Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pensive Tuesday: More Reasons to Love Your Plants

Some very interesting science is out and about on the botanical front these days. I remember when Botany was the one thing we didn't study in school (except for chlorophyll and cell walls). You had to beg to stop studying humans and primates and write just one little paper on plants. One of my students brought this up yesterday, in fact. He's tired of studying mammals; what's up with plants for a change?

Fortunately, as the Gaia Hypothesis has gained steam, and global climate change is pretty much in everyone's face, people are taking more notice of our chlorophyllian friends. Hurray!

A Typical Florida Swampy Bit, MR, 2013
 Of course we all know that plants give us the oxygen we need to breathe. I was stunned to find out that in certain cities in Asia and the Americas, oxygen levels are frequently down below 10%. That's far less than we need to be healthy, and a very sad statistic indeed! Could an indoor curtain of Tillandsia usneoides provide an answer for these poor denizens of oxygen-starved cities??

Spanish Moss, keeping your world clean, cool, and fluffy!
 The journal nature: geoscience publishes a fair bit on paleobotany, and current research on plants/climate change as well. It's worth a read. The Daily Mail reported yesterday that a group of international scientists has found that plants emit some interesting molecules, like monoterpenes (which also smell good and have medicinal properties), and other chemicals that create a "sunshade" and offset global warming. The molecules spur cloud development, which can offset about 1% of warming, or about 30% in certain environments like the boreal forests. I'm not sure how much warming my Tillie collection is offsetting, and I'm not sure my Lithops are emitting any monoterpenes at all. I rather think they aren't. But it's still a good reason to love your plants and grow even more of them!

In more good news, Dr. Nick Lavidis, a scientist at the University of Queensland, has discovered that a combination of pine needle scent and cut grass regulates the amygdala and hippocampus of the brain; this relieves stress and calms us down in general. I've always insisted on mowing the lawn with a manual lawnmower. Now I know why.  It's calming my amygdala, which can get a little overworked with all the stress of human life on Earth these days. Dr. Lavidis worked with a pharmacologist to develop Serenascent so we don't have to get out there and mow to have a mental lift. I'm not sure where to buy it, but if I find some, I'll let you know. In the meantime, I'm mowing.

A French Blue Lithops razzes the universe. Again.


  1. Interesting post...sorry for the little responses, and do not forget about Portulacaria afra...informative and good read, how do they survive in such smoggy environments! We are still fairly lucky...

  2. Yes, Portulacaria actually binds carbon very well, it's being used in a lot more places in the past few years, a "Good for the Earth Plant"! No worries about the responses, you have a lot on your plate! :-) And I've heard T. usneoides does well in the sort of pollution common to huge cities, but I should research that more thoroughly...I hope it's true!

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  4. Hi Marla. Thank you for this great post! It only seems "natural" that plants would modify their environments! When you find "Serenascent" let us know. In the meantime I will keep smelling our bounty of fresh cut grass and pine needles.

  5. Hi, Gail!
    I'm glad my plants modify my environment in good ways! ;-) And here's to fresh pine needles and cut grass!