Few may realize just how important plants were to the great Charles Darwin. Luckily, Dr. James Costa is bringing Darwin's botanical interests to the forefront with his latest book, "Darwin's Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory." As if this book wasn't exciting enough, each chapter concludes with DIY instructions on how you and your friends and family can replicate some of Darwin's experiments in your own backyard. This is one conversation you don't want to miss! This episode was produced in part by Allan, Clifton, Katherina, Shane, Amy, Caitlin, Rosanna, Mary Jane, Jennifer, Sarah, Christopher, Sienna & Garth, Troy, Margie, Laura, and Mark.
Mosquitoes are maligned the world over and often for very good reason. However, there are a plethora of different species of mosquito on this planet and many of them do not bite humans or spread disease. In fact, some of them are important pollinators. In this episode we take a closer look at an orchid that relies on mosquitoes for pollination. The one leaved rein orchid (Platanthera obtusata) grows in close association with mosquitoes and our guests, postdoc Chloé Lahondère and grad student Ryo Okubo are working hard to understand how this system works. Their research not only helps us understand these overlooked pollinators but also provides deeper insights into how mosquitoes find their food sources. This is a great example of the kind of collaborative science I love!
I am back in Illinois and I met up with my good friend Steve (co-host of The Field Guides Podcast) to wax poetic about summer botanizing. Steve has spent most of his summer exploring Illinois while I have been busying myself in the southern Appalachian Mountains. We bring a lot of interesting species to the table in this episode, each with its own memorable experience. This episode was produced in part by Allan, Amy, Caitlin, Rosanna, Daniel, Mary Jane, Manuel, Jennifer, Sara, Christopher, Sienna and Garth, Margie, Laura, and Mark.
Did you know that there are many regions around the world that incomplete floras? Syria is one such place and my guest today is working very hard on adding to our understanding of this biodiverse region. With her focus on geophytes, Angham Daiyoub is scouring the mountainous regions of western Syria to characterize the seasonal plant diversity. There are many challenges associated with this task so join us for a fascinating discussion of what its like to be a botanist in Syria. This episode was produced in part by Mark, Allen, Desiree, Sienna & Garth, Laura, Margie, Troy, Bryan, Sara, Jennifer, Christopher, Manuel, Daniel, John, Rosanna, and Mary Jane.
Today we are joined by Tom Mirenda. Tom has the unique position of Orchid Collections Specialist for the Smithsonian Institute. At somewhere around 8,000 plants, this is no small task. He has spent his life loving and caring for orchids and when he is not doing that, he is busy lecturing and writing about them. This is a wonderful case in which a passionate hobby has turned into an illustrious career centered around these incredible organisms. This episode was produced in part by Gregory, Mark, Bryan, Laura, Margie, and Allan.
The opportunity to go behind the scenes at a place like the Atlanta Botanical Garden doesn't come often. As such, a few of us jumped on the opportunity to do so. Led by their resident Plant Recorder, Mike Wenzel, we were taken on a day-long adventure to explore the myriad plants they have in their collection. The Atlanta Botanical Garden is the real deal and should serve as an example for how other botanical gardens should be run. Mike was an amazingly generous and knowledgeable guide and needless to say we had a blast. So, without further adieu, please enjoy part 1 of our tour. This episode was produced in part by Gregory and Mark.
I am one of those people that has always thought of Peru as a giant stretch of Amazonian rainforest. As it turns out, this couldn't be farther from the truth. From dry deserts to high elevation forests, Peru is a wonderfully dynamic place. It is also rich in biodiversity. These are just some of the aspects that inspired Josh Richards to start his own ecotourism company. Josh is using what he has learned over the years to turn this company into something that gives back to the environment. Muddyboots Peru stands out in its mission to go beyond tourism in order to foster a better relationship with Peru's natural heritage. This episode was produced in part by Alan of Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Music by Moneycat
These plants don't worry about soil, they make their own! Because so many species in the tropics grow either epiphytically or in nutrient poor soil, some of them have turned to alternative solutions. Their anatomy is such that they collect everything from dead leaves to bird droppings. A diverse community of soil microbes and invertebrates can then go to work to create nutrient rich humus. What's more, litter trapping abilities can be found in plants as distantly related as ferns and orchids! Join me for an interesting discussion with Dr. Scott Zona, the curator of Florida International University's Werthheim Conservatory to talk about his work finding and describing litter trapping plants. This is one discussion you don't want to miss.
Music by Moneycat
Many people are surprised to learn that North America is home to over 200 species of orchid. What's more, an embarrassing amount of North America's orchids are threatened with extinction. The plight of this intriguing plant family is an indication of how we are doing as a species. Orchids act as the proverbial canary in a coal mine. That is why Dr. Dennis Whigham, senior botanist for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, created the North America Orchid Conservation Center. Join me for a discussion with Dr. Whigham in which we cover everything from the mutualisms that orchids need to survive to what it is going to take to ensure their survival on this continent.
Music by Moneycat