Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Perennial plant


Megaherbivores (>1000 kg) are critical for ecosystem health and function, but face population collapse and extinction globally. The future of these megaherbivore-impoverished ecosystems is difficult to predict, though many studies have demonstrated increasing representation of C3 woody plants. These studies rely on direct observational data, however, and tools for assessing decadal-scale changes in African ecology without observation are lacking. We use isotopic records of historical common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) canines to quantify herbaceous vegetation change in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda following a period of civil unrest and poaching. This poaching event led to population collapse of two threatened African megaherbivore species: hippopotamus and African elephants (Loxodonta africana). Serial carbon isotope ratios (δ(13)C) in canine enamel from individuals that lived between 1960-2000 indicated substantial increases in C3 herbaceous plants in their diet (<20% C3 in the 1960s to 30-45% C3 in the 80s and 90s), supported by other observational and ecological data. These data indicate megaherbivore loss results in succession of both woody and herbaceous C3 vegetation and further reaching effects, such as decreased grazing capacity and herbivore biodiversity in the area. Given multiple lines of evidence, these individuals appear to accurately capture herbaceous vegetation change in Mweya.

Concepts: Ecology, Elephant, Hippopotamus, Perennial plant, Megafauna, Herbaceous plant


Plants cannot change location to escape stressful environments. Therefore, plants evolved to respond and acclimate to diverse stimuli, including the seemingly innocuous touch stimulus [1-4]. Although some species, such as Venus flytrap, have fast touch responses, most plants display more gradual touch-induced morphological alterations, called thigmomorphogenesis [2, 3, 5, 6]. Thigmomorphogenesis may be adaptive; trees subjected to winds develop less elongated and thicker trunks and thus are less likely damaged by powerful wind gusts [7]. Despite the widespread relevance of thigmomorphogenesis, the regulation that underlies plant mechanostimulus-induced morphological responses remains largely unknown. Furthermore, whether thigmomorphogenesis confers additional advantage is not fully understood. Although aspects of thigmomorphogenesis resemble ethylene effects [8], and touch can induce ethylene synthesis [9, 10], Arabidopsis ethylene response mutants show touch-induced thigmomorphogenesis [11]; thus, ethylene response is nonessential for thigmomorphogenesis. Here we show that jasmonate (JA) phytohormone both is required for and promotes the salient characteristics of thigmomorphogenesis in Arabidopsis, including a touch-induced delay in flowering and rosette diameter reduction. Furthermore, we find that repetitive mechanostimulation enhances Arabidopsis pest resistance in a JA-dependent manner. These results highlight an important role for JA in mediating mechanostimulus-induced plant developmental responses and resultant cross-protection against biotic stress.

Concepts: Organism, Plant, Chlorophyll, Ethylene, Wind, Perennial plant, Rapid plant movement, Venus Flytrap


Lavandula species are some of the most popular ornamental and medicinal plants with great economic values. These species are vegetative propagated by stem cuttings. However, the poor rooting ability and vulnerability of plantlets to contamination are major limiting factors for propagation. In vitro culture methods are suitable to overcome these limitations. This chapter describes protocols for in vitro propagation of Lavandula viridis L'Hér and Lavandula vera DC. Nodal shoot proliferation of L. viridis and plant regeneration from leaf-derived callus of L. vera by an “open culture system” are highlighted.

Concepts: Plant, Culture, Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, Perennial plant, Plant propagation, Popular culture, Lavandula


Helleborus genus, belonging to the Ranunculaceae family, has 20 species of herbaceous perennial flowering plants. The commercial exploitation of this plant is dependent on the selection and propagation of appropriate lines. High propagation rate could be accomplished by using a suitable tissue culture method enabling the rapid introduction of valuable selections in the market. However, in vitro cultivation of Helleborus is still very difficult. Thereby the development of reliable in vitro propagation procedures is crucial for future production systems. Axillary buds cultured on agar-solidified Murashige and Skoog medium supplemented with 1 mg/L benzyladenine, 0.1 mg/L β-naphthoxyacetic acid, and 2 mg/L isopentenyl adenine develop shoots after 16 weeks of culture under 16 h light regime, 50-60 μmol/s/m(2), and 19 ± 1°C. The multiplication rate ranges from 1.4 to 2.1. However, the genotype and the number of subcultures affect the efficiency of the micropropagation process. The rooting of shoots is about 80% in solidified MS medium containing 1 mg/L 1-naphthaleneacetic acid and 3 mg/L indole-3-butyric acid. The described protocol provides information which can contribute to the commercial production of Helleborus plants.

Concepts: Natural selection, Plant, Bud, Culture, Annual plant, Plants, Plant hormone, Perennial plant


Asparagus officinalis is most extensively studied species within the genus Asparagus, which is well known as garden asparagus. This species is dioecious with unisexual flowers, which means that generative propagation gives roughly equal number of male and female plants. Male plants are high yielders and preferred commercially over female plants. Tissue culture techniques could efficiently promote vegetative propagation of male plants and pave the way for efficient plant breeding.This chapter describes an efficient micropropagation protocol for developing rapid growing in vitro Asparagus shoot cultures. The source of explants, inoculation, and shoot proliferation, followed by shoot propagation, rooting, and acclimatization is described. The optimal medium for Asparagus micropropagation described in this chapter is composed of MS macro- and microelements and a combination of auxins and cytokinins. Plant growth regulators NAA, kinetin, and BA were used in various concentrations. Three different media representing the whole micropropagation protocol of Asparagus are described; medium for shoot initiation, medium for shoot multiplication, and medium for root formation. By in vitro propagation of Asparagus, root initiation is difficult, but can be promoted by adding growth retardant ancymidol which also greatly promotes shoot development and suppresses callus formation.

