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Author Archives: Diana Bizecki Robson

FROM SOUTH TO NORTH: CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT ON PLANTS

This summer I went from Manitoba’s southern-most border all the way to its northern one within just a week. I was fascinated to see how differences in climate had influenced the plant communities. The massive trees of the south give way to nearly treeless tundra in the far north. But despite being separated by over 1,000 kilometers, both places had something in common: climate change was beginning to impact the…

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Dandelions: Filling the Ecological Vacuum in our Lawns

You may have heard the old saying that “nature abhors a vacuum”. To understand this expression, you probably won’t need to look any farther than your own lawn. Although lawns may start out as monocultures of Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis), they never stay that way. Inevitably, species like Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) show up, prompting a flurry of weeding and spraying of herbicides. We are told by lawn care companies…

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In Search of New Species

When I tell people I am writing a book that describes all of the plants that grow in Manitoba, they are often incredulous. “Don’t we already know how many plants species there are in Manitoba” they ask. Sadly, the answer is no. New to Science Believe it or not, botanists documented and collected two flowers that were not believed to grow in the province, for the first time ever in…

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The Plants that Ruled When Dinosaurs Did

When most people think of plants, they typically picture flowers: cherry trees in bloom, colourful tulips and exotic-looking orchids. This is because 90% of all living plant species are flowering plants (i.e., angiosperms). But when dinosaurs first evolved 225 million years ago (mya), flowers were nowhere to be found. First Plants The first land plants did not produce seeds; instead, they reproduced using spores. Like amphibians, they needed water for…

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A fruit in vegetable’s clothing

Like many of you, I am eagerly awaiting spring so that I can start planting my vegetable garden. There’s nothing better than eating bruschetta with freshly harvested vine-ripened tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) and steamed green beans (Phaseolus sp.) with fried cream (see recipes at the end). My mouth drools just thinking about it! But the funny thing about tomatoes and green beans is that they are not actually vegetables: they are…

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De-Stressing With Plants

By Dr. Diana Bizecki Robson, Curator of Botany   During the pandemic, many people have experienced increased stress levels due to illness, work difficulties, and isolation. But many of us have discovered there is solace to be had in the natural world. In 1984, biologist E.O. Wilson noted that “biophilia”, or a “love of nature”, is a normal part of human psychology. We don’t just love nature; we need it…

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The Weird World of Plant Sex

On the surface, plant sex seems pretty simple. Birds and bees transfer pollen from one flower to another and voila: seeds are produced. But, like most things in life, plant reproduction is much more complicated than initially meets the eye. FINDING A MATE For starters, plants are not like mammals when it comes to gender. Only about 5-6% of all flowering plant species are dioecious, that is, having separate “males”…

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Who turned out the light?

With the days growing ever shorter, I find myself thinking about light and how we tend to take for granted the hard work that plants do, harnessing the energy from the sun. Photosynthesis is the beginning of most food chains on earth, the exceptions being bacteria (Archaea) that can obtain energy from inorganic chemicals like sulphur and ammonia. But since we don’t eat bacterial ooze for breakfast, this process remains…

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Hot to Trot: Plant Hunting in a Drought

Doing biological field work always comes with challenges. Since I began working at the Museum in 2003, the summers have been relatively wet. As a result, I’ve had to deal with muddy roads, many, many biting insects thirsty for my blood, and bootfuls of water obtained while exploring flooded wetlands. This year though, the roads were good, the biting insects non-existent, and many wetlands were so dry that I could…

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The Importance of Being a Flower

Like many of you, I enjoy walking through my neighbourhood and smelling the sweet fragrances of the summer flowers. Unfortunately, like many things, flowers are ephemeral. When I see a flower, I am always reminded of the Robert Herrick poem urging us to: “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles today, Tomorrow will be dying.”

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