Category Archives: plants

A huge honking tree

This is “The President,” supposedly the world’s largest tree (probably not the third largest, as indicated below) if you’re considering volume. It’s a giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in California, and these massive trees are one of the most amazing sights I’ve seen: certainly the most impressive single organism I’ve encountered in my life. When you first see one of […]

The world’s oldest living organisms

Today’s Fun Biology Facts come from PuffHo, which gives a list (it’s been replicated elsewhere) of the world’s oldest individual organisms (or, in some cases, clones). These come from a book by artist Rachel Sussman to be published by the University of Chicago Press on April 14: The Oldest Living Things in the World. (the spruce […]

Ancient flowering plants found in amber, suggests insect pollination 100 million years ago

This piece, from ZME Science, doesn’t contain a reference to an article, but the Oregon State University press announcement notes that the paper is in the Journal of the Botanical Institute of Texas. I don’t have access to that journal electronically, so I’ll just summarize the results briefly. (Note to science bloggers: please give the […]

Another person ignorant about evolution tries to dismiss it

A commenter named “Asyncritus” tried to leave an anti-evolution comment on a post I wrote about how some orchids in China have evolved a scent resembling the alarm pheromone of the honeybees that are the wasps’ prey. The flower’s scent apparently attracts the wasps looking for prey, and those wasps pollinate the orchids. This clever […]

A flower hints at the appearance of an extinct bee

I’ve written before about “bee-mimicking orchids,” whose petals have evolved into a shape roughly resembling that of a female bee or wasp.  Randy male hymenopterans, lured by the shape (they can’t see very well), and, I believe, by the flower’s fragrance—which in some cases has also evolved to resemble insect pheromones—land on the flower and […]

Beauty in your backyard

If only we had high-resolution eyes that could see in slow motion! Fortunately, we have cameras, and so we can feast our peepers on “The beauty of pollination”. Take four minutes and appreciate your world a little more. The three highlights for me were the hummingbird aerobatics at aobut 0:35, the bat pollinators starting about […]

Three easy science pieces

I can see that book-writing is going to trim my posting here for a while, and that’s as it should be, for the book has a deadline and is something I’ve been researching for several years. But, as Maru the cat says, “I do my best.” Here are three science-related articles you might (i.e., should) […]

A parasitic red plant

I don’t feature nearly enough plants on this site, and that’s because I was trained as a zoologist and don’t know much about botany. But here’s a nice specimen. It’s the beautiful snow plant (Sarcodes sanguinia), a plant without chlorophyll. It’s a saprophyte, which means it lives on dead or decaying organic mater, and steals nutrients […]

Readers’ photos: Virginia rail (and a trick for photographing birds)

I’m very pleased that posting of some some readers’ photographs has inspired others to send me their nature photos. If you’ve got good ones, send them along, but I reserve the right to choose which ones to publish. This one clearly made the cut. Reader John Chardine, a professional bird photographer, sent me a picture […]

Ducky orchids and insects

When I first saw these pictures I was startled, for the resemblance of this Australian orchid (Caleana major) to a flying duck is amazing. In fact its common names are the “flying duck orchid” and the “big duck orchid”. Kuriositas has the botanical details: The duck orchid is a perennial but blooms in late spring […]

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