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Botany

NASA plant habitat
Summer 2017

Space farming

Surviving the challenges of deep space exploration could rely as much on botany as astrophysics.

NASA sees plants not only as potential food sources aboard future spacecraft but as natural oxygen producers. The space agency is preparing for its first in-depth study of how growth and development of plants is affected by gravity, or more specifically the lack of it.

“The overall significance is what it could mean for space exploration,” says Norman G. Lewis, a Regents professor at Washington State University’s Institute of Biological Chemistry and principal investigator for the NASA-funded study. “Whether it’s colonizing planets, establishing a station, … » More …

Spring 2012

On Closer Inspection—The curiouser and curiouser world of the small

In some ways, with so much science now involving tools that detect things outside the five senses, examining the world with a microscope seems quaint. But a corps of WSU researchers—let’s call them microscopists—are wrangling photons, electrons, glowing proteins, exotic stains, and remarkably powerful devices in their pursuit of the small.

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Spring 2012

A blighted Northwest icon

Last March, Gary Chastagner was driving around southwest Oregon scouting test plots for a study of madrone, the gnarly, reddish-brown tree found up and down the West Coast. A variety of diseases had been hitting the trees in recent years, and Chastagner, a plant pathologist in WSU’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center, was undertaking a study to see if some varieties might be more disease resistant than others.

Driving between Roseburg and Medford, he started seeing entire slopes of trees that looked decidedly disease prone.

“It just looked like someone went through with a blowtorch,” Chastagner recalls.

County extension agents and natural resource … » More …

Video: Build a Bouquet of Local Flowers

Diane Szukovathy from Jello Mold Farm in Washington state’s Skagit Valley puts together a bouquet of locally-grown flowers and offers tips to gardeners on building their own bouquet of blooms. Diane and her husband Dennis Westphall grow cut flowers. They have teamed up with Washington State University researchers Bev Gerdeman and Lynell Tanigoshi to build a community of local, seasonal flower growers in the Pacific Northwest. The growers sell at markets, directly to farmers, florists, grocery stores, and local businesses. Read more in “Business is Blooming.”

Winter 2010

A New Land

John Bishop was late getting to Mount St. Helens.

He was only 16 years old when it blew in 1980, and it would be another decade before he began crawling around the mountain as part of his doctoral studies.

“I was worried I missed all the action—‘Ten years, it’s all been studied,’” he recalls.

It turns out the dust, pumice, and other ejecta were only beginning to settle, and the mountain would continue to rumble, spit, and recover. In 1994, he found himself running from a mudflow, then watched as it moved fridge-sized boulders and shook the earth beneath his feet. Arriving at WSU Vancouver … » More …

Winter 2003

Pacific Northwest sagebrush steppe

Though it is the most widespread of plant ecosystems in eastern Washington, covering 24,000 square miles, the sagebrush-steppe is probably the least understood, and therefore the least appreciated, especially among gardeners. By nature, gardeners like to make things grow, and by the looks of things, not much grows in that desert-like region, except sagebrush. But the sagebrush-steppe region is home to some of most adaptive and intriguing plants on earth, and gardeners can learn much here to apply to eco-friendly rock gardens and xeriscapes.

The region is most strongly defined by its dryness. Lying entirely east of the Cascade Mountains, it receives only eight to12 … » More …

Spring 2003

Mounting a defense against biological invaders

Whatever its impact on trade, the World Trade Organization has opened the doors to biological invasion, says Dick Mack. A professor of botany at Washington State University, Mack is a leading authority on invasive species and lead author of Predicting Invasions of Nonindigenous Plants and Plant Pests, a report recently published by the National Research Council.

Invasive species are those that are introduced, whether deliberately or not, only to find their new home much too accommodating. Whereas a plant might be an inconspicuous face in its home crowd, it could become the ubiquitous bully in a new ecological crowd with no defense against its aggressiveness. … » More …