oxygenic photosynthesis, they transformed life on earth. The oxygen that they produced as a by-product of photosynthesis created an oxygenic atmosphere – allowing the evolution of multicellular life forms. Like plants, cyanobacteria use rubisco to catalyse the carbon-fixing step in photosynthesis. Unfortunate...
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All fruit no flowers

Fruit and nut farmers across a wide range of crops will be familiar with the phenomenon of alternate bearing – where a tree alternates between a high yield one year and a low yield the next. Growing fruit, which were initiated in the previous season, are able to suppress flowering and therefore reduce the number of fruits in the following season. Only shoots close to the devel...
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A window into the seeds of early angiosperms

The discovery of assemblages of small, well-preserved plant fossils from the Early Cretaceous age has provided researchers with a wealth of new insights into the early history of angiosperms. The fossils were found in loosely compacted sedimentary rocks from Portugal and eastern North America and include flowers, fruits and seeds, often so well preserved that it is possible to...
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Ferns with superpowers

Appearing grey-brown and lifeless, resurrection ferns, such as Pentagramma triangularis, can withstand long periods of drought in a curled up, desiccated state only to return to a lush green again once hydrated. This ability to withstand near-complete water loss and then recover allows the resurrection ferns to thrive in habitats where other plants would not survive. However, ...
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Farmer ants and crop plants

Humans are not the only species to farm plants. High up in the forest canopies of Fiji, ants have been farming Squamellaria plants for millions of years. The ants collect Squamellaria seeds, plant them under tree bark, protect the seedlings from herbivory, and fertilise the growing crop with their faeces. The ants then nest within specialised structures produced by the plant c...
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Oak genomics proves its worth

If you're lucky enough to have access to a woodland, you'll be no stranger to the benefits that a walk in the woods can provide. That feeling of calm. The sprinkling of birdsong. The smell of leaves. Forests provide many benefits: they provide employment, underpin economic development, support heritage and biodiversity, improve living conditions, protect the landscape and m...
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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 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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