Fun Facts about Plants from Your Friendly Botany Major
• Cacti are some of the only plants to photosynthesize from their stems. Their needles are really just modified leaves.
• Avocados are only around because people pollinate and disperse them by hand. The large seed is indigestible to small mammals now. It was originally eaten by giant sloths who would poop them out far away from the parent tree so they can grow. This is called an evolutionary anachronism.
• Banana candy does not taste like bananas because it was designed to taste like the Gros Michel banana which was eaten in the pre-1950s. It was wiped out by a fungus called panama disease. Since bananas are asexual all of them are genetically identical making it easy to wipe them all out at once. However fungus is sexual so it evolves more quickly. This means eventually we may lose the modern banana, the Cavendish, to it as well.
• There are actually three different types of photosynthesis: C3, C4, and CAM. Which type is used depends on the aridness of the environment, and are increasingly more efficient as listed.
• Moss is amazing. The fuzzy part of the moss is called the gametophyte stage and it is haploid meaning it has one set of chromosomes like a sperm or an egg cell in humans. If you look closely, sometimes you will what look like little tiny seeds on stems coming out of the main body. This is the sporophyte stage and it’s diploid, or has two sets of chromosomes, like our body cells. Moss is the oldest type of plant.
• You can usually tell what animal pollinates a plant by the color and shape of its flowers. Red flowers are hardly ever pollinated by bees because bees cannot see red well. Butterfly flowers have long deep centers. Bird pollinated plants can bear weight and are wide and open. Bat pollinated plants usually smell strongly and are darkly colored.
• Almost all American native elms and chestnut trees are extinct because of fungi. Asian chestnut and elm have replaced them, because they are resistant to the strains.
• There is a type of fern that has over 1200 chromosomes. For reference, humans have 46.
• If you shine consistent low level red light on a plant it will grow extremely tall, because red light tells the plant it is being shaded by and competing with other plants. If you shine consistent green light on a plant it will not sprout or die (if already sprouted) because plants absorb red and blue light to use. This is also why plants are green, because the unused green light is reflected back out.
TLDR; Plants are frickin cool and should get as much love as our animal friends.