Of damp, drought, and martinis

I so rarely see news headlines that speak directly to the deeply geekoid gardener in me that I had to share these two stories that recently popped up in my media feeds. And, really, who doesn’t love a good story about lichen or, um, martinis?

1. The mini-universes of inland British Columbia

One of my favourite registered charities is Wildsight, a group that works locally, regionally and globally to protect biodiversity and encourage sustainable communities in Canada’s Columbia and Rocky Mountain regions. In their most recent newsletter, they offered up an article with the less-than-scintillating title of PHOTOSTORY: IN THE INLAND TEMPERATE RAINFOREST WITH A LICHENOLOGIST. Trust me. You have to check out this story. It’s heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time.

British Columbia’s North Columbia Mountains are home to huge old growth cedar forests under threat from logging. It’s also home to a wondrous diversity of species. The photos, depicting a world-renowned lichenologist documenting the (you guessed it!) lichen that lurk in the cool dampness, manage to capture not only really great research work in progress but the incredible beauty of the area–so close to being destroyed.

Go look up this story for the inspiring read. Read all the way through for some amazing lichen portraits such as Lobaria retigera, commonly known as Smokers Lung, which looks, unfortunately, just like what tiny smokers’ lungs would probably look like. Tuckerman’s coral lichen is the picture of delicacy and fragility. Seaside tube lichen is just, um, strange. Enjoy.

I took these three photos (above) in the woodland surrounding our cottage where we live during the summer months in Ontario. What an incredible community of plants!

2. Combating drought with drink

Later, as I was scrolling through the headlines on my CNN app, this teaser leapt out at me: Are your plants dying in drought? You might need to pour them a martini.

Of course, I eagerly tapped the link.

You’ll be pleased to know that the story, entitled RESEARCHERS FIND A FOOD CRISIS SOLUTION – AND IT’S IN YOUR MARTINI GLASS, is not about repurposing a perfectly chilled martini. Because why? No, “a peer-reviewed study published Thursday in the journal Plant and Cell Physiology suggests that ethanol — or alcohol — can help plants survive in times of drought, even for as long as two weeks without water.” The research was inspired by the discovery that when plants are deprived of water, they naturally produce ethanol. “The discovery came from the process of searching for compounds that make plants resistant to stress,” Motoaki Seki, the study’s lead author told CNN.

Although this new and promising research very definitely falls into the DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME camp, the article is worth the read for learning a little more about how plants work and to enjoy some good news, for a change. Applying ethanol to plants could be a “useful, simple and less expensive agricultural method to enhance drought tolerance” without the need for the genetic modification of plants. That’s very good news, indeed.


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