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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. 190 - A Love Affair With Palms

Mike Knell is completely enthralled by palms. What started with a small collection of plams growing in his office has morphed into a full blown obsession with everything Arecaceae. Mike really hasn't looked back since. He now lives in Hawai'i and is an apprentice at the world renowned Florabunda Palm Nursery working under the tutelage Jeff and Suchin Marcus. What follows is a wonderful discussion about botanical passion and intrigue.This episode was produced in part by Katy Pye, Brandon,...


Ep. 189 - When Palms Grew in Wyoming

Join Dr. Sarah Allen and me as we journey back in time to the Eocene. Earth was a very different planet some 49 million years ago. Though we may recognize some Eocene flora, the combination of various plant lineages would be enough to make your head spin. Earth was experiencing a warming period and the plants had responded accordingly. Tropical species like palms were thriving in places like Wyoming and giant relatives of the redwoods covered much of North America and Asia. What Dr. Allen...


Ep. 188 - On the Origin of Flowering Plants

Despite their dominance on the landscape today, figuring out exactly when flowering plants got their start has been a challenge facing paleobotanists since Darwin's time. This so-called "abominable mystery" is nonetheless fascinating to study and that is exactly what our guest today focuses on. Joining us is Dr. Nan Crystal Arens from Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Her work on angiosperms of the early Cretaceous has given us insights into the evolutionary pressures that may have led to...


Ep. 187 - In Love With Native Plants

My guest today has fallen in love with growing native plants. Joining us is Aubree Keurajian who has just recently started her own native plant nursery in Conneticut called "Ungardening." Aubree wants to share her love of native plants with her community in an attempt to foster a better, more evolved concept of environmental stewardship through gardening. I think it is safe to say that the world needs more people like Aubree. Enjoy this audio celebration of the glory of native plants. This...


Ep. 186 - Being Totally Obsessed With Botany

When Joey Santore went searching for a biological "origin story" of sorts, he stumbled into the world of botany. He hasn't looked back ever since. As a fellow phyto-obsessive personality, Joey is dedicating most of his spare time to not only understanding plant diversity but also sharing his passion for botany with the world. Joey runs probably my favorite Instagram page and his stories are as educational as they are insightful and entertaining. Join us for a...


Ep. 185 - The Importance of Conservation Horticulture

Imagine you are at work and someone comes into your office and throws down a handful of plant cuttings on your desk. They look at you with hopeful concern in their eyes and say "these are cuttings from an endangered plant. There are only 3 left in the wild and this one fell off of a cliff." This is all in a days work for my guest today. Joining us is Ashly Trask, conservation horticulturist and nursery manager for the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai, Hawai'i. For Ashly, what...


Ep. 184 - Fossilized Bryophytes: A Journey Back In Time

The odds of any living material becoming fossilized are extremely rare, especially if that living thing is a moss, liverwort, or hornwort. It does happen, however, and my guest today is dedicating his career to studying and understanding what bryophyte fossils can tell us. Joining us is Alex Bippus, a PhD student at Oregon State and his work is absolutely fascinating. From climate change to evolution, there seems to be no end to the fun of studying bryophyte fossils. This episode was...


Ep. 183 - On Spiny Solanum & SciComm

Today we are joined by someone who is as passionate about doing science as he is with sharing his experiences with the world. Dr. Chris Martine is a true botany nut and his lab has been focusing on understanding the evolution of a group of Australian Solanaceae related to eggplants. We learn how pollinators have played a significant role in the evolution of a peculiar mating system and how that has led to a unique radiation in the genus Solanum. We also explore some of the reasons behind why...


Ep. 182 - City Bee Diversity

As far as native bees are concerned, we still don't know very much. That desperately needs to change as we gain a better understand of the role these wonderful insects play in ecosystem function and health. Luckily there are people like Dr. Rebecca Tonietto. Her work on native bee diversity in urban landscapes is helping to revolutionize our understanding of biodiversity in these human dominated systems. Her work is inspiring to say the least and its something I think everyone needs to...


Ep. 181 - Protecting Alpine Plants in the Adirondacks

The Adirondack Mountains are home to a remarkable diversity of plant species. Situated in northern New York, these mountains are harsh enough that they foster a thriving alpine community. Despite their ability to handle some of the worst weather conditions, alpine plants can be quite sensitive to human traffic. With more and more people flocking to these mountains every year, concern was growing that the alpine ecosystem was going to be trampled right off the mountain tops. Luckily the the...


