Monday, March 9, 2015

Walk on the Wild Side

By Erika Zambello

The snow is finally melting and spring is upon us! Have you ever wondered how plants know when it is time to sprout or bloom? Learn about the workings of spring as we discuss the intricate biochemical cues that lead to emerging buds, flowers and new growth in next month's "Walk on the Wild Side." The walk will be held on Thursday, April 2, from 11 a.m.-noon.

The answer, says Stefan Bloodworth, curator of the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, lies in plant hormones. "Temperature and light influence the production and/or degradation of plant hormones in certain plant tissues," he explains, "There's a see-saw going between... the effect of one hormone outweighing the effect of another, and it's the balance of these plant hormones that influences things like spring emergence."

"Walk on the Wild Side" will be held outside, as Stefan gives examples of spring flower and leaf buds and further explains the cues their hormones use to start spring cycles.

If you think humans and animals are different in their reliance on hormones, then think again! "I want people to walk away knowing the similarities between plants and humans, as far as the ways in which hormones govern our bodily functions," he continues. "We're all governed by hormones."

While it's true that there are major variations in our systems - humans have endocrine systems that produce certain hormones in specific places within our bodies, and plants have diffuse systems - the effect of hormones on flora and fauna is profound.

"The presence or absence of certain hormones in humans, animals and plants governs most of our bodily functions," Stefan says.

The walk is capped at 15 students, so make sure to reserve your space to learn more about plant hormones, biochemical cues, and spring emergence.

The group will meet at the Blomquist Garden entrance, with a fee of $7; $5 for Gardens members and Duke students/staff. For more information and registration, see the event web page or call 919-668-1707.

Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying ecosystem science and conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

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