Plant Defenses – myriad methods

Crops, as you may think, commit an excessive amount of power to defending themselves from predators.  We people have a pure bias in the direction of animals, creatures which are like us in that they’re cell and reply to stimulus on a timescale just like ours.  Crops function, with a couple of notable exceptions, on a slower timescale, however this under no circumstances ought to be taken to indicate that they’re any much less interactive vis-a-vis their environment.

Crops react to gentle and darkish, sense gravity, moisture, vitamins, and toxins; some can “really feel” different organisms (Venus fly traps for instance) or “hear” sounds (delicate vegetation).  One factor all organisms should deal with is predators and opponents, and all organisms want defenses in opposition to these threats.  Crops are not any totally different of their wants, however they’re largely motionless, so a few of their defenses are inclined to take a distinct kind than they do in animals.  Surprisingly, their defenses are usually not as totally different from animal defenses as one would possibly count on.  I might break plant defenses into three broad classes: chemical, bodily, and co-optive.

Chemical defenses usually contain toxins of 1 type or one other or pungent aromas.  A few of these we assiduously keep away from, comparable to sure members of the Sumac (Anacardiaceae) household like poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) and poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) because of the allergen urushiol discovered within the sap.  Different vegetation utilizing chemical defenses we devour with nice relish, a lot of our meals and spices, for instance, derive their sturdy flavors from the defenses the plant manufactures to discourage herbivorous predators.  Mints (Lamiaceae), rosemary, cinnamon, peppers, and onions are good instance of widespread meals we devour that make the most of sturdy chemical defenses.  Different chemical defenses we discover leisure and/or medical makes use of for; ephedrine from vegetation within the Ephedra household, THC from Cannibus, and cocaine refined from alkaloids discovered within the coca household (Erythroxylaceae) all have monumental economies reliant on them.

Coca cultivation in Bolivia close to Coroico

Chemical defenses are enormously fascinating and intensely refined, however they’re largely hidden from us till we’re affected by them.  That is a part of the explanation why consuming unfamiliar vegetation is so harmful, there are few good methods to find out if a plant is edible upon first encounter.

Bodily defenses are the obvious to us, particularly after they come within the type of thorns and barbs, however these defenses barely scratch the floor of the varieties of bodily defenses vegetation can make use of.

An impressive but unsubtle defense - Ceiba speciosa in the Bolivian Amazon

A powerful however unsubtle protection – Ceiba speciosa within the Bolivian Amazon

Sharp pokey bits could defend vegetation in opposition to bigger herbivores and chemical substances assist to guard them from bugs or pathogens, however different vegetation themselves might be, if not predatory, at the very least detrimental to massive bushes.  Lianas and different climbing vegetation, epiphytes, parasitic vegetation, and even different massive bushes could should be defended in opposition to.

Strangler fig (Ficus spp.) overwhelming a palm tree's defenses - Bolivia

Strangler fig (Ficus spp.) overwhelming a palm tree’s defenses – Bolivia

The picture above I discover specific fascinating because the palm tree being overwhelmed by the strangler fig normally has an efficient counter to this kind of assault.  Palm bushes and tree ferns each enable their outdated fronds to droop as they age, sheathing the trunk and offering a construction for climbing vegetation to stick to.  Finally these canny vegetation shed their lifeless fronds, and with them the uninvited plant friends which have taken up residence.  Many bushes make use of the same technique, eucalyptus and madrone have easy bark that usually sloughs off in strips.  The mixture of smoothness and shedding makes it troublesome for different vegetation to realize buy.

Strangler fig is a generic time period for all kinds of tropical fig bushes sharing the same life technique.  These are the “matapalo” or killer bushes.  Quite than rising from the bottom and climbing up these bushes co-opt animals to hold their tiny seeds by the cover.  A small portion of those seeds wind up in a spot just like the crotch of a department or a damaged limb the place natural materials has constructed up.  The younger fig sends dangling roots down from the cover in the hunt for vitamins, ultimately reaching the bottom and transitioning from a vine-like life fashion to a extra tree-like life fashion.  Increasingly more ground-seeking tendrils make their method downwards, ultimately ringing the host tree and strangling it.  As this occurs the strangler fig makes use of the unique host as a scaffold and sends its personal cover excessive sufficient to overshadow the unlucky host.  The palm tree within the picture above was beneath a tree the strangler fig took root in and had the misfortune to be attacked from above quite than from under.

Coloration is an oft ignored plant protection, the position of which remains to be being debated.  I don’t imply fruit shade, that’s blatant promoting and animal bribery.  The colour and sample of the leaves and trunk of vegetation could function protection in opposition to predators.

Probably the most acquainted instance of that is variegation in leaves, that’s the white or coloured mottling seen most frequently in decorative vegetation, but in addition often discovered within the wild.

5687433743 38f73704cb o - Plant Defenses – myriad methods

Variegated hibiscus leaf. Supply

Coloration mottling in leaves is commonly a symptom of nutrient deficiency, insect predation, viral an infection, or genetic chimerism (expression of multiple genetic sequence in a single organism).  In a lot of the above instances this means poor well being within the plant, and a plant ill makes for an unappetizing meal.  Some vegetation appear to capitalize on this and mimic the results of assorted varieties of poor well being (eg. false leaf injury and variegation) to trick predators into avoiding what seems to a be an un-nutritious meal(1)(2).  Bark shade, whether or not pure or on account of mutualistic lichen development could also be a predator deterrent as nicely, as lighter colours could make predators extra seen to different predators greater up on the meals chain.

