Scientists Solve Mystery of World-Traveling Plant

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Gourd

By land or by sea? That’s the question scientists have been pondering for decades when it comes to the bottle gourd, a plant with a hard-skinned fruit that’s used by cultures all over the world to make lightweight containers and other tools. Archaeologists know that people were using domesticated bottle gourds in the Americas as early as 10,000 years ago. But how did the plant make the jump from its original home in Africa to the New World with an ocean in the way? A new study overturns previous evidence pointing to a human-assisted land migration and concludes that the bottle gourd floated across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas on its own.

Humans rarely eat the bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria), but rather dry out its fruit and fashion it into containers, tools like fishing floats or pipes, or even musical instruments. The plant comes in two subspecies linked to their geography: one from Africa, where the plant first evolved, and one from Asia. Researchers have long wondered whether the New World bottle gourds are more closely related to the African or Asian subspecies. If they could build a bottle gourd family tree, they thought, they might be able to figure out how the plant reached the Americas in the first place. Did it float over on ocean currents from Africa, the prevailing assumption until about 10 years ago, or did humans carry the plant with them when they walked across the Bering land bridge from Asia?

“It was a real puzzle,” says Bruce Smith, an archaeologist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Then, in 2005, a study was published that seemed to solve the mystery once and for all. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers analyzed the genetics of bottle gourds for the first time and found that pre-Columbian bottle gourds in the Americas appeared to be more closely related to the Asian subspecies than the African one. They concluded that the ancestors of New World bottle gourds must have been carried by people as they made their way across Asia, over the Bering land bridge, and down into the Americas.

But many scientists—including several of the study’s authors—had “lingering questions” about that hypothesis, says Andrew Clarke, a plant biologist at the University of Warwick in Coventry, U.K. and an author of the 2005 study. Most glaringly, how could the bottle gourd, a tropical plant, make it through years of traveling across the Arctic? And if humans carried it with them across the Bering land bridge, why is there no archaeological evidence of bottle gourds in Siberia, Alaska, or the Pacific Northwest?

Read Full Article Here

Plants and People January 2015

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

PlantsPeople_JAN_Blog_2015

Excited to share the breathtaking work of our #PlantsandPeople photographers from January. Photos by @barefootitaly, @turnone , @jenguntexan, @contessatessa, @vildans, @cheynacarr, @wirisamarah, @kennethjmitchell, @nature_photograghy312, @laurenlemon, @joshuascarlson, @jmtrovato, @desertbotanical, @justinablakeney, @swedishgarden, @mikekus, @calebthefox, @stefkaipper, @helensteel, @pauloctavious, @jayarcherblooms, @cocoxochitl, @dominomag, @yokoogibraan, @fairchildgarden, @hennablossom, @gingerandpittie, @renecharlesritchie, @hollyspringsgardenclub, @iampatrickchin, @greenerynyc, @beamayo, @metalyosi, @pleasebabygiveittomelouder, @novitakw22, @whostrevor, @daringwanderer, @megaguire, @bethnaymollenkof, @growing_nicely, @afancyorafeeling, @queensfarm, @chriscodyyy

Woolly Around the World: San Francisco

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

branch_Creative
photo by Branch Creative

We were excited to receive this inspiring image of Woollys on Gold Street in San Francisco. It comes from Branch Creative, the super talented group that helped us create Living Wall Planter 2.

It’s hard to see, but Branch actually used all three colors (green, white and gray) of Living Wall Planter 2s to make their living wall. They did a plantastic job filling, thrilling and spilling with a variety of ferns, spider plants and pothos.

Plant Inspiration: Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

quince

If you’ve got a black thumb, flowering quince is a good choice. Virtually indestructible, flowering quince tolerates climate extremes and neglect. This deciduous thorny shrub can stretch up to 8 feet wide, makes great natural fencing, and puts on a big show of blossoms in winter. Plant in spring or fall.

Heirloom Gazpacho with Edible Flowers

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

heirloom_gazpacho

Photo and recipe by Andreea Fegan

Since it is the start of the new year and most people are focused on eating healthy. We bring you this lovely gazpacho dish with edible flowers you can grow in your own Woolly Pocket garden.

1 small to medium peeled Cucumber
1.5 cups heirloom Tomatoes
1/4 cup Vidalia Onion
2 cloves Garlic
1/4 cup packed Basil
1 small Hot pepper, seeded (or per your taste)
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Sea salt
1.5 cups Coconut water kefir (or can use water, coconut water, etc.)
2 Tablespoons Apple cider vinegar
1 Avocado
Nasturtium and borage to decorate

In my Vitamix, I simply add everything in and don’t worry about chopping things too small. Adjust the size of the ingredients according to your blender’s capacity for blending. Blend all ingredients well until smooth, but not too long as to overheat. If you’d like this a little more chunky, pulse to blend. Check the seasoning, and decorate with more heirloom tomato slices, borage flowers and nasturtiums.

 

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