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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. 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 strange gymnosperms had gone 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 conservation 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...


Ep. 170 - Saving an Orchid Collection & Starting a Botanical Garden

It is no small task to save a plant collection and start a Botanical Garden from scratch but that is exactly what my guest today is doing. Joining us is expert horticulturist Michael Benedito to talk about saving a world renowned Stanhopea collection and starting his own botanical garden. Michael is a true inspiration to all plant growers and this is one conversation you don't want to miss.This episode was produced in part by: Mohsin, doeg, Daniel, Clifton, Stephanie, Rachelle, Benjamin,...


Ep. 169 - Herbaria Are Data Gold Mines

Phenology, population size, distribution, genetic diversity - these are just some of the data locked up in herbaria around the globe. My guest today is Katelin Pearson and she has been working hard on making sure herbarium data are as available as they can be to everyone from scientists to artists, and even the general public. As you will hear, we herbaria succeed, so do the plants they help understand. This episode was produced in part by: Mohsin, doeg, Clifton, Stephanie, Rachelle,...


Ep. 168 - Orchid Conservation at Mt. Cuba Center

Today we are joined by botanist and orchid fanatic Adrienne Bozic to talk about how she turned a life long obsession with orchids into a career in trying to protect them. Mt Cuba Center is helping her do just that. Together with a team of citizen scientists, Mt. Cuba Center's orchid conservation efforts are serving as a model for other organizations and communities to work together to protect North America's terrestrial orchid species. This episode was produced in part by: Clifton,...


Ep. 167 - Trial Gardens at Mt. Cuba Center

Nativars are frequently seen as unnatural mutant versions of their wild counterparts whose use overlooks the whole point of natives in the first place. Take, for instance, the popularity of double flowered nativars. These plants have been selected for an over-production of sepals and petals that can be so dense that they preclude visitation by pollinators. It would seem that nativars are a slippery slope to yet another sterile landscape incapable of supporting biodiversity. However,...


Ep. 166 - Ants As Seed Dispersers a.k.a. The Myrmecochory Episode!

Ants are everywhere yet unless they find their way into our homes, we don't give them much thought. This episode is all about a group of ants that are crucial to the health of myriad plants around the globe. I am, of course, talking about the seed-dispersing ants. Joining us for this discussion is Dr. Robert Warren, a professor at SUNY Buffalo State, who studies the ecology of a handful of these wonderful ants and the plants they interact with. This episode was produced in part by...


Ep. 165 - Cacti Explorer

Today we are joined by cacti explorer Stefan Burger who has been exploring South America in search of its wonderful cactus species. His goal is to find, photograph, and share with the world the beauty and wonder of this amazing family of succulent plants. Please join us for a fascinating discussion about botanical passion and discovery. This episode was produced in part by Rachael, Stephanie, Philip, Henriette, Letícia, Ron, Tim, Carl, Lisa, Anthony, Susanna, Homestead Brooklyn, Brodie,...


Ep. 164 - Carnivorous Plants: Their Physiology, Ecology, and Evolution

Today we are joined by Dr. Aaron Ellison to talk about a new book called "Carnivorous Plants: Physiology, Ecology, and Evolution." Among other things, Dr. Ellison has spent much of his career learning about what the organisms living within pitcher plants can teach us about big picture ecological topics. Now, together with a team of collaborators, Dr.'s Ellison and Adamec have put together a modern synthesis about the myriad carnivorous plants with which we share this planet. This is a...


Ep. 163 - A Lifetime With Gesneriads

There is so much more to The Gesneriad family than African violets. It is a relatively diverse group of plants and many species make great houseplants. My guest today is Jay Sespico and he is in love with Gesneriads and wants to share that love with you. Jay has been growing genre such as Gesneria, Kohleria, Nautilocalyx, Nematanthus, Primulina, and Sinningia for years and has an intimate knowledge of their biology. He is also an active member of The Gesneriad Society, an international...


Ep. 162 - Of Dinosaurs and Plants

Who hasn't marveled at the fossilized remains of a dinosaur? Though their lineage lives on today in the form of birds, historically, dinosaurs were once far more diverse. Needless to say, they shaped the world around them just as much as the world shaped them, and this certainly included interactions with plants. Plant eating dinosaurs were some of the largest organisms to ever walk this earth and my guest today studies exactly that. Join the Natural History Museum in London's Dr Paul...


