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Fern sex

Ferns are amazing plants in their beauty alone. They’re even more amazing when you begin to understand how ferns propagate. They have no flowers to entice pollinating insects so … how does a fern have sex?

fern fronts as they open in spring

fern fronds as they open in spring

Gardeners who know and love ferns realize that spores – the brown structures that arise on the undersides of mature fern fronds – are a fern’s reproductive cells. Once mature, these cells leave their parent fern to venture out and multiply. What’s fascinating is how the spores leave the parent plant.

As described in a December 31, 2014 article in the Wonderful Things series in Scientific American, ferns use a technique called cavitation catapult to disperse spores.

The article provides drawings and a video diagram explaining how this process works. But here’s the best part for plant geeks … a video showing actual fern spores being launched by the cavitation catapult process.

This kind of stuff happens in gardens all the time, right under our noses as we merrily tend our plants. Gardening is not only one of the best ways to connect with nature, it’s a constant learning experience for those with curious minds and … it’s sexy.
But don’t just watch the video … follow the article link to better understand the whole process. Aren’t we all lucky to have scientists who take the time to question and learn about fern sex, and science writers such as Jennifer Frazer to explain it in a way average Jane and Joe gardeners can easily understand?
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Electricity-generating Wetlands? Think of the possibilities!

Every once in a while a story tweaks the old imagination juices. The latest is the November 23, 2012 article seen in ScienceDaily, Electricity from the Marshes, about a fuel cell that extracts electricity from wetland soils.

Researchers have developed a way to harness the electrons released when bacteria break down the organic residue plants produce during photosynthesis. An electrode absorbs these electrons to generate electricity. Currently, the Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell can generate 0.4Watts per square meter (about 10.76 square feet) of wetland plants.

Just think about this for a moment.

Once developed, the researchers suggest a rooftop planting measuring 100 square meters (1,076 square feet) could generate enough electricity to supply a household consuming 2,800 kWh/year.

Read the article yourself and the information about this patented idea at the Plant-e website … it might be enough to tweak your imagination , as it did mine.

pond edgeWill we be creating backyard ponds – perhaps a pond for every house – to charge our electronic devices?

Will marshlands become the electricity generating regions for shoreline communities?

Will flat urban rooftops contain gardens not just to save energy through reduced heat absorption, but to create energy?

Granted, the technology is still in development. More will be learned from the first roof installation of an electricity-generating marsh at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology.

This research will be interesting to follow.

Plants as electricity producers … just think of the possibilities.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

Rethinking The Connecticut Lawn

Many Americans view a stand of millions of uniformly trimmed grass blades, unencumbered by errant dandelions, crabgrass and other weedy greenery, as the ultimate status symbol … right up there with driving the cool car, wearing the fashionable dress, or using the latest electronic gadget.

To obtain the great lawn most Americans head to the grass seed and chemical sections of the local hardware or big-box store. Why? That’s what advertising tells us to do. Too many of us buy into the mantra that ‘four steps’ is the only way to the great American lawn, and we expend too many hard-earned resources feeding and watering then mowing and mowing and mowing.

An estimated 85% of American homeowners fertilize their lawns, most with chemical fertilizers in water soluble form. With more than 63,000 square miles of the continental U.S. covered in lawn, a lot of nitrogen and phosphorus – the N and P in NPK ratings on fertilizer packaging – ends up in storm drain systems, streams, and other waterways such as Long Island Sound. Lawn fertilizer run-off has become such a large contributor to declining water quality that many states have, or are considering, banning or limiting nitrogen and phosphorus lawn applications.

But there are alternative ways to build healthy lawn and this is the topic at the next Connecticut Horticultural Society educational meeting this Thursday, February 16, 2012. Horticulturist Tom Christopher will explain how to turn a lawn what he calls “an eco-villain,” to a landscape feature that is “sustainable, low-maintenance and environmentally friendly.”

Think about it … a lawn is nothing more than a large expanse of garden planted with a single type, or few types, of greenery.

A lawn is a garden and, like any other garden, is most vibrant when the right plant, or seed, is planted in healthy, living soil.

Tom Christopher, who is also a member of the CHS Board of Directors, promises to share how to select turf suitable to Connecticut’s climate and soils, and how to start thinking “more imaginatively” about lawns.

Whether you’re like me, in the great American lawn minority …


happy with a lawn that’s anything green cut to one level.

Or like my husband and sons …


pining for a Fenway Park-like lawn … I’ll bet you come away with some new thoughts about the great Connecticut lawn.

Sound intriguing? Head to Emmanuel Synagogue, 160 Mohegan Dr., West Hartford on February 16. The meeting begins at 7:30 pm. It’s free for CHS members, non-members will be asked for a $10 donation. Full-time students with a valid ID may attend for free.

Garden thoughtfully … even when  your garden is a lawn.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry