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This Plant Has Flowers Shaped Like Hummingbirds

Crotalaria cunninghamii, a legume native to northern Australia, is known as the “green bird flower” for a very good reason – its green flowers look like tiny hummingbirds with their sharp beak attached to the plant’s stem.

A photo of two Crotalaria cunninghamii flowers recently went viral on Reddit, leaving many users scratching their heads and asking whether their uncanny resemblance to hummingbirds was an adaptive evolutionary development or a simple illusion. Apparently, the latter would be the most likely answer. There are no hummingbirds in northern Australia, and apart from humans, it is unlikely that any creature would mistake these flowers for real hummingbirds, so the shape does not result in any kind of benefit to the plant. Plus, the flowers only resemble hummingbirds when viewed from a certain side-angle. It’s purely a case of simulacrum, seeing shapes and forms that look like something that they’re clearly not. It’s still pretty cool, though.

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The Book That Grew – A Unique Book Grown By Manipulating Grass Roots

In an effort to promote sustainable agriculture, Irish as agency Rothco teamed up with German artist Diana Scherer to create The Book That Grew – a 22-page tome created by manipulating the roots of living plants to grow in the shape of letters and diagrams.

We wrote about plant root manipulation for artistic purposes in the past, but this is probably the most ambitious and impressive such project we’ve ever come across. All elements of The Book That Grew, including the ink and binding, were made from grass to show farmer just how powerful a resource it can be, when managed properly. That’s actually the main point of the book, which contains 10 simple yet valuable lessons designed to help maximize sustainability of one of the most valuable agricultural resources, grass. And what better to convey the message to farmers than in the form of an all-organic book grown from that very grass.

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Japanese Knotweed – An Invasive Plant That Is Proving Impossible to Control

With weedkillers more advanced than we’ve ever had and significant technological progress, it seems unlikely that any plant could cause major socioeconomic problems, at least in developed countries. That’s what makes the Japanese Knotweed so fascinating. Despite humanity’s best efforts to eradicate or at least control this resilient invasive plant, it continues to spread across Europe and North America, causing some serious damage.

When renowned Bavarian plant importer Phillip von Siebold brought a Japanese knotweed plant to the Utrecht plant fair in the Netherlands in the 1840s, no one imagined it would end up becoming a global threat. It was prized for its beautiful flowers and advertised as an ornament, medicine, wind shelter, soil retainer, dune stabilizer, cattle feed, and insect pollinator. Despite records of gardeners expressing their concerns about the plant’s invasiveness, it was sold across Europe for almost a century, and by the time everyone realized the monster we had released, it was too late to do anything about it.

The manner in which Japanese knotweed virtually took over most of the United Kingdom is a testament to its invasive potential. Von Siebold sent a single plant to Kew Gardens in London in 1850, and it was the descendants of that one plant that managed to colonize most of the British Isles. In 2000, tho biologists analyzed 150 samples from across the U.K. and concluded that they were all clones of the same plant Von Siebold sent over a century ago. The DNA was identical, which technically meant that the UK had been conquered not by a species, but by a single plant.

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The Skeleton Flower – The White Flower That Becomes Translucent When It Rains

Diphylleia grayi is not the most striking of flowers, in fact many people pass by it without even noticing its white, rounded petals. But that’s because they don’t know about its most impressive feature, turning translucent in contact with water.

Native to wooded mountainsides in the colder regions of Japan, “skeleton flowers” bloom from mid-spring to early-summer. Their white petals are completely opaque in dry conditions, but as rain begins to fall, they become almost crystal clear, giving the flower an almost ghostly look. When the rain stops and the petals dry, the skeleton flower goes back to its plain white self.

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The Rare Rainforest Tree That Bleeds Metal

Pycnandra acuminata is a rare tree native to the shrinking rainforests of New Caledonia that has the rare ability to collect large quantities of nickel from the ground. Its blue-green sap reportedly contains up to 25% nickel.

