CURiO: Curiously Interesting Facts - Horticulture Edition
Do you love nature documentaries? Are you the reigning champ at the local Trivia Night? Do you own every copy of Ripley’s Believe It or Not? Well then we’ll take Horticulture for 500, Alex. Here are some fun facts to impress your friends or maybe just enjoy a good head scratch over.
- The first recorded use of greenhouses was during the reign of Emperor Tiberius of Rome (ruled 14AD to 37AD). Raised beds on wheels were moved outside on warm days and moved inside on wintery days, under frames with panes of transparent stone (such as mica or lapis specularis) to provide the Emperor with his favorite muskmelons and cucumbers every day throughout the year.
- While potatoes are considered a staple of US and European diets, they are actually native to the highlands of South America (modern day Peru) and were only introduced to Europe in the late 1500s.
- The taxonomical family Solanaceae is responsible for deadly poisonous nightshades. And surprise! It also produces tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and eggplants. Don’t believe me? Go Google the porcupine tomato and try to tell me they aren’t related.
- The world’s oldest living tree is Methuselah, a bristlecone pine in California’s White Mountains. It is over 4800 years old, and its location is a protected secret of park services.
- Plants were in space before people were. On Sputnik 5, the Russian rocket that carried Cosmonaut dogs Spelka and Belka, seeds and Tradescantia plants were taken into space in August 1960. Not only that, but in 1979 Cosmonauts were growing flax, tulips and kalanchoes on Salyut 6. The first flower to bloom in space was in 1982: Arabidopsis aka rockcress, a member of the mustard family.
- If Batman and Poison Ivy ever had a kid together, it would be Tacca chantrieri, the black bat flower. The fruit is even shaped like upside-down sleeping bats. Spoiler alert: it’s a little creepy.
- Remember Christmas tinsel? It originated from a German tale in which the spider web that covered a poor woman’s Christmas tree was magically changed into threads of gold and silver. Hence, it is common practice to have tinsel, and at least 1 spider ornament on your Christmas tree.
- When attacked by leaf miners, peas will release a compound ((Z)-3-hexenol) that attracts wasps which will feed on the leaf miners, thereby protecting themselves and the other plants around them.
- Plants don’t have anything like eardrums or nerves that “hear” sound. However scientists speculate that a plant’s response to sound is more like a physical response to touch. The same way you can feel heavy bass booming in your chest, plants may be able to sense sound as a wave. Research as how plants are able to do this is still ongoing, so for now, keep playing music for your green friends (my ferns like Jimmy Buffet).
Now You Know…
Plants are awesome. From Ancient Rome to plans for settling on Mars, plants are as integral to mankind as, well, other people. And as a person, if you know any cool curios or fun facts about plants, then drop some knowledge on us! Drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest! Puns, plant jokes and tribute pennies encouraged.