biology zoology blog benno meyer rochow Pine needles

Pine Needles

Pine needles are not quite as needless as some think: they’re edible!

It’s quite amazing what people can do to turn certain plants or their parts and products into something insipid or savory (note: I am not saying that it has to be delicious). Especially in times of deprivation human inventiveness has produced amazing results, think about acorn coffee or acorn bread, or using the inner bark of birch trees to eat or making deadly poisonous cycad seeds palatable or cooking food with fresh pine tree needles. But why aren’t such kinds of uses more common – at least with regard to human gastronomy? There are after all always some animals that seem to relish what’s pretty awkward to handle digestively by humans. —>—>

Plants that Live on Plants – no, actually “live off” plants

Are plants that live on other plants parasites? Not really, right? Especially in the tropics, you can hardly find a tree on which there isn’t a growth of another kind of plant ranging from tiny mosses via larger ferns to proper seed-bearing species. However, such ‘epiphytes’ (as these species that are using a bigger individual as a support to grow on are called) may only weaken their host by being too numerous or by becoming too heavy. They can also affect their host by intercepting some rain water and shadowing some of the host plant’s leaves and/or by providing shelter to insects and other arthropods that can be foes as well as friends. However, as long as they do not sink their own roots into the host plant’s body, they are not removing anything from their host. And that’s different in species belonging to the genus Viscum, commonly known as the “mistletoe”. —>—>

biology zoology blog benno meyer rochow plant gravity

Grappling with Gravity

A problem for plants

There can be no doubt that seedlings know that their roots have to grow down and their stems upward. This awareness of gravity seems to be maintained even in older plants, for if a young tree was lying flat on the ground (perhaps as a result of a storm), but with its roots still anchored in the soil, its tip would slowly bend upward in the months to come. Animals possess gravity receptors, statocysts, ear-stones; if they lack them they use their eyes and perceive the light from above, but plants? Where are their gravity sensors and where are their “eyes”? —>—>