Persea americana: Anachronistic Avocado

Avocado growing in the Reading University tropical glass house. Notice how variable the size of the leaves are and the much lighter colour of the newer growth.

Avocado growing in the Reading University tropical glass house.

If you’ve ever bought an avocado, you’ll know it’s one of those fruits which seems to take forever to ripen. Botanically, the fruit of the avocado is actually a berry with a single (very large) seed. Both of these facts are connected to an interesting evolutionary relationship….



Continue reading

Posted in Crops, Evolution, Mexico, Neotropics, Species, Students | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The bitter sweet story of sugar cane Saccharum officinarum

Cane-inflThe dramatic story of sugar cane is a somber reminder of human greed, exploitation and slave labour. The events continue to unfold today, as sugar cane is implicated in contentious issues such as human health, addiction and fair trade. However, behind the drama is a rather intriguing member of the Poaceae (grass) family, Saccharum officinarum L. that is intimately intertwined with our everyday lives.

Continue reading

Posted in Learning and Teaching, Monocots, Species, Students | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Indicator species – early warning for pest attack

Any IPM plan should incorporate a monitoring scheme that allows the size of a pest population to be guaged, over time. By understanding the state of a population it’s then possible to make more informed decisions about whether to act and how to act.

Not all plant species in the display acted as hosts to pest insects, in fact 26 species never had any pests on them at all. The significance of this is that the species which had the most pests on them can then act as indicators for the state of pest populations in the glasshouse as a whole.

The figure below provides data on how many different plant species were host to pests and at which dates.

number of plants with pest type present

The range of plants on which pests insects were found

Pseudococcus viburni – Glasshouse Mealybug

Mealybugs were on a total of 33 plant species and thrived in the glasshouse during the sample period. Species on which mealybug were found at the highest densities were: Okra  Abelmoschus esculentes, Perennial peanut Arachis glabrata, Coffee Coffea arabica, Tea Camellia sinensis, White lead tree Leuceana leucocephala and Avocado Persea americana.

The flowering heads of Papyrus Cyperus papyrus acted as ideal nesting material for the egg sacs that the glasshouse mealybug produce. Papyrus grow from the pond in the display and the water acts as a physical barrier, preventing pregnant females from reaching the plant. However; one papyrus head in particular dangled in to the white lead tree, providing access for the mealybug.

Trialeurodes vaporariorum – Glasshouse whitefly

I found whitefly on 20 different plant species during sampling. Lantana camara, Chaenostoma cordata and Cuphea ‘Tiny mice’ had the highest densities of all whitefly stages on them and acted as breeding grounds for T. vaporariorum. Interestingly parasitized larval stages were found on these species. I have calculated the percentage of parasitized whitefly to healthy ones and shall post them on the profiles of these plants.

Aphis fabae - Black bean aphid

The two aphid species Aphis fabae and Aulacorthum solani occupied similar plant hosts, however the black bean aphid Aphis fabae was much more abundant and densely populated.

Posted in Integrated Pest Management | Leave a comment

Visitors from Talfourd Avenue go Tropical

On Saturday the 15th of March the Tropical Biodiversity Glasshouse project had the pleasure of hosting families from the Talfourd Avenue group. They kindly agreed to come test our new (and hopefully improved) glasshouse tour, which was designed and created as part of my third year project in ‘teaching, learning and outreach’ and is specifically aimed at children in Key Stage 1 and 2. Continue reading

Posted in Countries, Fish, Hands-on, Interactive, Labelling, Learning and Teaching, Pond, Technology, Water Plants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A natural Frankestein: the orchid hybrid, Epidendrum x obrienianum

Figure 1:Flower of E. obrienianum with yellow crest on the lip

Figure 1:Flower of E. obrienianum with yellow crest on the lip

Humankind has always dreamed of chimeras, the Frankenstein´s monster or flying pigs. All this can actually happen in the plant world!! (although they cannot still fly). Many orchid growers have produced astonishing plants that can fascinate the human eye and make you feel as if you were in paradise. Epidendrum x obrienianum is one of these creatures with feature from multiple origins that can captivate you with its beauty and intriguing nature.

Continue reading

Posted in Americas, Countries, Evolution, Learning and Teaching, Monocots, Students, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ludisia discolor, the foliage plant orchid

The brown, wide leaves of L.discolor

The brown, wide leaves of L.discolor

Ludisia discolor really is an orchid, although if you see it with no flowers, or without a label, you could be forgiven for thinking it wasn’t. Assuming it isn’t an orchid is very understandable, as it grows in soil, unlike most orchids, it appears to have a main stem, unlike the majority of orchids, and its often sold when it’s not in flower, unlike nearly all orchids (from a garden center, at least). What it does have are large brown leaves, with beige veins, which are unlike any other orchids, and unusual compared to any other houseplant.

Continue reading

Posted in Monocots, Species, Students | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Pinguicula laueana – a clever little brute in a pretty scarlet-red suit

Although this plant looks quite innocent and harmless with gorgeous red flowers and small, compact leaved rosettes, it ‘eats’ with great appetite little insects using unique, highly sophisticated and efficient traps. Together with the genera Genlisea and Utricularia, Pinguicula belongs to the Lentibulariaceae, commonly known as the Bladderwort family. All family members are carnivorous plants.

scarlet-red corolla, unusually with two flower on one peduncle

Scarlet-red corolla, an unusually appearance with two flowers on one peduncle

Continue reading

Posted in Carnivorous Plants, Learning and Teaching, Low Nutrient Environments, Mexico, Neotropics, People, Species, Students | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment