On the left, Heliconia tarumaensis Barreiros (with yellow bracts); on the right, Heliconia acuminata L.C. Richard (with yellow and red bracts). Dumbarton Oaks Rare Book Collection.

Plant of the Month: Heliconia

Heliconias can distinguish among pollinators like hummingbirds and respond selectively to their visits. Is this evidence of a kind of cognition?
The Bobcat Fire burns through the Angeles National Forest on September 11, 2020 north of Monrovia, California.

A Recipe for Ancient Wildfires

The earliest wildfires raged long before humans, and they only needed three ingredients to get started.
Botanical manuscript of 450 watercolors of flowers and plants

Plant of the Month: Dittany

Did women in the premodern world have much agency over reproduction? Their use of plants like dittany suggests that they did.
Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium, Maria Sibylla Merian. Amsterdam: Apud Joannem Oosterwyk, 1719. Rare Book Collection, Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University. HOLLIS number 990013327990203941. Multimedia credit: Dumbarton Oaks/Elizabeth Muñoz Huber.

Plant of the Month: Guava

Often classified as an invasive species, guava ignites a longstanding, transnational battle over foreign invaders and local customs.
from Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici by Antonio Franchi

Plant of the Month: Peony

Peony's effectiveness as an ancient cure translated into a tool of statecraft in the eighteenth century.
A massive American Elm tree sits backlit by the rising sun in Overlook Park in northern Portland, Oregon.

Why Learning the Names of Trees Is Good for You

Getting to know trees can lead to new ways of looking at the world.
Ayecohtli (pictured left) as the scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus): 1931-33 reproduction of The Badianus Manuscript, 1552; Rare Book Collection, Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, DC

Plant of the Month: The Runner Bean

From Aztec medicinal remedies to Darwin’s study of flower pollination, local knowledge about the runner bean reveals the importance of biodiversity.
Mother and daughters planting flowers in a backyard

Five Ways To Help the Environment While in Lockdown

We can’t be wandering outside much right now, but there are still ways to go green.
Source: . Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, DC

Plant of the Month: Stanhopea Orchids

How did some orchids transform from rare, all-but-inaccessible flowers into popular houseplants you can purchase at a supermarket?
Pear seedlings from a book about Luther Burbank

The Marvelous Experiments of Amateur Plant Breeders

Over 100 years ago, a horticulturalist introduced hybrid plants to California gardeners. Up sprouted a movement of amateur experiments in plant biology.