Concepts: Plant, Root, Seed, Plant sexuality, Plant reproduction, Vegetative reproduction, Perennial plant, Asparagus


Datura stramonium is an herbaceous annual plant. All parts of the plant contain tropane alkaloids such as atropine and scopolamine. We report the case of a 22-year-old man admitted to a general hospital for visual and aural hallucinations. One week after his admission, as the hallucinations remained, the patient was transferred to a psychiatric hospital. Neither blood nor urine was conserved during his hospitalization, so a hair analysis was requested in order to identify a possible consumption of a Datura seed infusion.

Concepts: Hospital, Atropine, Psychiatric hospital, Perennial plant, Psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants, Hyoscyamine, Datura, Datura stramonium


A large amount of radionuclides was released from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station (FDNPS) following the damage caused by the tsunami due to the Great East Japan Earthquake on 11 March 2011. Although many radionuclides in various environmental samples around the FDNPS have been measured, (3)H in the terrestrial environment has not yet been reported. We present here the first survey results of (3)H concentrations in plant samples collected around the FDNPS in 2011 from shortly after the accident. The free-water (3)H concentrations in herbaceous plant shoots and evergreen tree leaves were considerably higher than the previous background concentration, and diminished with distance from the FDNPS. Although reconstruction of atmospheric (3)H concentrations after the accident is difficult, a rough estimate of the radiation dose due to (3)H inhalation about 20 km from the FDNPS is on the order of a few microsieverts (μSv).

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Earth, Isotope, Plant morphology, Pinophyta, Nuclear power, Perennial plant, Evergreen


Historically, aphrodisiacs have had a reputation for making sex more achievable and satisfying. It has been long believed that Tribulus terrestris L. (TT), an annual plant of the family Zygophyllaceae, possesses aphrodisiac properties purportedly attributed to its ability to influence levels or mimic function of sex hormones. Due to this appealing beliefs, the popularity of medicinal products from TT is expanding at a remarkable pace among consumers who are attempting to enhance their sexual health. However, reliable scientific evidence supporting these purported bioactivities are scant and far from conclusive.

Concepts: Health, Annual plant, Perennial plant, Lettuce, Aphrodisiac, Tribulus terrestris, Zygophyllaceae, Tribulus


Restoration of extirpated species via captive breeding has typically relied on population viability as the primary criterion for evaluating success. This criterion is inadequate when species reintroduction is undertaken to restore ecological functions and interactions. Herein we report on the demographic and ecological outcomes of a five-decade-long population restoration program for a critically endangered species of “ecosystem engineer”: the endemic Española giant Galapagos tortoise (Chelonoidis hoodensis). Our analysis of complementary datasets on tortoise demography and movement, tortoise-plant interactions and Española Island’s vegetation history indicated that the repatriated tortoise population is secure from a strictly demographic perspective: about half of tortoises released on the island since 1975 were still alive in 2007, in situ reproduction is now significant, and future extinction risk is low with or without continued repatriation. Declining survival rates, somatic growth rates, and body condition of repatriates suggests, however, that resources for continued population growth are increasingly limited. Soil stable carbon isotope analyses indicated a pronounced shift toward woody plants in the recent history of the island’s plant community, likely a legacy of changes in competitive relations between woody and herbaceous plants induced by now-eradicated feral goats and prolonged absence of tortoises. Woody plants are of concern because they block tortoise movement and hinder recruitment of cactus-a critical resource for tortoises. Tortoises restrict themselves to remnant cactus patches and areas of low woody plant density in the center of the island despite an apparent capacity to colonize a far greater range, likely because of a lack of cactus elsewhere on the island. We conclude that ecosystem-level criteria for success of species reintroduction efforts take much longer to achieve than population-level criteria; moreover, reinstatement of endangered species as fully functioning ecosystem engineers may often require large-scale habitat restoration efforts in concert with population restoration.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Plant, Demography, Endangered species, Extinction, Perennial plant, Galápagos tortoise, Tortoises


Lycophyte trees, up to 50 m in height, were the tallest in the Carboniferous coal swamp forests. The similarity in their shoot and root morphology led to the hypothesis that their rooting (stigmarian) systems were modified leafy shoot systems, distinct from the roots of all other plants. Each consists of a branching main axis covered on all sides by lateral structures in a phyllotactic arrangement; unbranched microphylls developed from shoot axes, and largely unbranched stigmarian rootlets developed from rhizomorphs axes. Here, we reexamined the morphology of extinct stigmarian systems preserved as compression fossils and in coal balls from the Carboniferous period. Contrary to the long-standing view of stigmarian systems, where shoot-like rhizomorph axes developed largely unbranched, root-hairless rootlets, here we report that stigmarian rootlets were highly branched, developed at a density of ∼25,600 terminal rootlets per meter of rhizomorph, and were covered in root hairs. Furthermore, we show that this architecture is conserved among their only extant relatives, herbaceous plants in the Isoetes genus. Therefore, despite the difference in stature and the time that has elapsed, we conclude that both extant and extinct rhizomorphic lycopsids have the same rootlet system architecture.

Concepts: Plant, Human height, Root, Plant morphology, Extinction, Perennial plant, Carboniferous, Mycelial cord