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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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Woman Realizes That Succulent She Had Been Watering for Two Years Was Made of Plastic

A California stay-at-home mom recently got her five minutes of online fame after taking to Facebook to reveal that the potted plant she had been watering and looking after for the last two years was actually made of plastic.

On February 28, Caelie Wilkes shared a very funny revelation with her Facebook friends. While attempting to relocate the succulent she had been looking after for two years in a larger pot, she was shocked to learn that the plant was artificial. The old pot broke, revealing a very thin layer of sand at the top, and a big block of Styrofoam at the bottom, where the plant’s roots should have been. She had been watering it regularly and making sure that it had all the right condition, only to learn that all her efforts had been in vain. Needless to say Wilkes felt like the last two years of her life have been a lie.

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Designer Creates the World’s First Wearable Vegetable Garden

Designer Aroussiak Gabrielian has given the phrase “grow your own food” a whole new meaning by creating a wearable vegetable garden that can accommodate dozens of different crops fueled by the wearer’s own urine.

Dubbed Posthuman Habitats, Gabrielian’s project was inspired by the vertical, soilless gardens of French botanist Patrick Blanc, and consists of a vest covered with a layer of moisture retention fabric onto which microgreens seeds are directly placed. Apparently it takes about two weeks for the germinated seeds to grow to a level where they can be harvested. And since plants need sustenance to grow, the wearable gardens use the wearer’s urine as irrigation, after it’s treated using a process called forward osmosis.

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The Himalayan Balsam – An Invasive Flower That Spreads by Explosion

Impatiens glandulifera, commonly known as the Himalayan Balsam, is an invasive plant with a very peculiar colonizing system – its seed pods literally explode when touched or otherwise disturbed, shooting the seeds up to 7 meters in every direction.

A native of India and Pakistan, the Himalayan Balsam has managed to invade 23 European countries, as well as the United States, Canada and even New Zealand. Its exploding seed pods allow the plant to rapidly spread into nearly impregnable thickets that reach over 3-meters-tall, smothering all other plant life to death. However, humans have played a pretty big part in its successful colonization of the world. You see, this isn’t just another invasive weed, it’s a very attractive one. The Balsam has these beautiful purple flowers that people love so much that they historically spread seeds in the wild just so they could see them on the sides of roads. Today, many communities around the world are struggling to keep the plant in check, organizing seasonal “bashing” sessions to clear large swathes of land. and protect other plant life.

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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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