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Tag Archives: botany

Beautiful Parasites (and a couple ugly ones too!)

It is pretty well known that plants differ from animals due to their ability to make their own food using just carbon dioxide, water and sunlight through a process called photosynthesis. But some plants are a bit lazy and figured “why should I make my own food like a sucker when I can just steal some from my neighbor?” Thus, the strategy of plant parasitism was born. The secret to…

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Tree Tales: Canada’s Threatened Trees

Canada’s trees have developed some resistance to native diseases and insect pests. However, climate change has been facilitating more forest damage. For example, the native Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) used to be held in check because it was killed by extremely cold winter temperatures, which occur less frequently now than they used to. Additionally, in the last 125 years, the importation of live trees and untreated wood from other…

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If a tree falls in the forest

We humans tend to think that diseases affect only animals but plants suffer from them as well.  Diseases are caused by microscopic animals (like parasitic worms), fungi, bacteria and viruses and they affect animals, plants, fungi and even some species of bacteria (viruses that infect bacteria are called bacteriophages).  But it’s not just microorganisms that parasitize species; larger organisms do too. Some fungi are parasites of other fungi and some…

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF INDIGENOUS AGRICULTURE

One of the most significant contributions that America’s Indigenous peoples have made is with respect to agriculture. Many of our most beloved foods (e.g. chocolate, potatoes, corn) are native to the Americas, being initially cultivated or domesticated by Indigenous farmers. Ancient Agriculture Indigenous agriculture has a long history with the most recent archaeological evidence suggesting it has been practiced in the Americas for at least 10,000 years, almost the same…

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The Perils of Plant Parenthood, Part 2 – Wildlife

Many plants use the wind to disperse their seeds. But what if a plant lives somewhere that isn’t very windy? How do they encourage their children to “launch”? Many plants decided to take advantage of animals’ mobility. One way plants do this is by growing little hooks or stiff hairs on the fruits that readily catch onto the fur or feathers of an animal when they are ripe. The fruits…

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The Perils of Plant Parenthood, Part 1 – Wind

Just like all creatures, plants want to reproduce themselves. But they typically don’t want their offspring hanging around for too long, eating all the food in the fridge and drinking all the beer. But plant babies living on the land can’t move on their own, so how is an exasperated plant parent going to get their children to leave the nest? Instead of producing swimming babies like algae do, the…

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I once caught a plant that was this big

This summer I spent some time doing what badgers do: digging. What was I digging for? Plant roots. Usually when I collect plants for the Museum I take only a few stems of the above ground portion so that the plant doesn’t die. But this time I needed roots: long ones. I thought that digging up roots would be pretty awful but the soil was sandy, the weather co-operated and,…

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Bogs and Dunes: Together at Last!

Water-saturated bogs and burning hot, cactus-covered sand dunes are not the kinds of habitats that you would normally expect to find near each other. But on a recent trip to Canadian Forces Base Shilo, I was surprised to find just that! In July, I was able to visit this restricted area to collect plants as part of a research project. We went to a part of the base that I…

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A crash course in pollinator identification

Now that the weather is nice and warm, you’re probably seeing pollinators flying about. The main insect pollinators in Manitoba in order of decreasing abundance are: bees, flies, butterflies, moths, wasps and beetles. If you’d like to tell them apart, there are a few key features you need to look for. First off, count the number of wings. Are there four or just two? What is the texture like: membranous,…

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A crash course in pollinator-friendly gardening

The loss of biodiversity and plight of wild pollinators has been all over the news lately. If you’re interested in doing something to make life easier for these creatures, you might want to consider making your garden more pollinator friendly this year. Pollinators have three basic needs: food, nesting/breeding habitat and shelter. Food The best thing you can do is grow at least some native plants in your yard. Native…

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