Japan Starts Selling World’s First Genome-Edited Tomato

Sicilian Rouge High GABA is a special type of tomato designed to contain high levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid believed to aid relaxation and help lower blood pressure.

Tokyo-based startup Sanatech Seed Co. teamed up with scientists at the University of Tsukuba to develop a new variety of tomatoes using CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology. Named Sicilian Rouge High GABA, this new type of tomato contains five to six times the normal level of a type of amino acid called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. According to Japanese media, the company removed an inhibitory domain within the tomato’s genome to enable it to produce these high levels of GABA.

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Welwitschia – The World’s Most Resilient Plant

Welwitschia is a fascinating plant that can not only survive for several thousands of years, but it can do so in one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet, the Namib Desert.

Named after Austrian botanist Friedrich Welwitsch, who discovered it in Angola in 1859, Welwitschia is actually called ‘tweeblaarkanniedood’ in Afrikaans, which translates to “two leaves that cannot die”. That’s a surprisingly accurate name for a plant that grows only two leaves and can survive thousands of years in the world’s oldest desert. Some parts of the Namib Desert receive less than two inches of precipitation a year, but that’s apparently all Welwitschia needs to survive, thanks to its extremely “efficient, low-cost genome”.

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The Legendary Giant Plants of Sakhalin

Located in the Russian Far East, the island of Sakhalin is allegedly home to giant versions of common plants like buckwheat, burdock and butterbur that can grow up to 5 meters tall.

Sakhalin is known for being the largest island in the Russian Federation, as well as a point of contention between Japan and Russia over the centuries. However, according to obscure reports going back over a decade, the northernmost island of the Japanese archipelago, as well as the nearby Kuril Islands are home to versions of ordinary herbaceous plants of truly gigantic proportions. Plants that normally reach the knee of an average adult, on these islands allegedly grow several times the height of a human.

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Genetically-Modified Plants Glow When They Are Stressed

A team of researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has managed to genetically modify potato plants to glow under fluorescent cameras when stressed by various factors.

One of the biggest challenges of modern agriculture is reacting to stress factors before it’s too late. Plants don’t really have a way of conveying how they feel, and, more often than not, by the time visible symptoms appear, it’s already too late to do anything about it. But scientists are hoping to fix this big problem with the help of advanced genetic manipulation. A team of Israeli researchers led by Dr. Shilo Rosenwaser managed to genetically modify a potato plant so that it glows under fluorescent camera when affected by physical stress (lack of water, cold weather, lack of sunlight, strong light etc.).

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This Flower Smells Like Dead Insects to Attract Specific Pollinators

A one-of-a-kind flower endemic to Greece is believed to emit a scent similar to that of decomposing insects in order to attract one of its main pollinators, the coffin fly.

Flowers are usually associated with sweet, pleasant smells, but truth is that not all flowers smell nice. In fact, some smell like some of the grossest thing in the world, and that’s by design, because their pollinators are actually attracted to these disgusting scents. Take Aristolochia microstoma, a small flower endemic to Greece, which deceives its main pollinator, the coffin fly, by emitting a highly unusual mix of scents that includes a compound found in dead beetles. As their name suggests, coffin flies are attracted to carrion, to the scent lures them into the flower where they are trapped long enough to deposit any pollen they carry onto the female organs.

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15-Cetimeter Mutant Potted Plant Sells for $2,200 in Just 30 Minutes

Monstera adansonii is a common house plant that can be purchased for as little as $12 at any home & garden store, but a rare specimen recently sold for a whopping 1,799 euros ($2,200).

A garden center in Lovendegem, Belgium recently sold a rare monstera adansonii specimen for a small fortune, in just 30 minutes. The plant in question was only 15 centimeters tall, but featured an extremely rare mutation that caused its perforated leaves to grow yellow or white, instead of the usual green. This type of plant is virtually impossible to grow, so collectors are willing to pay a high premium to get their hands on it. In this particular case, an anonymous plant collector who had been looking for this rare specimen of monstera adansonii for a while, bought it within 30 minutes of it going on sale.

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World’s Ugliest Orchid Discovered in the Forests of Madagascar

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but looking at this new species of orchid discovered by scientists in the forests of Madagascar, it’s easy to see why it’s already been dubbed the “world’s ugliest orchid”.

With over 700 genera and around 28,000 individual species, orchids make up one of the largest plant families. Most of these species are associated with beauty and elegance, but the newest member of this large family doesn’t really fit that description. Gastrodia agnicellus, one of this year’s newly discovered plants and fungi, has no leaves, grows from a woolly tuberous stem, has a bland brownish color, and spends most of its life underground, emerging only to flower or produce fruit.

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Plant Evolves to Become Less Visible to Humans in Areas With Excessive Harvesting

Fritillaria delavayi, a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine, has apparently evolved to match its background and become more difficult to spot as a direct consequence of heavy harvesting.

Scientists had known that many plants evolved to use camouflage as a way of hiding from herbivores that may eat them, but a recent study suggests that one particular plant species has developed the same mechanism to hide from human harvesters. Researchers found that fritillaria delavayi plants, which grow on the rocky slopes of China’s Hengduan mountains, match their backgrounds most closely in areas where they are intensely harvested by humans.