Ep. 161 - Bucket Orchids, Ant Nests, and Fragrance-Collecting Bees

Our guest today is Dr. Günter Gerlach from the Botanical Garden Munich to discuss a group of orchids in the genus Coryanthes. These bizarre orchids grow only in arboreal ant nests from Mexico into South America. If that wasn't cool enough, Coryanthes flowers produce a large, water-filled bucket that traps fragrance-collecting bees, forcing them into pollinating the orchid. We also hear from my good friend and graphic designer, Thom Pirson, about the new In Defense of Plants stickers that...


Ep. 160 - Dalechampia, the Non-Model, Model System

Today we are focusing on a strange genus of plants in the family Euphorbiaceae. The Dalechampia can be found growing in tropical forests throughout much of the world. Joining us is Dr. Scott Armbruster, who has spent his entire academic career using Dalechampia as what he likes to call "a non-mode, model system" for studying the evolutionary ecology of pollinator syndromes. Dalechampia are largely pollinated by resin- and fragrance-collecting bees. Join us for a fascinating dive into this...


Ep. 159 - An Orchid That Mimics Aphids?

My guest today is Melissa Díaz-Morales from the Jardín Botánico Lankester in Costa Rica and her work focuses on orchid pollination. Orchids are known for their deceitful pollination syndromes and Melissa has spent the last few years working on a lady slipper orchid known as Phragmipedium longifolium. This flowers of this beautiful orchid appear to be mimicking aphid infestations. Why is that? Listen and find out ;) This episode was produced in part by Letícia, Ron, Tim, Carl, Lisa,...


Ep. 158 - Pollination of Neotropical Aroids: A New Look At Some Old Friends

Join University of Vienna PhD student Florian Etl for an in depth look at a pollination system involving some of our most beloved houseplants. Florian focuses on genera like Philodendron, Anthurium, Dieffenbachia, and Spathiphyllum to shine light on how the plants manage to reproduce in the hyper diverse rainforests of Costa Rica. This is not easy work by any means but Florian and his colleagues are finding out new and wonderful things about the natural world. This is one episode you do...


Ep. 157 - Plants In Space

If humanity has a future in space travel, plants are going to play a significant role. That is why people like Dr. Rob Ferl have dedicated their career to understanding how plants respond to growing up there. Few things are more terrestrial than a plant, which makes growing these organisms in zero gravity so incredibly fascinating. Join us for a wonderful discussion about growing plants in space. This episode was produced in part by Letícia, Ron, Tim, Carl, Lisa, Susanna, Homestead...


Ep. 156 - Botanizing a Lowland Tropical Rainforest in Costa Rica

Join Dr. Mark Whitten and me as we explore a lowland tropical forest in Costa Rica. I have never experienced such a warm, humid forest environment before and I met so many new and familiar plant species along the way. This is a great one for the senses as we immerse ourselves in the sights and sounds of the understory. This episode was produced in part by Letícia, Ron, Tim, Carl, Lisa, Susanna, Homestead Brooklyn, Daniella, Brodie, Kevin, Katherina, Sami & Sven, Sophia, Plant by Design,...


Ep. 155 - Understanding Floral Chemistry

For Dr. Rob Raguso, the phrase "stop and smell the roses" takes on a whole new meaning. Dr. Raguso studies the intricate world of floral chemistry. You are undoubtedly familiar with some of the wonderful odors flowers produce but such tantalizing smells are only the beginning. The world of floral chemistry is quite remarkable and the function of the myriad substances they produce go much deeper than simply pollination. This conversation will put a whole new spin on your appreciation of...


Ep. 154 - The Columnar Cacti Trifecta: My First Sonoran Experience

The Columnar Trifecta: the saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), the organ pipe (Stenocereus thurberi) and the senita (Pachycereus schottii) - Organ Pipe National Monument is the only place in the US where you can see these three cacti growing in sympatry in the wild. The organ pipe and the senita are largely Mexican cacti that barely make their way into southern Arizona. Join the wonderful Sara Johnson and me as we explore the Sonoran Desert for the first time in search of these wonderful...