The American chestnut tree has dominated Eastern forests for centuries, but it almost disappeared when a foreign blight was introduced in 1904. Scientists have been trying to breed blight-resistant trees and recently planted several at the New York Botanical Garden, just steps from the blight's origins over one hundred years ago.
In South Africa's coastal grasslands, to explore a forest is to walk along its canopy—indeed, it's the only way to observe an extraordinary group of so-called underground trees, where only the uppermost leaves and branches are visible. Tucked away and protected from so many environmental threats, they underground forests are considered all but immortal, with estimated ages of 13,000 years or more.
Mimosa pudica, or the bashful plant, is the introvert of the garden, yet, with a coy choreography that is curiously beautiful, it is impossible not to touch, and has fascinated botanists for centuries. At a light caress, its fern-like leaves will fold inward; a gentle thrust will collapse the petiole.
The discovery of the world's smallest orchid is, fittingly, the story of an intrepid explorer, an enigmatic flower, and the curious luck that brought them together. All but transparent, the flower's petals are one-cell thick, and its blossom is just 2.1 mm wide from tip to tip.
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.
This week, we link to a bit of absolutely fascinating forgotten history: atomic gardens, which were an attempt to find peaceful uses for atomic energy after WWII by radiating seeds and plants to create new mutations. Plus: A timeline of British gardening and preserving the view at Hudson Valley's Olana.
Recent discoveries show that plant roots do much more than carry food and water upward; our notes from the underground talk about the latest discoveries in root science and discoveries. Or as Michele Owens writes "plant roots are arguably the Huffington Posts of the [plant] realm—aggregating the players, reacting to the news, and shaping the conversation to benefit themselves."