AS WEEDS GO, Arabidopsis thaliana is a rather charming specimen. On a spring day, you might see it sprouting from the cracks of a parking lot, unleashing a small riot of white flowers that give it the common name “mouse ear cress.” But its rotund leaves often bear unwelcome passengers: among them, a bacteria called Pseudomonas syringae. It sits there looking for a way into the plant, usually the stomata through which the leaf takes in water and carbon dioxide, or through a wound. That’s when things get interesting.
SCIENTISTS ARE CONTINUING to tease out the mechanisms by which the Venus flytrap can tell when it has captured a tasty insect as prey as opposed to an inedible object (or just a false alarm). There is evidence that the carnivorous plant has something akin to a short-term “memory,” and a team of Japanese scientists has found evidence that the mechanism for this memory lies in changes in calcium concentrations in its leaves, according to a recent paperpublished in the journal Nature Plants.
Scientists have known for some time that trees not only have a sex, but can sometimes switch between sexes. But they haven’t always known why. Now, as The Washington Post’s Amy Ellis Nutt reports, a new study suggests that for at least one species, the switch happens after injury.
You might be under the impression that plants photosynthesize—using energy from the sun to turn carbon dioxide and water into delicious and nutritious sugar—and you’re mostly right. Even carnivorous plants like the Venus flytrap practice this process to some extent (though nutrient-poor environments and inefficiency often lead them to supplement their diets with something a little bloodier). But not all flora are capable of feeding off of the sun. Some long ago abandoned this ability, having evolved other ways of gathering nutrients.
City sidewalks and brick buildings look a little greener today, thanks to new research showing that cement can soak up CO2. That’s not the only good news to come out this week. A team of German scientists engineered photosynthesis to be faster and more efficient. And a team of Americans buried 1,000 tons of carbon pollution underground.