Trees, or plants in general for that matter, and heavy metals like nickel and zinc don’t really go well together, and that’s what makes Pycnandra acuminata and a few other rare tress species known as “hyperaccumulators” so special. They have somehow evolved to suck out normally toxic levels of heavy metals from the soil and store it in their stems, leaves and seeds. Unfortunately, heavy deforestation in New Caledonia has put this remarkable tree on the list of endangered trees before scientists could even figure out how and why it can tolerate such high quantities of nickel in its latex-like sap.

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The Creeping Devil – A Unique Cactus That Kills Parts of Itself to Move Across the Desert

The Creeping Devil is a rare and fascinating species of cactus that is not only capable of cloning itself to survive, but also of detaching from its major shoot to move through the desert over time.

Also known by its scientific name, Stenocereus eruca, this unusual species of cactus is endemic to the northwestern Mexican state of Baja California Sur, and is the only known moving cactus in the world. Unlike most other species of cactus, which typically grow vertically, toward the sky, the creeping devil is different – it lies flat on the ground with only its tip slightly raised. This plays a major role in the plant’s survival in isolation, but also in its unique capacity to migrate along the desert over long periods of time.

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MIT Scientists Develop Method to Make Plants Glow in the Dark

MIT researchers have made an important breakthrough in their quest to make plants that glow in the dark a reality. In what they call Plant Nanobionics, the engineers embedded nanoparticles into the leaves of a watercress plant that caused the plants to give off a dim glow for three and a half hours.

Their next goal is to create plants bright enough to illuminate a workspace, but, if successful, the technology could also be used to transform trees into self-powered streetlights, the scientists claim. The team’s ultimate goal is to engineer plants to replace many of the functions currently performed by electrical devices and appliances.

“The vision is to make a plant that will function as a desk lamp — a lamp that you don’t have to plug in. The light is ultimately powered by the energy metabolism of the plant itself,” said Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and the senior author of a recently released study on plant nanobionics.

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Chinese Students Spend 6 Months Creating Stunning Dress Out of 6,000 Plant Leaves

Four sophomore students at the University of Hefei, in eastern China, recently proved that you don’t have to spend a small fortune on a designer dress to look stunning. You can make it yourself, for free, using only plant leaves.

Photos of the four students’ stunning leaf dress have been doing the rounds on Chinese social media for about a week, and people still can’t stop gushing over them. And who can blame them, really? Just take a look at what these kids were able to do with about 6,000 leaves, some thread and mountains of patience.

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Crown Shyness – When Trees Avoid Touching Each Other

Crown shyness or canopy disengagement is a mysterious natural phenomenon in which the crowns of some tree species do not touch each other, but are separated by a gap clearly visible from ground level. The effect usually occurs between trees of the same species, but has also been observed between trees of different species.

The Crown Shyness phenomenon was first documented in scientific literature during the 1920s, but researchers have since not been able to reach a consensus regarding its causes. There are many theories going around in scientific circles, most of which make sense, but no one has been able to prove without the shadow of a doubt why some trees avoid touching each other. But perhaps it’s this mystery, along with its striking appearance, that makes crown shyness such a fascinating phenomenon.

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World’s Largest Rose Bush Dates Back to 1885

You’ve probably seen some impressive-looking flowers, but unless you’ve been to the Tombstone Rose Tree Museum, you’ve never seen anything quite like the World’s Largest Rose Bush – a gnarled trunk about 12 feet in diameter, with its branches covering 9,000 square feet. It’s been around since 1885, and yes, it still blooms every Spring.

The White Lady Banksia Rose found its way to Tombstone, Arizona, from Scotland, over a century ago. In 1884, a young miner by the name of Henry Gee and his bride Mary left Scotland for the United States and settled in the legendary town. Mary felt homesick and after writing to her family about it, she received a box full of plants, bulbs and cuttings from the beautiful garden that she missed so much. As a token of friendship, Mary gifted one of the rose cuttings to a friend she had made in Tombstone, a woman called Amelia Adamson. The two of them planted it near the woodshed in the back patio of Amelia’s boarding house, and not only did the rose flourish in the Arizona desert, it grew into the largest rose bush in the world.

