botanic superlatives

botanic superlatives

Articles & Photos

Among the valleys and foothills in Israel's Negev desert is a plant that can water itself, in a manner of speaking. The desert rhubarb (Rheum palaestinum) is the only known desert-dwelling species to have evolved a self-irrigating mechanism.  
The first nursery catalog—in the 17th century—was a artistic masterpiece and a marketing strategy. It sold, of course, tulip bulbs, and helped contribute to the economic bubble of tulip mania. 
The loneliest tree in the world was a solitary acacia in a remote land. It was the only tree in a 400 kilometer radius. Standing alone in the vast Saharan expanse, l'Arbre du Ténéré (the Tree of Ténéré), was modest in size—three meters tall—but its mere survival was both remarkable, and invaluable to desert travelers.
Petunia is the new black! Our columnist Anna Laurent investigates the "Black Velvet" petunia and its specially bred dark hues. Adored by designers and admired by breeders, the flower is the most recent addition to a trend for black-flowered plants.
There's a bar carved inside the world's largest baobab tree, in the Limpopo province of Modjadjiskloof, South Africa. With room for 50 patrons to sit and have a drink, one might say that what happens in the baobab, stays in the baobab.
As anyone who's emerged from a forest stroll with a sleeve covered in burdock burrs will agree, the wonderful story of Velcro's genesis is too familiar to be apocryphal.
Attracting the birds and the bees with its puckered lips, the Sticky Monkey Flower (Mimulus aurantiacus) wins our prize for best kisser.
Faster than a speeding bullet! The Bunchberry dogwood is able to launch pollen into the air in a third of the time it takes a bullet to leave a rifle barrel, making the plant (Cornus canadensis) a superlative example of botanic ballistics, engineering, and reproductive design.
The bewitching fragrance of jasmine vines is a difficult-to-bottle scent. Capturing jasmine's essence is considered a superlative feat of aromatic alchemy, which is why jasmine is an ingredient in some of the world's most expensive perfumes.
Despite its efforts to keep a low profile—lurking, as it tends to do, deep in Southeast Asia's undisturbed rainforests—the Rafflesia arnoldii has international notoriety. Its detractors might call it a hulking, smelly parasite, and they would not be wrong. It's the world's largest flower, and it smells like rotting meat.
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