Earlier than transferring on to animal co-option I ought to point out one different technique employed by some vegetation.  Outgrow your predators.  On this case a plant allocates few assets to protection and focuses on development and/or copy.  Balsa bushes observe this technique, they develop astoundingly quickly and produce copious numbers of seeds.  They aren’t lengthy lived and have few toxins, consequently they’re topic to immense quantities of predation from a variety of species.  A few of these, comparable to tapirs, they keep away from by rising out of their attain.  Others are extra problematic.  I noticed a 30 foot tall younger balsa tree utterly stripped of leaves by leaf cutter ants in lower than two days.

Basla saplings - Bolivia

Basla saplings – Bolivia

Probably the most fascinating of the plant defenses, to my thoughts, is animal co-option for protection.  Ants are in all probability the animal most frequently co-opted by vegetation.  We don’t usually consider vegetation as being those to control animals, however that’s extra a mirrored image of our animal bias than of the true nature of issues.  Crops are extremely manipulative, of their sluggish method.  Like many efficient manipulators, they accomplish their ends by way of bribes (and in a couple of instances by outright lies – orchids tricking bees into attempting to mate with the flowers is a basic instance of vegetative duplicity).  Ants are employed as guards by a large number of plant species.

Once I first arrived within the Amazon I recall considering to myself, “Cool, I hope I get to see a few of the ant/plant mutualism.”  The primary plant I checked out carefully was a standard understory shrub within the widespread and various Melastomataceae household.

Melastomataceae with ant sheltering nodes at the base of the leaves - Peru

Melastomataceae with ant sheltering nodes on the base of the leaves – Peru

On the base of every leaf there was a hole, swollen node with two small openings on the underside.  Tiny ants occupied these nodes and would rush out to defend the plant when it was bumped.  It is a surprisingly efficient protection in opposition to herbivores of all kinds, insect and mammalian.  All by the Amazon (and elsewhere on this planet) ants and vegetation have banded collectively.  I discovered arboreal ferns with hole rootballs harboring and colonies, tall cecropia and smoke bushes (“palo diablo” – satan bushes) with hole trunks harboring huge numbers of fierce and painful hearth ants, and evocative single species plant stands referred to as Chullachaqui gardens.

In accordance with legend the Chullachaqui is a forest guardian spirit that retains small monoculture backyard plots scattered right here and there within the forest.  One ought to be cautious coming into these areas, ask permission first, and watch out to not injury any of the vegetation the Chullachaqui grows.  That is good recommendation because the Chullachaqui gardens are house to a species of ant that lives underground and kills all of the vegetation rising on the floor apart from one species.  Animals that interlope are attacked additionally attacked and the chunk and sting of the ant is painful because it comprises formic acid.

One of many neatest ant-plant interactions comes within the type of hanging “ant gardens”.

Ant garden in Peru with Monstera spp.

Ant backyard in Peru with Monstera spp.

The dense cluster of vegetation within the above picture is rising from an arboreal ant hive.  Sure vegetation produce seeds with fatty nodules on them that ants eat.  Ants accumulate the seeds and retailer them of their hives, clipping the edible parts off as wanted.  A number of the sees sprout and ship their roots into the wealthy materials of the ant hive, reinforcing it and defending it from rain and predators as they develop.  These hanging ant gardens are discovered all through the tropics.

Ant-plant interactions are usually not restricted to the tropics.  Some trillium species bribe ants with meals to hold their seeds to good rising areas and elderberries in sure parts of North America hold a protecting coterie of ants close by by bribing them with sugar produces from nectaries grown particularly for the ants.

Co-opting an animal could be probably the most refined of plant methods for its subtly, specificity, and effectivity.  Power value is on the root of all these methods.  A plant solely has as a lot power as it could possibly accumulate from the solar and soil vitamins.  It should steadiness its power use amongst development, copy, and protection.  Each protection a plant employs lessens the quantity of power it could possibly commit to development and copy.  Combining forces with different species can present a comparatively low-cost method for a plant to realize an aggressive, cell, multi-pronged protection power.  Ants, for instance defend their plant hosts with each bodily damaging assaults and with chemical substances.  That’s a two-for-one protection with an added bonus of fast deployment for the comparatively minimal funding of a house or some meals.

People could be mammal vegetation have skilled greatest.


A be aware in regards to the pictures and movie vs digital within the discipline:

These images (aside from the hibiscus leaf which isn’t mine) have been taken in 2005 with a nicely used and abused Canon AE1 with a 50mm 1.4 lens and scanned from the negatives by the growing kiosks in Peru and Bolivia.  The standard of pictures displays each the environmental stresses placed on the digital camera and movie and the irregular scanning high quality.

For lengthy durations of time within the discipline I nonetheless suppose that movie is the higher possibility.  I used to be within the jungle for months at a time, generally in locations with no energy (20+ days mountaineering and on a raft in Bolivia for instance) and in sizzling, humid situations with frequent thundering downpours and rampant mildew development.  I really like the digital digital camera I take advantage of now, however it might have been utterly unusable for almost all of the time I spent in South America.

Movie cameras do nonetheless have their place.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.