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In Defense of Plants Podcast

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Plants are everything. They are also incredibly interesting. From the smallest duckweed to the tallest redwood, the botanical world is full of wonder. Join my friends and I for a podcast celebrating everything botany.

Plants are everything. They are also incredibly interesting. From the smallest duckweed to the tallest redwood, the botanical world is full of wonder. Join my friends and I for a podcast celebrating everything botany.
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Plants are everything. They are also incredibly interesting. From the smallest duckweed to the tallest redwood, the botanical world is full of wonder. Join my friends and I for a podcast celebrating everything botany.




Ep. 222 - Celebrating Botanical Nerdom

My guest today is head over heels for plants and wants to do everything she can to get more people on board the botany train. Sandy Masuo is an author, editor, and all around plant nut. She hosts many workshops and talks on a variety of plant-related topics but her latest obsession are succulents. From the up's and down's of common names to the implications for conservation, Sandy's passion for the botanical world is inspiring. Join us for a fun and interesting discussion about our mutual...


Ep. 221 - Galls Gone Wild!

Galls are everywhere once you start to look for them. These often elaborate plant growths are induced by a variety of organisms from insects to fungi and they are absolutely fascinating to study. Joining us to talk about the wild world of galls is Morton Arboretum's Forest Pest Outreach Coordinator, Tricia Bethke. Tricia spends a lot of time talking about plant health and galls are all part of the greater ecological picture. Join is for a mind blowing dive into the biology and ecology of...


Ep. 220 - The Sex Lives of Yuccas

Yuccas are cool plants just based on appearances but their pollination ecology is downright fascinating. All members of the genus Yucca rely on moths for pollination and the moths themselves could not exist if it wasn't for Yucca flowers. What started as a parasitic relationship has since evolved into an extremely specific mutualism. Join Syracuse University's Dr. Kari Segraves and I as we discuss her research on this system and learn what Yucca pollination can teach us about evolutionary...


Ep. 219 - Conifer Country

Today we celebrate conifers with educator, author, and ecologist, Michael Kauffmann. Michael fell in love with conifers early on and has been doing everything he can to share this passion with the rest of the world, from writing conifer books to creating a conifer-themed trail system in the Klamath Mountains. Learn how Michael and others are working hard to map rare conifers, study the effects of climate change, and hopefully conserve their diversity for future generations. Join us as we...


Ep. 218 - The Cactoblastis Conundrum

Today we are talking about an invasive species issue that may spell disaster for some cacti in North America. The cactus moth (Cactoblastis cactorum) originated in South America but has been moved all around the world as a form of biocontrol for invasive prickly pear cacti (Opuntia spp.). Thanks to some introductions into the Caribbean, it has since found its way to southern North America where it was the potential to seriously upset the balance for native prickly pear. This could be bad...


Ep. 217 - The Plight of Peyote

Peyote or Lophophora williamsii is a small, spineless cactus native to southern North America. Thanks to some very potent alkaloids in its tissues, peyote has managed to capture the minds of humans for millennia. Today its numbers are declining at an alarming rate. Habitat destruction and rampant poaching are taking a serious toll on this species. Joining us to talk about all of the sociopolitical issues surrounding peyote decline is Keeper Trout, an independent scholar and self-proclaimed...


Ep. 216 - Dying Bees, Wasp Venom, and other Strange Floral Scents

Today we focus on a group of plants whose floral morphology and chemistry are sure to blow your mind. Join Dr. Anne Heiduk and me as we discuss the bizarre chemical ecology of Ceropegia. Members of this genus have gained a lot of popularity as houseplants in recent years but we still know very little about how they behave in the wild. From dying bees and wasp venom, to rotting meat and possibly even fly sex pheromones, there seems to be no end to how much trickery Ceropegia have evolved to...


Ep. 215 - Public Gardens & Native Plants

Today is all about a very special garden at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. This garden was designed with many uses in mind and it is a wonderful success. Joining us to talk about what goes in to creating and maintaining a garden like this is the director of the Nature Gardens and the Live Animal Programs, Carol Bornstein. Carol is a life long lover of plants and her garden expertise is now being focused on making this garden a place for learning, play, science, and...


Ep. 214 - Unraveling the Mysteries of Baja's Botanical Bounty: A Conservation Story

The Baja Peninsula is home to a bewildering diversity of plant species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. Despite all of its botanical treasures, we are only just beginning to understand the biogeographical nuances of this small spit of land. That is where people like Dr. Sula Vanderplank come in. A freelance botanist by trade, Dr. Vanderplank has recently been lending her talents to finding, describing, and conserving the plants that call Baja home. Of course, such efforts...