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Italy’s Kiwi Plants Are Dying And No One Can Figure Out Why

Italy is the world’s second largest kiwi producer after China, but for the past eight years farmers have been battling a mysterious enemy that has so far killed over twenty percent of the country’s kiwi plants.

It starts with the leaves. They wither and face downwards, and within 10 days they all fall to the ground, leaving the kiwi fruits exposed to direct sunlight. Underground, the roots of the vine darken and begin to rot. In a year or two, the whole plant withers and dies. There is no known cure, and by the time farmers start noticing the symptoms described above, it is already much too late to do anything about it.  The farmers call it morìa, or “die-off”, and it had devastated plantations where kiwi vines have thrived for decades.

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The Heartbreaking Story of the World’s Loneliest Plant

The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, in the UK, are home to thousands of fascinating plants, but none as lonely as the Encephalartos woodii, an ancient cycad species and, most likely, the last one of its kind.

It was in 1895 that botanist John Medley Wood noticed this interesting-looking palm tree on a steep slope in Zululand, southern Africa. Intrigued by its multiple trunks and arched palm fronds, Dr. Wood — who made his living collecting rare plants – had some stems removed and sent to London in a box.It ended up in the Palm House at the Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew, where it has been waiting for a mate for over a century. Despite numerous efforts to find it a mate, the Encephalartos woodii at Kew remains alone, unable to produce an offspring and propagate its species. For this reason, many consider it the world’s loneliest plant.

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Is This the World’s Tallest Cactus?

Photos of an unusually-tall cactus growing on the side of a three-storey building in Tokyo, Japan, have been doing the rounds on social media, raising the question: ‘is this the world’s tallest cactus?’

Last Wednesday, Japanese Twitter user =Yang= (@0okome0) posted a bunch of intriguing photos of a building he had spotted in Takinogawa, Tokyo Metropolitan Area. It wasn’t the building that drew people’s attention, but a green pole on the side of it. =Yang= himself admitted that at first he thought it was simply a green-painted utility pole, but the deformed top, which stretched onto the roof of the building, told him otherwise. As he approached the strange sight, he realized that it was actually a thick cactus stretching from the bottom all the way to the roof of the three-storey residential building. He snapped some pics and posted them on Twitter, where they quickly went viral.

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These ‘Ice Cream’ Tulips Look Good Enough to Eat

I don’t normally think of food when looking at flowers, but these lovely ‘Ice Cream Tulips’ really get me thinking about a nice cold treat to cool me off on a hot summer day.

If you’re a flower enthusiast, you probably already know about the ice cream tulip variety, but for most people they are still somewhat of a novelty, especially just before their petals open, when they truly look like an ice-cream cone good enough to eat, or even as a whipped cream-topped treat. They are a relatively new tulip variety, and even though bulbs seem to be widely available for purchase online, they are rather expensive, so you probably won’t see them sold at most flower markets too often. Still, if you’re trying to make your garden stand out, or just make your neighbors constantly crave ice cream, they are worth the investment.

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Scientists Create Alien-Looking Bioluminescent Plants Reminiscent of ‘Avatar’ Jungles

Stunning-looking luminescent plants have become popular in science-fiction and fantasy films in recent years, but if the recent achievement of an international team of scientists is any indication, self-sustaining bioluminescent plants are already a reality.

In 2017, MIT researchers announced an important breakthrough in their quest to make plants that glow in the dark a reality, but their Plant Nanobionics only made watercress leaves dimly glow for about 3.5 hours. Late last month, a team of 27 scientists published a groundbreaking study documenting their ability to genetically tweak virtually any type of plant and make it sustainably luminescent throughout its entire life cycle. By inserting DNA obtained from bioluminescent mushrooms into the DNA sequence of plants, they managed to create plants that glow orders of magnitude brighter than previously possible.

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Vietnamese Man Uses Two Creeping Plants to Turn 5-Storey Building Into a Vertical Garden

Located deep in Hanoi’s Dong Da district is one of the Vietnamese capital’s most unique landmarks – a 5-storey apartment buildings completely covered by a living, creeping, green curtain.

The so-called “living building” of Hanoi is the work of Prof. Dr. Hoang Nhu Tang – former lecturer at Hanoi University of Civil Engineering and resident of this unique edifice. It all started 30 years ago, in 1990, back when this was one of the tallest constructions in the area, which basically meant that it had almost no shelter from the scorching sun during the summer. That made it very uncomfortable to live in in the hot season, so Hoang Nhu Tang decided to plant two creeper plants known for their ability to both filter sunlight and also regulate the temperature in building they grow on. His idea worked, and three decades later, the plants still fulfill their intended purpose, while also attracting curios sightseers from all over the city and beyond.

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Houseplant Enthusiast Turns Apartment into Urban Jungle with Over 1,400 Potted Plants

Joe Bagley, a 20-year-old self-confessed “jungle boy”, has turned his one-bedroom apartment in Loughborough, UK, into an indoor jungle with over 1,400 potted plants.

From cacti and succulents to tropical flowers and vines, you can find all sorts of plants growing in Joe Bagley’s home. They are everywhere, on the dining table, on bookshelves, even in the bathroom, pretty much wherever there is any spare space that hasn’t been occupied by something else. There isn’t that much space available, s cramming 1,400 potted plants into it has made it look like a sort of indoor urban jungle. As you can imagine, looking after so many houseplants takes a bit of time, and Joe admits that he spends most of his free time watering them and making sure they are healthy.

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