Ep. 180 - A Mossome Citizen Science Opportunity

My guest today is Dr. Rafa Medina from Augustana College in Rock Island Illinois and he comes to us with a wonderful citizen science opportunity. Dr. Medina is interested in moss evolution and how polyploidy may factor into the equation. To better understand this process, Dr. Medina and his colleagues are hoping that you can provide samples from all over North America and Europe of a common moss affectionately referred to as goblet or bladder moss (Physcomitrium pyriforme). Join in and learn...


Ep. 179 - Demystifying Orchids

Orchids are some of the most popular plants in all of the world. This hyper-diverse plant family captures our imagination like no other. So often, the true lives of orchids are so strange, so bizarre, that it can seem that anything is possible with these plants. This is one of the main reasons why orchids are also subject to a lot of speculation. My guest today is here to talk about why orchids are so mysterious and to set the record straight on a handful of orchid stories. Joining us from...


Ep. 178 - Forest Conservation in Laos

Forest conservation has never been more important, especially in Southeast Asia. Rates of forest loss in this region are unprecedented. Much still remains in places like Laos but without proper regulation, more stands to be lost. Luckily places like the Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden are working hard to ensure that the forests of Laos do not meet the same fate as those in places like Indonesia, Combodia, and Vietnam. Joining us to talk about what Pha Tad Ke is doing to empower the people of...


Ep. 177 - Serpentine Specialists & Their Evolution

My guest today is Shelley Sianta, a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz, and she studies evolution in a group of plants that have specialized on serpentine soils. These may sound like sketchy conditions and indeed they are. Serpentine soils are high in toxic metals and low in precious nutrients. As such, the plants that live there have evolved a variety of coping mechanisms. Its these coping mechanisms that interest Shelley Sianta as they may be at the root of why we see such high rates of endemism...


Ep. 176 - On Pawpaw and Floral Mimicry

The world of floral mimicry really busts open traditional views on pollination. This spectrum of strategies involves things like poop and carrion mimicry, sexual mimicry, and possibly even fruit mimicry. That is where today's guest comes in. Joining us is Dr. Kate Goodrich, a chemical ecologist from Widener University who studies floral chemistry in the context of mimicry. Her system of interest involves pawpaw and other Asimina species, whose flowers take on strange fermented odors. Join us...


Ep. 175 - Conserving Tree Diversity

Today we are joined by Dr. Sean Hoban, a tree conservation biologist at The Morton Aboretum near Chicago. As you can guess by his title, Dr. Hoban specializes in the science of conserving tree diversity. To do this, Dr. Hoban and his colleagues utilize a wide variety of data from fossils to DNA in order to make sound scientific decisions regarding preserving tree diversity into the future. Listen and enjoy as we discuss his work with some of the world's most regal organisms. This episode was...


Ep. 174 - Botanical Chemistry

Plants cannot get up and move. This fact has driven the evolution of plants throughout time leading to a bewildering array of chemical compounds that help them get through life. My guest today is Dr. Lucas Busta who is dedicated to studying and understanding plant chemistry on a deeper level. The realm of plant chemistry is massive but with any luck we will hopefully have inspired some of you to consider it much deeper. This episode was produced in part by Lisa, Liba, Lucas, Mohsin Kazmi...


Ep. 173 - What the Dogbane Family Can Teach Us About Pollination

Pollination is a fascinating phenomenon to ponder. There seems to be as many variations on the subject as there are flowering plant species. Wonder and amazement wait around every corner. My guest today has devoted his career to such investigations. Joining us is University of Northampton professor Dr. Jeff Ollerton who, among other things, studies members of the family Apocynaceae as a model system for the complexities of plant/pollinator interactions. This family of plants contains many...


Ep. 172 - Pinosaur Conservation: An Introduction to the Wollemi Pine

The Wollemi pine is one of the world's rarest trees. These mysterious gymnosperms was unknown to science until 1994. Their discovery made headlines around the globe. My guest today, Dr. Heidi Zimmer, has the distinct honor of working with this wonderful species. Join us for a conversation all about Wollemia nobilis. This episode was produced in part by: Lucas, Mohsin Kazmi Takes Pictures, doeg, Daniel, Clifton, Stephanie, Rachelle, Benjamin, Eli, Rachael, Anthony, Plant By Design, Philip,...


Ep. 171 - Restoring Plants & Saving a Salamander

Habitat destruction is the leading cause of extinction on this planet. Plants = Habitat. There is no way around it. My guest today is Pierson Hill, a biologist at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in Florida. Pierson and his colleagues are working hard at bringing the endangered flatwoods salamander back from the brink of extinction. To do so, they must first restore the longleaf pine habitats it relies on. Such work has turned this amphibian and reptile lover into a plant lover as...