• Question: what is your favourite plant?

    Asked by anon-349301 on 6 Mar 2023. This question was also asked by anon-349316, anon-359690, anon-356041, anon-359331, anon-358221.
    • Photo: Sam Mugford

      Sam Mugford answered on 6 Mar 2023:

      My current favourite plant is one i read about last year, the chameleon vine (or Boquila trifoliolata). It was discovered in the jungles of south America only about 15 years ago. Like it’s namesake it is capable of mimicking its surroundings, so perhaps it’s not surprising that it wasn’t discovered earlier, it’s pretty good at hiding.

      Boquila is a vine that climbs up other plants, and what really makes this plant amazing is that it copies the shapes of the leaves of the plant that it’s climbing up. When I first read that it totally blew my mind, how does a plant know what shape the leaves on another plant are? Plants can’t see, or can they? And how do they know to use this information and change the shape of their own leaves? Plants can’t think? Or can they? No they can’t.

      Working on these questions is not part of my job, but I am interested and I managed to find a garden centre in the UK that could sell me a chameleon vine, but at the moment it is on my windowsill looking a little bit sad. One day I hope to do some experiments with it.

      You can read a bit more about Boquila here https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/the-sneaky-life-of-the-worlds-most-mysterious-plant

    • Photo: Phil Howell

      Phil Howell answered on 7 Mar 2023:

      I’m a big fan of oak trees. They grow from their seeds (acorns) which sit in beautiful little cups when they fall from the tress in the autumn. They have fun leaves with wavy edges that turn a nice brown colour in the autumn. Oak trees support hundreds of different species of bugs, birds and animals. Most impressively, they can live for over a thousand years. Imagine planting an acorn today and thinking the tree it grows into might still be there in the year 3023!

    • Photo: Alison Tidy

      Alison Tidy answered on 8 Mar 2023:

      I really love the venus fly trap, and think it really shows the diversity within the plants how different they can be, and also demonstrates how plants can ‘think’. If its trigger hair gets triggered once it does not close, if it gets triggered twice but there is a five minutes gap it also doesn’t close. But if it gets triggered twice in a short period (20 seconds) of each other it closes. This is a mechanism to make sure it isn’t set off accidentally but only if there is an insect. This shows that it has a way of ‘counting’ and ‘telling the time’, something we wouldnt think a plant could do but they do it all the time to make sure they stay dormant ‘asleep’ during the winter, to tell when it is time to flower.

      When Do Venus Flytrap Open and Close? Trapping Mechanisms

    • Photo: Laura Vickers

      Laura Vickers answered on 9 Mar 2023:

      I love the sunflower. It is big, bold and beautiful, and coincides with summer, my birthday. It’s also a great example of a process called apical dominance, which is where the main stem grows up and prevents side branches of the stem. It is by far my favourite plant and super easy to grow at home. I love the flower anatomy as well on them, and looking at how the anthers containing the pollen are arranged. Why don’t you try growing some at home this summer?

    • Photo: Ian Adams

      Ian Adams answered on 14 Mar 2023:

      We do a lot of work with potatoes. Probably like chips to much! Particularly work on potato viruses. Potatoes were introduced into Europe from south America and so where the viruses. The viruses are much more diverse in South America but looking at the evolution of the viruses in the rest of the world you can see how events like the Irish Potato famine and the attempts after it to find better potatoes( from south America) lead to increases in virus diversity here. I find it fascinating but important as it means we don’t need to worry to much about importing potatoes from across the world but need to be very careful about importing potatoes from South America. This is probably leading to a change in the law as the old law says that anything from “outside Europe” is bad.

    • Photo: Felipe Becerra

      Felipe Becerra answered on 15 Mar 2023:

      Mimosas! They flower in winter, and in some species leaves rapidly move when touched.

    • Photo: Alexandra Milliken

      Alexandra Milliken answered on 22 Mar 2023:

      I love lithops (also known as living stones). They are succulent plants that look like stones, which barely need any water (often only needing a light mist).

      They are made up of two thick fused leaves, that are fleshy to hold in water (so the plant can survive in dry conditions). From the very top of the leaves a small gap allows flowers to appear. The flowers are daisy-like and yellow and need very little attention to be able to grow and survive.

      To see more about them check out gardeners world: