Plants Are Dope Link Roundup 12/13/19

From almost every conceivable angle — convenience, culinary, conservation — beans are the perfect food. They are cheap, and last for years when dried. Cooked with little more than salt, water, and time, they can offer sustenance for the whole week. They can be reliably cooked well, with just enough variance to satisfy tinkerers, and their uses are endless (Frijoles de olla! Rajma masala! Pizza!). Their abundant fiber nourishes the gut bacteria that research suggests help modulate everything from our immune system to our moods. Even at the plant level, they make soil healthier, by forming a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. When dried, multicolored heirloom beans are also very, very pretty.

I eat beans often, almost every day. I enjoyed this ode to beans of sorts, by Meghan McCarron in Eater. Adding “buy heirloom beans” to my 2020 goal list. That said, I did feel a certain something thinking about the idea that wealthy foodies are only eating beans now because it’s trendy, or something. Food trends are too funny sometimes.

In 2012, the artists Joe Patitucci and Alex Tyson set up a jungle’s worth of tropical plants in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and invited them to perform. People filed in to stand and listen as the Data Garden Quartet, a botanical orchestra, gave its debut performance. On lead synth, a philodendron. A schefflera played bass, while a second schefflera managed the rhythm tone generator. A snake plant controlled ambiance and effects.

Patitucci and Tyson had fitted each of the plants with a small device that translated biofeedback into a sonic data. The device sat on a leaf, like a miniature stethoscope, and monitored the fluctuations of electrical conductivity on the leaf surface. That data fed into a program that turned those signals into controls for electronic instruments—as light graced a leaf, it might tilt the pitch, or change the rhythm.

Now this sounds cool. The guys who created Data Garden Quartet have developed technology called PlantWave to let you listen to your own plants at home, reports Arielle Pardes in Wired. But honestly, I just wanna see Data Garden Quartet! Get the band back together!

Flowers by Andy Warhol

At this point, one can imagine that the flowers, apolitical and removed from time and space, became an appealing subject. But rather than a direct encounter with nature itself, Warhol used a photograph of hibiscus blossoms he found in the 1964 issue of Modern Photography to create these prints. When Patricia Caulfield, the photographer of this image, found out, she brought suit against Warhol in 1966 for unauthorized use of her image. There is something ironic, almost comical about the fact that Warhol went into a lawsuit for using a simple image of flowers after years of replicating copyrighted product labels– as if in Warhol’s hands, even an unassuming subject could become embroiled in confrontation, politics, and the law.

An interesting look at “The Story Behind Andy Warhol’s Flowers” by Leeron Hoory for Garden Collage.

Is buying plants environmentally friendly? I am interested in starting a plant collection, but I seriously wonder about the environmental harm of growing plants for beauty and entertainment purposes. Different places selling plants have different environmental impacts … maybe Home Depot isn’t as sustainable as a local nursery. Ultimately, I’m questioning whether I should hop on the trend of having houseplants based on the trend and the industry’s sustainability. Going further, how can I become a sustainable plant owner on the basis of resources used to fuel this hobby? 

Oof. This question hit me in the gut! I’d just sort of assumed houseplants are good for the environment in some way. I try to opt for organic potting soil, but beyond that, I hadn’t thought much about sustainability in houseplants.

The answer to the question, posted to Katie Heaney of The Cut, is basically that it depends on where you buy the plants. (Hint: Amazon is bad.)

It may seem like an obvious argument: Undeveloped lands, including parks, wilderness areas, and national forests, are critical refuges for endangered or threatened species. But scientists have had surprisingly little evidence to support that claim, aside from the occasional anecdote. Now, a new study suggests that if present global habitat-degradation trends continue, vascular plants and invertebrates living in wildlands—from wildflowers to bees—are twice as likely to survive as their cousins dwelling in nonwilderness areas.

I look forward to the day that a decline in wilderness areas makes the news as much as a decline in birth rate. One is much more important than the other! Article by Richard A. Lovett in Science.

Britain could enjoy 400bn more flowers if road verges were cut later and less often according to guidelines drawn up by wildlife charities, highways authorities and contractors.

The national guidance for managing roadside verges for wildflowers calls for just two cuts a year – instead of four or more – and only after flowers have set seed, to restore floral diversity and save councils money. It would also provide grassland habitat the size of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh combined.

How can we bring this to the US?! If we must have highways criss-crossing the face of our entire country, we might as least let the medians and ditches become homes to native wildflowers and tall grasses. Let’s help out our pollinators! Article by Patrick Barkham in The Guardian.

I feel like I’ve seen “Do Not Mow. Natural Wildlife Area.” or something similar on signs along some highways…maybe in Illinois? But usually the grasses aren’t even that tall and I can’t find info about it online. If you know anything about a program like this, drop a comment!

An 18-year experiment that turned forest and farmland into a giant laboratory has found that habitat corridors — thin connectors of land that link patches of natural landscape — can significantly improve plant biodiversity and protect vulnerable species from extinction.

The findings, described in the journal Science, suggest that expanding such corridors could be a useful strategy for preserving and restoring ecosystems in the country’s shrinking wildlands.

I love when connections like this just pop up (read previous article). Thin wildlife corridors connecting larger wildlife areas can save a whole bunch of plants and animals. Let’s make all unused public land, like that along highways, a wildlife area. Is there a downside to this I’m not seeing? Article by Amina Khan in the Los Angeles Times.

Gauthier takes an “eat nothing with a face” approach to veganism. “For me, a vegan diet is fundamentally about compassion,” he explains, “and, as current research confirms, oysters are non-sentient beings with no brain or advanced central nervous system, so they’re unable to feel pain. That’s why I’m happy to eat them.” He accepts this view isn’t shared by all, which is why oysters don’t feature on his vegan menus. “There are plenty of other ingredients to choose from.”

Of course I was instantly drawn to “Are Oysters Vegan?” by Bob Granleese in The Guardian. Oysters obviously aren’t plants, but they aren’t what we normally think of when we think of animals, either. If they have no brain or nervous system…I dunno. It seems like they’re more similar to mushrooms than other seafood. What do you think? Who else out there enjoys muddling around in these gray areas?

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