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The High Arctic is not a place you go looking for forests today. It is extremely harsh, cold, and nearly void of most forms of plant life. However, that has not always been the case. The Eocene Epoch was a period where Earth was much hotter than it is today and forests flourished at the poles. This is also when much of the flora we know and love to…
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Deserts are difficult places for any organism to survive, let alone plants. Despite the challenges, rich a unique floras have evolved in deserts all over the world which support myriad other forms of life. Restoring these communities in human-disturbed areas is critical in solving so many ecological and cultural issues and that is exactly what we a…
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Bark beetles may be small, but they can have major impacts on forests around the globe. It may be easy to think of these insects as always a bad thing, but what if they aren't? Simple stories rarely apply in ecology and nowhere is that more apparent than in the work of scientists like Dr. Seth Davis. Join is as we take dive into the complex relatio…
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Plants cannot run away from the herbivores that eat them, therefore plants have evolved numerous strategies to defend themselves from being consumed. Plant defenses are as varied as the plant kingdom and the ways in which they operate will blow your mind. We are joined by Dr. Rupesh Kariyat who studies plant defenses in a variety of nightshade rela…
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Plant defense compounds are great for the plants that produce them as they can ward off herbivore attacks. But what happens when a group of specialists evolves a way to utilize said compounds? Such is the case for milkweeds (Apocynaceae) and milkweed butterflies (Danaina). A long evolutionary history together kicked off an evolutionary arms race dr…
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Join Chief Botanist for NatureServe Wes Knapp and me as we take a deep dive into an all-too-often overlooked group of plants - the rushes (genus Juncus). Rushes are fascinating and beautiful plants when you get to know them, and the genus has a lot of secrets waiting to be revealed. From their unique morphological characters to what it takes to des…
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Conservation Biologist Sara Johnson returns to the podcast to talk about some of the botanical rabbit holes we have been exploring in recent weeks. We discuss ash (Fraxinus spp.) and rose (Rosa spp.) diversity and wax poetic about our time experiencing the majesty of the Great Southern Brood of periodical cicadas. This episode was produced in part …
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Islands are hotbeds for unique biodiversity. Strange and unique island plants form the foundation of strange and unique ecosystems. Sadly, the human hand has not been kind to Earth's island ecosystems, especially in recent times. The introduction of invasive species like rats, cats, and goats have brought many islands to the brink of collapse and t…
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Sometimes the differences between species are vast (e.g., a maple and an oak) but other times they are subtle to the point of requiring a trained eye and essentially learning a new language. So-called cryptic species are extremely challenging to understand, but that is why spending time in the field can be so rewarding. Moreover, to understand cryp…
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There is no denying that roots are one of the most important organs on a plant. However, unless its an epiphyte, root activity takes place underground, largely out of site and out of mind. This has not stopped my guest today from trying to understand the origin and evolution of these amazing structures. We revisit a conversation with plant evolutio…
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Any organism that ephemeral gravel puddles home must be ready to deal with extremes. That is what makes snorkelwort (Gratiola amphiantha) and its aquatic neighbors so darn cool. It's what also makes it so very rare. Join me and Anna Wyngaarden as we take a deep dive into how she is trying to solve some of the many mysteries surrounding how plants l…
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Boynton/Alabama sandstone (Quercus boyntonii) and Georgia oaks (Q. georgiana) are among the rarest oaks in North America and yet we know so little about them. This paucity of knowledge can make conservation difficult, but that doesn't stop people like Patrick Thompson from trying. Join us as we discuss the multifaceted efforts aimed at keeping thes…
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Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) has long been maligned for its invasive tendencies. This floating aquatic aroid grows fast and responds well to poor water quality, and because of this, states like Florida spend lots of time and money on trying to eradicate it. However, a combination of fossil end recent genetic evidence suggests that we should re…
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The Southeast is one of North America's biodiversity hotspots. Any trip through this region will be rewarded with lots of botanical splendor if you know where to look. Join Conservation Biologist Sara Johnson and me as we reminisce about a recent botanical excursion and learn about a fraction of the botanical diversity we met along the way. This ep…
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I have said it before, and I will say it again: plants ARE habitat. Nowhere is this fact more apparent than in the field of wildlife ecology. From food to shelter, one simply can't understand the innerworkings of nature without understanding plants. Join me and Wildlife Ecologist Dr. Chris Moorman as we look at why plants are so important to conser…
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Competition for nutrients is a major driver of plant evolution, especially in nutrient-poor soils. As such, plants have evolved myriad ways of getting a "root up" on the competition. Dr. Jim Dalling joins us to discuss two recent discoveries related to two species with distinct and incredible root adaptations aimed at maximizing nutrient capture in…
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The Appalachian region may not readily seem like a fire-prone region, but parts of it certainly are. Fire can be an important tool in sustaining biodiversity, but modern understanding of its role is limited. That is why people like Dr. Don Hagan study the effects of prescribed fire in the Appalachian Mountains and beyond. Join me and Dr. Hagan as w…
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