Exploring the science of plants, from the field to the lab

Archive: February 2016

Flowers in the Gallery: A Melding of Art, Botany, and Politics

Posted in Interesting Plant Stories, Learning Experiences on February 29, 2016 by Jenifer Willis

Taryn Simon Art
Bratislava Declaration. Bratislava, Slovakia, August 3, 1968.

Chelsea’s powerhouse Gagosian Gallery is not the most likely place you’d find pressed herbarium specimens.

But that’s exactly what you’ll see there as part of the gallery’s current show by multidisciplinary artist Taryn Simon.

In “Paperwork and the Will of Capital,” Simon recreates and photographs the elaborate centerpieces that sat between powerful men as they signed agreements designed to change the world. Preparing the exhibition, Simon worked with Daniel Atha, NYBG botanist and Conservation Program Manager, and Sheranza Alli, NYBG Senior Museum Preparator and Herbarium Aid, who teach a Plant Collection and Preservation Workshop at the Garden. 

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The Remarkable Plants of a Pacific Island Nation

Posted in Books: Past and Present on February 26, 2016 by Stevenson Swanson

Stevenson Swanson is the Science Media Manager at The New York Botanical Garden.


Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, lies at the crossroads of regional groups of islands with a rich and original assortment of plant life, including species from Australia and Asia that were brought to these volcanic islands by wind, marine currents, and animals.

Comprehensive, accessible information about many of Vanuatu’s most noteworthy plant species is now available in one convenient volume, Remarkable Plants of Vanuatu, by Laurence Ramon and Chanel Sam, which is newly published by The New York Botanical Garden Press and Biotope, a French publisher. The text is in English and French.

Remarkable Plants of Vanuatu is intended to raise awareness of Vanuatu’s plant diversity among the general public and aid conservation efforts in the country, whose residents are largely rural and depend on plants for food, firewood, timber, medicine, and handmade goods.

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Getting Lichens on the List—The IUCN Red List, That Is

Posted in Environment on February 19, 2016 by James Lendemer

James C. Lendemer, Ph.D., is an Assistant Curator in the Institute of Systematic Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. Lichens, which include a fungal component, are his primary research interest.


Cladonia_appalachensis_Lendemer
Cladonia appalachensis (credit: James Lendemer)

Lichens, like other fungi, are poorly represented in conservation efforts in the United States and Canada as well as most other countries outside of Europe. At the beginning of 2015, only two lichens were protected under the US Endangered Species Act, 16 were protected under similar legislation in Canada, and two were listed internationally on the Red List of threatened species, which is maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). At the state level, slightly higher numbers of lichens and other fungi are protected, although coverage is highly variable and no state has a comprehensive assessment of all the lichens within its borders.

The lack of protections for lichens is not, however, due to a lack of knowledge about the threats species face and the declines they have already suffered. Instead, there is a tremendous wealth of information stored in museums and in decades of firsthand knowledge held in the minds of American and Canadian lichenologists.

Recognizing that lichens were neither unknown nor unknowable, we organized a meeting at The New York Botanical Garden to advance the cause of lichen conservation internationally. For three days last year, we met with Troy McMullin, Ph.D., from the Canadian Museum of Nature and Christoph Scheidegger, Ph.D., from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow, and Landscape Research. Our goal was to produce the first complete IUCN assessments for a selection of lichens from North America that we knew to be threatened or endangered.

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Science IRL: Leaf and STEM

Posted in Videos and Lectures on February 4, 2016 by Lansing Moore

Science IRL at the New York Botanical GardenIn the latest video from Science IRL, Molly returns to NYBG’s Pfizer lab to get up close and personal with a cycad specimen. Dennis Stevenson, Ph.D., and Dario Cavaliere, MA, reveal the vasculature in a cycad’s stem with dye, and in observing the pattern can then recognize the same species in fossils. Think of this installment as a survey of the anatomical approach, versus last week’s investigation of the genetic approach, to biodiversity studies.

Watch the video below, and check out more on Science IRL’s YouTube channel!