Professor Charles Davis Lab cited in The Economist
Parasites: A Gene Thief
Plants of the genus Rafflesia are among the oddest on the planet. They have the largest known flowers (up to a metre across) and are parasites, growing on South-East Asian vines of the genus Tetrastigma. The latest research, though, shows that Rafflesia take more than just nutrients from their hosts. A study by Charles Davis of Harvard and Joshua Rest of Stony Brook University, in New York, just published in BioMed Central Genomics, has shown that at least one species, Rafflesia cantleyi, has also snaffled 49 genes from its particular victim, Tetrastigma rafflesia (named, like Rafflesia itself, after Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore and of the London Zoo). The genes in question, which have a wide range of functions, are fully operational and have become integrated into the nuclei of cantleyi’s cells. Such gene transfer between species is common in bacteria, but rare in more complex organisms. Yet another curiosity, then, about an already curious vegetable. Link to The Economist.
- Professor Donald Pfister is among the collaborators on a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project titled North American Lichens and Bryophytes: Sensitive Indicators of Environmental Quality and Change.
Lichens and bryophytes (mosses and their relatives) are sensitive indicators of environmental change, and are dominant organisms in arctic-alpine and desert habitats, where the effects of climate change are well-documented. This project will image about 2.3 million North American lichen and bryophyte specimens from more than 60 collections to address questions of how species distributions change after major environmental events, both in the past and projected into the future. Large-scale distribution mapping will help identify regions where such changes are likely, fostering programs designed to protect these organisms. The project includes a plan to build and enhance a national volunteer community, and provide online seminars, extensive online training materials, and local workshops and field trips.
The NSF made this award in July 2011, as part of its Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program.
- New USPS American Scientist Stamp Features Botanist Asa Gray
On June 16, 2011, the U.S. Postal Service issued a first-class stamp honoring botanist Asa Gray. A Harvard natural history professor, Gray also established academic instruction during the summer at Harvard, beginning in 1871, with the Summer School of Botany.
Part of the USPS American Scientist series, the Asa Gray stamp image collage depicts Gray in a circa-1860 photograph; illustrations of plants studied by Gray (Shortia galacifolia and Aesculus discolor); Gray's signature, from an 1855 letter to naturalist Spencer F. Baird; the words "Shortia galacifolia" in Gray's handwriting; and his printed abbreviation of the title of his work Synoptical Flora of North America.
The story of Gray's epic quest for Shortia galacifolia was told in a 1946 article from Arnoldia, the quarterly magazine of the Arnold Arboretum. Download that article.
- The Botany Libraries are hosting an online exhibit to celebrate Asa
Gray Bicentennial Web Exhibit
- The HMNH is presenting an Asa Gray Bicentennial Celebration, a series of public lectures and programs, and special events for members, to celebrate this influential figure of 19th century science and his legacy.
- Rare rainforest plant, titum arum, blooms at OEB Greenhouse
- Dr. Kanchi N. Gandhi, HUH Bibliographer and Nomenclature Specialist, receives the 2010 ASPT Distinguished Service Award
The September 2010 issue of Harvard Magazine featured an online exhibit of materials from the Farlow Library and Herbarium of Cryptogamic Botany devoted to the death cap mushroom, Amanita phalloides.
>>Amanita online exhibit
Announcing the 6th Annual Plant Biology Symposium: Trees and the Global Environment
April 29-30th, 2010 at American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, MA.
Free and Open to the Public
- Nature Research Highlight features Davis and colleagues:
Climate Change, Warming boosts invasions.
>>Nature Research Highlight [pdf]
Davis and Losos labs identify link between climate change and invasive species in Thoreau's woods.
Mass Audubon presents "Isaac Sprague and the Art of Discovery" January 31 to May 2, featuring
specimens and library materials from the Harvard University Herbaria and Botany Libraries.