Please Explain: Strange and Mysterious Plants

Friday, March 12, 2010

Today's Please Explain is all about botanical mysteries and wonders—from meat-eating plants to phosphorescence. Jamie Boyer, Director of Children's Education at the New York Botanical Garden, and Amy Stewart, author of Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities.

Events: Amy Stewart will be speaking about her book Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful
Wednesday, June 2, 6:00-7:00 pm
New York Botanical Garden
Manhattan location, details to be announced

She'll be speaking about her book Wicked Plants
Friday, June 4, at 7:30 pm
Observatory Room
543 Union Street
Brooklyn, NY


Jamie Boyer, and Amy Stewart

Comments [13]

Amy from Manhattan

Do slime molds actually make "decisions," or is it a set of tropisms?

Mar. 12 2010 01:54 PM
Douglas Montgomery from Douglaston, NY

How much credence do your guests give to the book "The Secret Lives of Plants", written many years ago? Can plants become attached to caregivers? Sense pain?

Mar. 12 2010 01:53 PM
kp from nj

Amanita muscaria, a mushroom known as the 'fly agaric', lives in association with tree roots as the guest was explaining. The interesting thing about it is that it is both poisonous and psychoactive. The psychoactive compound is excreted in urine at higher concentrations than are found in the mushroom while the poisonous compounds are not. Many cultures are known to drink the urine of people who have consumed the mushroom in order to feel an 'altered state of reality'. My students are always grossed out by this...

Mar. 12 2010 01:51 PM
jk from NYC

Slime molds make decisions? That would explain my old boss. And HE could barely decide what he wanted for breakfast, let alone anything else.

Mar. 12 2010 01:50 PM
matt from brooklyn

the olive trees in the SW are banned because they are invasives, not because of poision. I am a biologist andlived in the SW for 10 years

Mar. 12 2010 01:49 PM

no question, just a story from yrs. ago when Noah Adams was interviewing a man who grew some Japanese mushrooms that sold for $10,000 a pound ; very dry interviewee, serious and at the end , Noah Adams couldn't resist saying, "Mr. Smith, you are sure some fungi "; went right over Mr. Smith's head ; made no comment.

Mar. 12 2010 01:45 PM
Jane from nY

A giant fungus somewhere in the US is now considered to be the largest organism--bigger than the cloned aspen trees.

Mar. 12 2010 01:44 PM
Amy from New Jersey

I'd like to hear more about underground communication between plants. Are we talking about mycorrhizae?

Also, if you've seen Avatar, there was a system of communication between living things by hooking into a fiber optic-like network... I'm not sure if the public realizes that this is not such a made-up concept, as mycorrhizal associations are known to facilitate belowground interactions between plants.

Mar. 12 2010 01:44 PM
Norml Fan from Manhattan

Lenny is surprisingly knowledgeable about psychoactive plant material. Dude!

Mar. 12 2010 01:42 PM
db from nyc

One of Michael Pollan's books, "Botany of Desire" addresses some of these interesting plant issues.

Extra credit reading!

Mar. 12 2010 01:41 PM
Mark Dery from Hudson River Valley

In the '70s, the pop-science bestseller THE SECRET LIFE OF PLANTS captured the New Age imagination with the argument that plants are sentient or at least displayed intentionality, after a fashion. Is the book taken seriously these days, among botanists? What are the guests' thoughts on the soundness of the science, in retrospect?

Mar. 12 2010 01:39 PM
hjs from 11211

what about pot coke and cat nip

why would plants make THC for us to smoke? what do they get out of it?

Mar. 12 2010 01:35 PM

Once, while working at a nursery in NYC, I spent quite a long time listening to a utility worker working on the street explain to me how venus fly traps came from outer space because they are native to an area surrounding an asteroid crater in North Carolina. I know a lot about plants and have never bothered to look this up but is this something you've heard?

Mar. 12 2010 01:32 PM

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