Being a highly poisonous plant did not stop cassava, or manioc, of becoming one of the most important crops in the world and the third most important carbohydrates source.
The legendary and famous silphium plant from antiquity and it developed and contributed to the fall of the ancient city of Cyrene, in today's Northern African Coast.
As surprising as it may seem, the habit of chewing gum is almost as old as humanity itself. From many different sources, its purpose seems to transcend the many different cultures where it appeared.
One of todays most popular Christmas symbol the Christmas tree started as a pagan symbol of life.
With more than 500 species native from the tropics Passiflora is mostly known for its beautiful flowers. However, it also has a set of ingenious defenses against its most feared enemies.
Once considered an invention of Satan, it did not take long for coffee to spread all over Europe. From there it took the world and today many cannot live without it. It all started about 600 years ago.
It killed two Roman emperors and was for many the weapon of choice. Adored by some and feared by others, read how the deadly nightshade found its way to the modern world.
It started as an ornamental plant and a source of food, it did not take long for humans to find out about its sedative powers. From a popular and very old Mediterranean crop, opium poppy became global.
Grass pea, Lathyrus sativus, has long been known to humans. It is mostly cultivated as fodder but had also saved many populations from starvation. However it comes with a price.
Cannabis is among the first plants cultivated and selected by humans. Apart from its many uses, names, and reputation, it spread worldwide and became one of the most cultivated plants today.
Before becoming today's most important crop in world, maize had a long and troubled voyage that started centuries ago. It had a dark secret in it that may have inspired one of the most popular novels.
A simple and illustrative experiment to show your kids what DNA looks like. If only Sherlock Holmes knew about it ...
In past considered an oddity, the symbiotic relationship between certain endophytic fungi and their plant hosts seems now to be most common in many species.
Beet is among the oldest plants cultivated by man. However, its use as a sugar source resulted mostly from the decisions of a very famous strategist.
Once considered more valuable than gold, tulips almost ruined a country. Yet, tulips are still one of the most popular plants cultivated today.
Light and water are two of the most important factors that plants need in order to develop. Read about simple experiments and examples to teach kids how plants develop.
Plant biology is often seen by students as boring and complicated. Here we continue to explore more examples of how to teach and motivate school children into plant biology.
Plant biology is often seen by students as boring and complicated. Here are some suggestions with cool examples of how to teach plant biology to kids in younger classes.
Roses are one of the oldest cultivated flowers, being admired for their beauty and fragrance of its flowers, inspiring many forms of art and having many different uses.
Once a very well kept secret, vanilla has become one the most expensive plant products today. It all started about 500 years ago with the arrival of Europeans to the coast of Mexico.
Once considered medicinal wonder, mandrake was also used as a powerful poison. Possibly the source of the oldest anesthetic known to man, today mandrake is still object of popular curiosity.
Nicotiana attenuata, popularly known as coytote tobacco, takes extraordinary measures against herbivory. Fot doing that it faces an intriguing dilemma. Its main pollinator is also its main enemy.
Once a treasure very well kept Aztecs, cacao made a long journey from its native Amazon forest to our cups and cakes. Used as currency in Central America, and served as beverage to Aztec royalty, it was then sweetened by Spaniards who created chocolate as we know it. Not so long after the world...
Lichens are found in all continents and climates with the most diverse colours and shapes. They are composite organisms formed by a fungus and one or several photosynthetic partners that can be unicellular green algae or cyanobacteria. Although unoticed to most people, lichens have often been used...
Dragon's blood was often used to name natural dyes obtained from very different sources. Its use is very old and its origin remained secret for many decades. The resin from dragon trees was its most common source.
Archil licken, Rocella tinctoria, is the main source of orcein, the highly praised red dye of the sixteen century. Its trade was highly regulated and its importance was such that it contributed to the human settlement in the Azores archipelago, in the Atlantic.
The use of natural dyes by humans goes back as far as the Neolithic era. Many of the sources for natural dyes used on textiles were plants. The extraction and fixation of dyes were of considerable economic importance in many places throughout the world. Here we start a series of hubs dedicated to...
Fungi are mostly known for their fundamental role in the decomposition of organic matter. However, nitrogen is also essential to their life and to some fungi predation has become the most efficient way of getting it. Far from the idyllic image of a colourful mushroom sitting on the forest soil,...
Bladderworts are the most evolved of all carnivorous plants and comprise the biggest group in terms of species. They have a worldwide distribution in many different environments, all involving water as a major component. Most are terrestrial, but there are many aquatic and epiphytic species that...
Sugar has long been known to man. However, sugar as we know it was only made around 400 AD and its industrialization occured much later in the sixteenth century. Here is a description of its long and troubled voyage from 8000 BC to our tables. Once considered for medicinal use only it is now part...
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) was one of the most valuable spices and throughout many centuries its origin remained unknown in the West. This has only changed with the advent of maritime voyages initiated by the Portuguese. Since then it spread out worldwide and today is harvested in many places...
Plants were classified on the basis of a few key features until the seventeenth century, when John Ray developed the first classification based on multiple features. Ray's c1assification showed natural relationships among plants. Linnaeus is credited with the first use of the binomial system of...
The earliest classifications of plants were primarily utilitarian classifications: that is, they included mostly medicinal or other useful plants. Therefore, they were limited to human experience and to their importance in ancient human societies.
