Tag Archives: plant ecology

Why is our Garden green?

Note: This is a science outreach piece belonging to a series I wrote for the newsletter of the Fredericton Botanic Garden.  I’d be happy to see it modified for use elsewhere and so am posting the text here under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license. If you use it, though, I’d appreciate hearing where and how.

 

It’s spring, and our Garden is beginning to turn green.  That sounds utterly unsurprising; and yet, lurking in that simple observation is one of the deepest mysteries in the science of ecology.  Why, exactly, is the world green? Continue reading

Nature’s pharmacy? “Medicinal” plants in the garden

Photo: Echinacea purpurea; credit: Jamie Heard

Note: This is a science outreach piece belonging to a series I wrote for the newsletter of CC BY-SA 88x31the Fredericton Botanic Garden. I’d be happy to see it modified for use elsewhere and so am posting the text here under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license . If you use it, though, I’d appreciate hearing where and how.


You don’t need to spend long on the Web, or talking with family and friends, to hear about the wonderful potential of plants to treat human illness. The medicinal value of plant extracts is a major theme in “alternative”, “naturopathic”, “traditional”, and “herbal” medicine – and indeed, in just plain medicine, because many of the drugs we use to restore our health have their origins in the biochemical machinery of plants.

Look around the Botanic Garden – or your own garden – and you’ll see plenty of plants with historical, and often continued, medicinal uses. Continue reading

Plant galls: how insects co-opt plant development to build themselves homes

(Image credit: Lahvak via Flicker/CC BY-NC-SA)

Note: This is a science outreach piece belonging to a series I wrote for the newsletter of the CC BY-SA 88x31Fredericton Botanic Garden. I’d be happy to see it adapted for use elsewhere and so am posting the text here under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license. If you use it, though, I’d appreciate hearing where and how.


With winter upon us, a walk in the Garden has gotten less colourful: nothing is in flower, and most plants have died back or dropped leaves. But I hope you’ll see this as an opportunity to notice things that aren’t as easy to spot in the full flush of summer vegetation. Plant galls are such a thing, and they’re a piece of natural history that especially fascinates me. A “gall” is an abnormal growth on a plant, caused by an attacking natural enemy such as a bacterium, a virus, or an insect herbivore. I’m a particular fan of insect galls, because they tip us off to a complex web of developmental, ecological, and evolutionary interactions between the insect and its plant host. Continue reading

Story behind the paper: Integrating phylogenetic community structure with species distribution models

(Crossposted with edits from the Ecography Blog; original post July 8, 2014)

In July 2014, we (my collaborator Jeremy Lundholm, our joint PhD student Oluwatobe “Tobi” Oke, and I) published a paper in Ecography: “Integrating phylogenetic community structure with species distribution models: an example with plants of rock barrens”.  (And kudos to Holly Abbandonato for 1st-rate field help).  I wrote the following “story behind the paper” for Ecography’s blog. I like reading this kind of thing, so you’ll probably see more on the blog in future.

Our paper combines approaches from phylogenetic community ecology and species distribution modeling to understand the assembly of plant communities on rock barrens.  It was enormous fun to be involved with the work, in part because before we started I knew nothing about SDMs and next to nothing about rock barrens.  That we ended up with what I think is a pretty good paper is a testament to the value of collaboration and coauthorship. Continue reading