How much do you know about this iconic plant that brightens lots of homes this time of year?
Happy Poinsettia Day!
Of the countless iconic holiday season images in American homes, perhaps the most popular and colorful of them started off as a humble bush from our neighbors to the south.
The poinsettia was introduced to this country in the late 1820s by Joel Poinsett, the first American ambassador to Mexico, but only started on the path to holiday season superstardom in the early 1900s. By 2013, poinsettias accounted for 23 percent of sales for flowering potted plants – to the tune of $146 million. Read more »
NRCS Soil Conservationist Allen Casey, Biological Technician Nick Adams and Plant Materials Center Manager Ron Cordsiemon select a blend of warm season grass seed for both drill and broadcast into the field at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. NRCS photo.
Pristine landscaping covers the 355 acres of Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. On a day where caretakers dutifully trim the grass and care for the about 200,000 headstones marking the final resting place of veterans and their families, three plant specialists with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) begin work in the southeast portion of the cemetery.
They are returning a hilly slope overlooking the Mississippi River to its native landscape with native warm-season grasses. In stark contrast to the recently laid turf just inches from the edge of the slope, the native grasses will provide functionality while also restoring a small plot of land to its native species. Read more »
Evening primrose flower (Onagraceae). (US Forest Service)
Plants provide us with many things that we use on a daily basis – from the buildings in which we live and work, to our clothing and food. For flowering plants to thrive and reproduce, they often rely on pollinators to transport pollen between flowers.
Pollination ultimately results in fruits and seeds, ranging from the strawberries and almonds in your breakfast to the tomatoes in your pasta sauce. While scientists know a lot about honeybees, very little is known about many other pollinators – bats, birds, bees, butterflies, moths, flies, etc. – that are essential to pollinating wildflowers and native plants. Read more »
The luna month (Actiasl luna) have pale green wings with long curving tails and a wing span of roughly 3 to 4 inches. They are strong fliers with an attraction to light and can been seen, depending on the area of the country, between May and September. (National Park Service)
Imagine wandering through your favorite botanic garden in the early evening and catching a glimpse of the moon reflected off of something lime green that moves from flower to flower while closer to the ground the yellow glow of fireflies help illuminate the night.
It’s enough to make you feel like you’re in a Shakespearean forest.
But the lime green is really the wings that belong to what some consider the most beautiful insect – the Luna moth. Those who do catch a glimpse of this unique moth are lucky – as they are rarely seen due to their short life span. Read more »
Research Entomologist Justin Runyon is a winner of this year’s prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. He studies the chemical reaction between insects and plants for the Rocky Mountain Research Station. (Montana State University/Kelly Gorham)
It’s a wonder that Justin Runyon’s parents didn’t have insomnia. After all, who could sleep when the young bug enthusiast was throwing on floodlights outside the house in the middle of the night to attract and collect insects?
“Yes, my parents were very patient with me,” said Runyon, a research entomologist at the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station.
Runyon no longer needs to wake his parents to conduct his research – he has plenty of opportunity to do that at his lab in Bozeman, Mont., where he studies the chemical interaction between insects and plants. His work and accomplishments earned him this year’s prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. The accolade is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Runyon was one of 102 recipients to receive the award this year. Read more »
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
As a boy, Steven Cannon helped his grandfather in the garden grafting fruit trees, all the while developing an interest in plants. As an adult, Cannon has followed in his grandfather’s footsteps, working with USDA as a scientist—but only after first taking a different, though ultimately, complementary career path.
After graduating college, Cannon worked various jobs, including one as an educational software designer that used his knack for computing. In 2000, he rekindled his early interest in plant biology, earning a PhD and practical experience as a postdoctoral researcher assigned to a genome mapping project. In 2006, he accepted a position as a plant geneticist with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit in Ames, Iowa. Read more »