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Plant of the Month: Sarsaparilla

From an early modern treatment for syphilis to Saturday-morning cartoons, the meaning and significance of the plant has transformed through time and space.
Jacques Cartier at Hochelaga engraving from A popular history of the United States: from the first discovery of the western hemisphere by the Northmen, to the end of the first century of the union of the states; preceded by a sketch of the prehistoric period and the age of the mound builders

Plant of the Month: Tree of Life

Indigenous people in North America used the conifer as an effective cure for scurvy during cold winters.

Plant of the Month: Cordyline

Plantfluencers? Back in the nineteenth century, it was the dazzling leaves of cordyline that set trends in domestic style.
Fuchsia

Plant of the Month: Fuchsia

Too popular for its own good? The career of a flower so powerfully beautiful, fashion would inevitably declare it over.
Eric LoPresti

Some Plants Use Stickiness to Fend off Hungry Insects

For some sand-dwelling plants, stickiness is a defense tactic that keeps predators at bay.
Detail from the recently rediscovered Seldon Map from the Bodleian Library (

Plant of the Month: Agarwood

Agarwood has long been prized for its olfactory splendor. Its essential oil is even known as liquid gold today.
Ghost plant

Why Some Plants Are Parasites

Tap into the underground network of plants and fungi with mysterious myco-heterotrophes.
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.
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.