Ep. 213 - Buzzing Bees and the Floral Microbiome

We tend to view pollination as an altruistic blending of plant and animal behavior but altruistic it is not. Both plants and their pollinators are trying to get as much as they can out of the relationship while giving as little in return as possible. What really blows my mind is just how much we still have yet to learn about this vital ecological process. That is where scientists like Dr. Avery Russell come in. Dr. Russell specializes in pollinator behavior in the context of the various...


Ep. 212 - Monkeyflower Extravaganza!

When Dr. Naomi Fraga started volunteering at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden herbarium, little did she know it would evolve into a total love affair with botanical diversity. Since that time, she has carved out an incredible niche with her work on moneyflowers (Phrymaceae). These charismatic plants offer so much for the curious minds. Join us as we discuss their diversity, taxonomy, and conservation. Along the way you will quickly realize just how much these plants have to teach us. This...


Ep. 211 - The Botanical Treasures of Steppes

For Mike Bone, propagating and growing plants is not just a hobby or a job, it's a way of life. Mike is the curator of the steppe collections at the Denver Botanic Gardens and his love affair with these plants rings true in everything he does. Steppes are important ecosystems, both ecological and culturally and yet they are all too often overlooked. As you will hear, Mike's work is about more than just putting pretty plants on display. It is also about conservation and education. Mike's...


Ep. 210 - Pitcher Plants: A World Unto Themselves

In this episode we are taking a deep dive into the world of pitcher plant ecology, evolution, and conservation. Joining us from the Atlanta Botanical Garden is conservation scientist Dr. Jess Stephens to talk to us about her work on Sarracenia. The North American pitcher plants are worlds unto themselves and support an incredible ecosystem that we are only just beginning to understand. This episode was produced in part by Cat, Catherine, Brandon, Hall, Vegreville Creek and Wetlands Fund,...


Ep. 209 - Invasion of the Cattails

What wetland scene would be complete without a few cattails? The genus Typha is synonymous with wetlands yet as you will hear in this episode, we know so little about them. Joining us is Dr. Pam Geddes from Northeastern Illinois University to talk to us about her work on cattail invasion ecology. What started as a question about ecosystem function and monocultures has morphed into an exploration that involves asking questions like "how do we define a species?" Settle in and learn about the...


Ep. 208 - Saving Florida's Native Plants

"Protecting species takes a village" says Juliet Rynear, executive director of the Florida Native Plant Society. This wonderful organization not only celebrates Florida's bewildering diversity of native flora, they also work extremely hard to protect and conserve these plants. As you can imaging, this is not easy to do in a state whose population continues to grow. Saving Florida's native plants requires a dynamic and collaborative approach that involves bringing as many people to the table...


Ep. 207 - Into the Rooting Zone: Why Soil Carbon Matters

Grab your shovels because today we are heading underground to talk about soils. Joining us on this adventure is my friend and labmate Ron Salemme. Ron studies soil carbon cycling in the context of invasive plants and prescribed fire. In doing so, he works at the interface between plants and the soil environment where we are only just beginning to understand some of the most important processes on our planet. From dying microbes to plant exudates, Ron's work is helping us form a more complete...


Ep. 206 - Lovely Louisiana Botany

Join the wonderful Sara Johnson and me as we reminisce about our recent botanical adventures in Louisiana. Inspired by the possibility of meeting one of North America's rarest iris species, we headed down to the Gulf Coast to take in the sights as well as some warm weather. Along the way we explored cypress/tupelo swamps, hiked long leaf pine savannas, and came face to face with a few gators. Louisiana is home to some incredible plant life and we were very fortunate to meet some of them....


Ep. 205 - Mad About Manzanitas

Today we are taking a deeper look at the most diverse woody plant lineage in western North America. I am of course talking about the manzanitas (Arctostaphylos spp.). Joining us is San Francisco State Professor Dr. Tom Parker who has devoted much of his career to uncovering the ecology and evolution of the manzanita lineage. From mutualistic relationships with rodents and fungi to their dependence on fire, you will soon find that manzanitas play an important role in the ecology of...


Ep. 204 - Asteraceae Addiction

The Aster family has nearly conquered the planet. It is one of the most diverse plant lineages on Earth and yet so many of us just pass them by without much of a thought. At least part of the reason may be the fact that composites can be difficult to identify. However, none of this has stopped my guest Joey Santore from taking a deep dive into the world of asters. What started as mostly curiosity with a hint of intimidation has since blossomed into a full on addiction with trying to get his...


Ep. 203 - Oaks: Insights into Evolution & Ecology

Oaks are some of the most charismatic trees on the planet. They are major players in the biosphere when it comes to their ecological impact. They also have a lot to teach us from a scientific perspective. Joining us in this episode is plant physiological and evolutionary ecologist Dr. Jeannine Cavender-Bares. Her career in science has focused heavily on oaks both from an ecological and evolutionary perspective. From the shape of their leaves to their role in carbon sequestration, Dr....