Blog search results for Tag: trees

Sustainability & Environment

The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) is a metallic green beetle from Asia that is wiping out trees across the eastern US. First detected in Michigan in 2002, the pest is spreading rapidly and has killed billions of ash trees, with seven out of nine ash trees in North America threatened by this newcomer.

tree in eastern US

This is only the latest in a litany of exotics to ravage American forests. Sixty-two high-impact insect species and a dozen pathogens have arrived since the 1600′s. Only two were detected before 1860.

 The emerald ash borer

The emerald ash borer. Image; Wikimedia Commons

Increased global trade and travel, along with climate change and warmer winters, are all fueling the problem. And the devastation has pushed scientists and foresters to look towards biotechnology for a remedy.

‘Almost every day there appears to be a new forest pest and some of these are quite devastating,’ says tree geneticist Jeanne Romero-Severson at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, US. 

‘Biotech approaches such as transgenic technology and CRISPR gene editing could be valuable tools in saving specific species.’

 forest

These biotech solutions look sexier to funders, and policymakers, and that is where the resources go. But in many ways, it is a dead end if you don’t have a foundational breeding programme to feed into,’ warns DiFazio, a plant geneticist at West Virginia University, US.

A technology like CRISPR for gene editing is fast and powerful, but mostly it is used in lab organisms where much is known about their genetics. Without deep knowledge of a tree’s genome, CRISPR will be far less useful.

 CRISPR

CRISPR is a gene editing tool that first came to prominence in the 1990′s and is considered one of the most disruptive technologies in modern medicine.

Powell, a plant scientist at the State University of New York (SUNY), US acknowledges that ‘the biggest thing is to the get the public onboard; a lot of people are afraid of genetic engineering. 

Surveys suggest that knowledge about genetic engineering technology, as well as about threats to forest health, is fairly low amongst the general public. Given these deficits, ‘public opinion might be vulnerable to changes,’ notes Delborne.


Sustainability & Environment

At the SCI HQ in Belgrave Square, London, we have curated a beautiful garden filled with plants that represent our technical and regional interest groups. Each of these plants has a scientific significance. On World Wildlife Day, we take a look at how some of our plants are doing in March.

 Cyclamen hederifolium

Cyclamen hederifolium - the ivy-leaved cyclamen. Image: SCI

Cyclamen hederifolium is included in the SCIence garden to represent the horticulture group. This beautiful pink flower has a mutualistic relationship with ants, in which the ants carry the seeds far away, ensuring no competition between young plants and the original. 

 Dichroa febrifuga

Dichroa febrifuga - a hydrangea with anti-malarial properties. Image: SCI

Not yet flowering, D. febrifuga is a traditional Chinese herbal medicine that is used for treatment of malaria. It contains the alkaloids febrifugine and isofebrifugine which are thought to be responsible for it’s anti-malaria properties.

 Fatsia japonica

Fatsia japonica - the paper plant. Image: SCI

F. japonica is also known as the glossy-leaved paper plant and is native to Japan, southern Korea and Taiwan. This plant represents our materials group.

 Rosmarinus officinalis

Rosmarinus officinalis aka rosemary - a herb with many uses from culinary to chemical. Image: SCI

Rosemary is a common herb that originates in the Mediterranean. It has many uses, including as a herb for cooking and fragrance. One of it’s more scientific uses is as a supply of lucrative useful phytochemicals such as camphor and rosemarinic acid.

 Prunus mume

Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’ - a Chinese ornamental flower. Image: SCI

The Prunus mume tree is a beautiful ornamental tree that has significance in East Asian culture. It has a wide variety of applications, from medicinal to beverages, and can been seen in many pieces of art. This plant is in the SCIence garden to represent our Chinese Group UK.

 Pieris japonica

Pieris japonica - the Dwarf-Lilly-of-the-Valley-Shrub. Image: SCI

The Pieris japonica ree has Asian origins, and represents our Agrisciences group. The leaves contain diterpenoids which inhibit the activity of feeding pests, such as insects.

 Pulmonaria

Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’ - lungwort. Image: SCI

The lungwort has been used since the Middle Ages as a medicinal herb to treat chest or lung diseases. It is an example of the use of the doctrine of signatures - where doctors believed that if a plant resembled a body, it could be used to treat illness in that body part.

 Euphorbia amygdaloides

Euphorbia amygdaloides - the wood spruce. Image:SCI

Euphorbia amygdaloides is planted to represent our Materials Chemistry group. It has a waxy feel, and has potential to be used as an alternative to latex.

 Erysimum

Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ - a flowering plant in the cabbage family. Image: SCI

The Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ is a member of the cabbage family (Brassicaceae). This plant was used to make the first synthetic dye, Mauvine, when SCI founding member William Perkin discovered in in 1858.