Cinnamon, the popular and indispensable sweetener that some people like to put in their coffee, has long been known to man. However, its true source and nature were as mysterious as fascinating that led many to use the most incredible explanations. Here is the story of the quest of such spice once...
The Age of Discovery, initiated in the fifteen century, introduced many plant species to many different regions throughout the world. Some plant species changed society and economy dramatically and their effects are still present. Here is the story of one of them that started as miraculous remedy,...
Many of our most useful, tasteful and favourite food and plants have made a long journey to reach our tables at home. That journey began long ago and some of those plants changed European and Asian societies dramatically. Know more about how and why it all began and find out how England invented...
In the dark forests of Southeast Asia lies one of the rarest and very unusual plant. Meet Rhizanthes, an elusive and notorious baby killer, also famous for deceiving its visitors.
It took about 100 years to prove Darwin's predictions about the carnivorus nature of Genlisea genus. Today they have become popular pet plants among the carnivorous plants fans who called them corkscrew plants. Know more about its elusive and mysterious behaviour.
Parasitic plants are a diverse group of plants that adpated and specialized in obtaining water and nutrients from other plants. They are distributed worldwide and produce some of the more amazing structures in the plant world. They can be a serious menace to some economically important crops but...
In 1875, Charles Darwin published his work "Insectivorous Plants" and the world quickly became fascinated by these strange yet amazing plants. Although rare among plant species, carnivorous plants present a diverse range of very successful strategies to catch and diggest their prey efficiently.
Orchids are probably the most popular flowering plant species. They are also the most evolved from all plants. They managed to spread successfully across the world by developing the most complicated relationships with its pollinators. Some of them have mastered the art of deception perfectly.
Apart from being very popular house plants, nepenthes or tropical pitcher plants, as they are more popularly known, have one of most ingenious and effective ways of luring and catching their mineral supply - insects. They are evolved flowering plants native from the tropical Southeast Asia and the...
Garden angelica is a plant native to northern European regions. It was widely used in Medieval Europe as a wonder remedy to treat a great number of conditions including plague. Its wide use lasts until today in herbal medicine, in liqueurs and as flavouring agent.
The Giant Amazon water lily, Victoria amazonica, was first observed in the beginning of the nineteen century. It soon became popular and fascinating to European eyes. Its life is no less amazing and Victoria amazonica giant leaves inspired the construction of one of London's biggest attactions -...
In a previous hub I talked about the origin, main uses and economic importance of resin and its derivative products. Now I will describe the main sources of natural resin and the reasons behind their extraction and production. Although pine resin accounts for more than 90% of the world resin...
The origin and the very different uses of resin and its economic importance from ancient times until today.
If you are a chocolate fan, you will most certainly enjoy this delicious chocolate cake. Try out the Portuguese brigadeiro cake. It's very easy to do.
You don't need to be a chef to try out this most easy yet delicious chocolate cake. That is right, it's easy, fast and most certainly yummy. Backing chocolate cakes has never been so easy. Get your cup ready!
This group of plants, the ant plants, from the genera Hydnophytum and Myrmecodia, found an efficient way of living and surviving under adverse conditions. The reason for that sucess lies on the unusual relation that these plants established with the ants that live within them.
In Mediterranean islands of Sardinia, Corsica and the Balearic islands grows the corpse plant, Helicodiceros muscivorus. If found an unsual yet efficient and smelly way of sucessivly atract blowflies as its main polinators.
In the southwestern Europe lives the Portuguese sundew or dewy pine, Drosophyllum lusitanicum. It is shrub-like carnivorous plant endemic of Portugal, southern Spain and northern Morocco. It is unique in its genus and lives under the most strange conditons for most carnivorous plants.
Although well know, the edible shaggy ink cap, Cropinus comatus, has a unique life strategy. It is an efficient and avid predator of microscopic soil organisms. Only recently has its secret life has been revealed to the world.
Bullhorn Acacia, Acacia cornigera, native of Central America is best known for its symbiotic relationship with a species of ant that lives in it the hollowed-out tree thorns. The ants are famous for defending the tree fearlessly against ravaging insects and animals .
The Australian Christmas tree, Nuytsia floribunda, native of Southwest Australia, is a extraordinary plant. It is the biggest parasitic plant in the world with an ingenious and efficient way of surving.
The giant polypore fungus and its partnership with old trees.
The rise and fall of the Pará rubber tree, the natural source of rubber. The epic journey of rubber that started over 3000 years ago.
The story of the Maltese mushroom, on how it rose to prominece and fade away. The Maltese mushroom is not a fungus but a strange and bizarre parasitic plant.
The story of the rise and fall of Brazilwood. How it created and shaped the form of a new country.
The unusual, old and rare pines that exist along the central Portuguese Atlantic coast.
The exraordinary life of a very unusual udnderground orchid, living only in Australia.
Strangler figs and their strange yet efficient strategy of survival.
For all cream fans here is a different cream pie. Try this Portuguese cream pie out and you will want to reapeat it. Very easy to do and even faster to eat.
The strange and unusual inhabitant of the Namib desert Welwitschia mirabilis.
Mosntera deliciosa, Swiss cheese plant as it is most commonly known, has much more than its alien look.