Botany

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Smithsonian Voices

Drop in Greenhouse Gas Caused Global Cooling 34 Million Years Ago

A new study confirms that carbon dioxide plays a significant role in any climate change

André Michaux, a French botanist, was an ambitious explorer whose legacy has largely been forgotten.

The Forgotten French Scientist Who Courted Thomas Jefferson—and Got Pulled Into Scandal

A decade before Lewis and Clark, André Michaux wanted to explore the American continent. Spying for France gave him that chance

On the center plant, poking out from the stem is a bent side stalk, which holds up the arm of the plant with a flower.

Scientists Discover a New Plant Organ

The structure, called a cantil, holds up the flower-bearing arm of the thale cress, a long-studied species

Around 1,200 residents stopped by to touch, photograph, and view the Alameda corpse flower. (Not pictured)

Corpse Flower Steals the Spotlight at Abandoned California Gas Station

A local nursery owner grew the rare botanical wonder and shared the bloom with the community, where they could touch and interact with the plant

Through research on living and preserved plants, botanists are learning more about how flora has responded to climate change over the past centuries.

Smithsonian Voices

Why Plants Are Seeding Climate Studies

The National Museum of Natural History’s herbarium is helping botanists research climate-driven changes in plants, their biology and their abundance

Fossil plants reveal information about the temperature and precipitation of past climates. Scientists use what they learn from fossil plants to inform their research on modern climate change

Smithsonian Voices

What Fossil Plants Reveal About Climate Change

Paleobiologists use fossil plants to reconstruct Earth’s past climate and inform climate change research today.

The Sts’ailes forest garden near Vancouver, British Columbia seen from the air.

New Research

Indigenous Peoples in British Columbia Tended 'Forest Gardens'

Found near villages, research suggests the Indigenous population intentionally planted and maintained these patches of fruit and nut trees

Blue agave grows in a field in the town of Arenal, in the state of Jalisco, Mexico.

Virtual Travel

Around the World in Eight Plants

A new book takes readers on a journey across our planet, stopping to smell flowers and appreciate other species along the way

A new study suggests the lush, hyper-diverse rainforests of South America were shaped by the asteroid impact that killed off the dinosaurs.

How the Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Spurred the Evolution of the Modern Rainforest

New evidence from fossil plants shows today’s South American rainforests arose in the wake of Earth’s fifth mass extinction

While blooming, the Amazonian cactus releases a unique sweet scent similar to honeysuckles and gardenias, but that scent is short-lived and turns foul after two hours.

Education During Coronavirus

Watch First Time-Lapse Footage of a Rare Moonflower Cactus Blossoming

The rare Amazonian cactus blooms only once a year for 12 hours

Mistletoe is best known for its role in holiday festivities, as seen on this Christmas card from 1886, and it features in ancient lore of many cultures, whether Celtic druids or Scandinavian gods.

The Biology of Mistletoe

Best known as a holiday trimming, the parasitic plant is a botanical luminary in its own right

The flower of a newly discovered orchid species from Madagascar called Gastrodia agnicellus. It's looks are, shall we say, unconventional.

Behold the World's Ugliest Orchid, According to Botanists

Surprisingly, the plant’s fleshy, brown flowers don't smell so bad

Sequencing entire genomes from ancient tissues helps researchers reveal the evolutionary and domestication histories of species.

Smithsonian Voices

How Ancient DNA Unearths Corn's A-Maize-ing History

New study shows how extracting whole genomes from ancient material opens the door for new research questions and breathes new life into old samples

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Smithsonian Voices

Our Thanksgiving Menu Has Lost a Few Crops

Studying the domestication of any crop that people once ate helps scientists reveal how modern crops have evolved

Parasitic dodders use outgrowths called haustoria to leech water and nutrients from their host plants.

New Research

Parasitic Plant Waits for Host’s Signal Before Flowering

Dodders grow into tangled masses of leafless tendrils also called wizard’s net and strangleweed

Viburnum titus is a common landscaping plant in Europe and the United States, but its blue fruits hadn't been closely studied until now.

New Research

Structural Complexity Gives This Fruit Its Metallic Blue Color

The super blue viburnum fruit gets its hue not just from blue pigment, but from the structure of its fat

The tobacco mosaic virus seen under 160,000× magnification

Covid-19

How a Few Sick Tobacco Plants Led Scientists to Unravel the Truth About Viruses

With the COVID-19 coronavirus causing a global pandemic, a look back at the scientists who figured out viruses and their relationship to disease

Just in time for this year's bloom, Smithsonian Books presents a delightful new offering Cherry Blossoms: Sakura Collections from the Library of Congress.

Not All Cherry Blossoms Are the Same

View these vivid illustrations by Japanese artist Kōkichi Tsunoi of the varieties of trees presented to the United States in 1912

The blue-throated barbet, illustrated here in 1871, is native to southern Asia.

Education During Coronavirus

You Can Now Download 150,000 Free Illustrations of the Natural World

The artworks, collected by the open-access Biodiversity Heritage Library, range from animal sketches to historical diagrams and botanical studies

Plants growing in lunar and Martian soil simulants.

New Research

Space Farmers Could Grow Crops in Lunar and Martian Soil, Study Suggests

With a little added organic matter, dusty lunar and Martian soil simulants produced tomatoes, rye, radishes and other crops in the lab

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