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Night Sky Petunias – Not Your Grandmother’s Petunias

The internet is going crazy over these incredibly beautiful purple flowers that seem covered in bright white stars. They are called Nigh Sky Petunias, or Galaxy Flowers and they are indeed stunning. I could spend hours just staring at them and not get bored.

Petunias, in general, are not the most exciting flowers to look at, but German breeder Selecta One managed to change that a few years ago, when it created NightSky®, a special type of petunia that actually resembles a trumpet-shaped galaxy full of bright stars of all shapes and sizes. It has won numerous awards in plant and gardening competitions, and for good reason. I mean, just look at it!

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The Mysterious Albino Redwood Trees Defying the Laws of Nature

For the vast majority of plants, an inability to produce chlorophyll is synonymous with death, but that general rule apparently doesn’t apply to the hundreds of documented “albino redwoods” in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California. Some of them are almost completely white, others, known as redwood chimeras, are half green and half white, but they have one thing in common – they should be dead, and yet they are not.

These mysterious albino redwoods have been puzzling scientists for over 100 years. Their very existence is so preposterous that many of those who haven’t seen one up close question whether that are real or just a myth. Zane Moore, a young biologist working to unravel the mechanism that allows albino trees to survive, assures us that these elusive trees are very real, but their exact location is being kept a secret to protect them against hordes of tourists looking for unusual attractions.

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New World’s Hottest Chili Is Deceptively Tiny, Could Send You Into Anaphylactic Shock

When Welsh fruit grower Mike Smith set out to create a novelty chili pepper for a national grower’s show, he had no idea he would accidentally end up with the world’s hottest pepper. Called Dragon’s Breath – a tribute to its Welsh heritage – the record-breaking pepper scores a whopping 2.48 million units on the Scoville scale of hotness.

Intended to be a tiny thing of beauty, the Dragon’s Breath pepper turned out to be a sensory beast that can’t really be consumed unless you’re willing to put your life at risk. Just to put into perspective how hot this thing is, the Scotch bonnet, a chili usually eaten as a challenge, scores between 100,000 and 350,000 Scovilles, military-grade pepper spray registers at 2 million units on the same scale, and the previous world’s hottest pepper was rated at a maximum 2.2 million units. Dragon’s Breath blows them all away with an impressive rating of 2.48 million Scovilles.

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German Artist Manipulates Plant Roots to Grow in Intricate Visually-Striking Patterns

Inspired by Charles and Francis Darwin’s theory on plant intelligence, German artist Diana Scherer managed to successfully coerce the roots of various plants to grow in specific patterns. The results of her work are simply breathtaking.

In his book, The Power of Movements of Plants, Charles Darwin argued that while plants are not capable of moving from the place where they are rooted, their roots don’t just grow passively, but actively observe their surroundings, navigating in search of water and certain chemicals. He also refers to roots as plants’ brain-like organ, suggesting that they are actually a lot more intelligent than most people think.

Based on Darwin’s controversial “root-brain” hypothesis, Amsterdam-based artist Diana Scherer conducted an artistic experiment where she attempted to coerce plant roots to grow in intricate patterns, sometimes becoming interwoven into stunning living carpets.

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Artists Manipulate the Way Grass Grows to Create Living Photos

Most people don’t pay any attention to grass and the way it grows, but British artists Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey have always been fascinated by it and have found an ingenious way to incorporate it into their art. By manipulating the way grass grows, they are able to literally print detailed photographs onto a living wall of grass that develops according to how much light it receives.

The two artists start by covering a large canvas with water paste and rubbing germinated seeds all over it. They then cover the windows of their studio turning into a dark room, and making sure that the only light that reaches the canvas is projected through a slide of a negative photograph. They then let photosynthesis run its course, and in a few weeks time the grass-covered canvas grows into a living print of the photograph. The amount of light shining through different parts of the negative determines which parts of the canvas turn out a vibrant green, and which remain yellow and undeveloped, making the details of the image clearly visible from a distance.

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