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Biology

Summer 2006

The worm turns: A Palouse native is found

A Palouse native, not seen in nearly two decades and feared extinct, has been rediscovered. While digging soil samples at the Washington State University botany department’s Smoot Hill preserve, University of Idaho graduate student Yaniria Sanchez-de Leon noticed a glimpse of white. Quick with her shovel, she captured the six-inch specimen of Driloreirus americanus, also known as the giant Palouse earthworm. Historically, specimens have been recorded as long as three feet. Although an observer reported it as “abundant” in the Palouse in 1897, tillage and competition from European earthworms seem to have taken their toll.

Smoot Hill contains the largest remnant of native Palouse prairie. … » More …

Spring 2008

Clarence A. (Bud) Ryan: A scientist who catalyzed excellence

Clarence A. (Bud) Ryan, one of WSU’s preeminent scientists, died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in October. Ryan pioneered the study of the innate immune response of plants. Prior to his work, plants were assumed to contain protease inhibitors all the time, as a deterrent to being eaten. Ryan discovered instead that plants make the inhibitors in response to an attack. He further showed that an attack on one part of a plant sets off chemical signals that spur production of inhibitors throughout the entire plant. Besides his scientific renown, Ryan was well known around campus for his graciousness—-and his ability on the … » More …

Spring 2008

The orphan flower

In a Washington State University greenhouse, on the roof of Abelson Hall, dwells an orphan. Sheltered by a translucent plastic tent that diffuses the sunlight, drenched in water that keeps the air heavy with moisture, a semitropical plant called Gasteranthus atratus unfurls its crinkly, dark mahogany leaves. Once a year or so it puts forth cream-colored, vase-shaped flowers. It doesn’t seed, however. Whether it needs another member of its species or a particular insect or bird to pollinate it isn’t known. For now, it simply grows, and waits.

Gasteranthus atratus is an orphan, because its home no longer exists. The species was discovered in the … » More …

Sparingly introduced in waste places

Although scientists have been aware of biological invasions at least since the mid-1800s, when Charles Darwin noted the rampant spread of European species in South America, only recently has the scientific community recognized the broader threat invaders pose to biodiversity and environmental quality. Richard Mack of Washington State University recalls that when he first started talking about the cheatgrass invasion at annual meetings of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), his presentations would be scheduled for the “Miscellaneous” session on the meeting’s last day.

“Thirty years ago, it wasn’t on the radar screen as an academic topic worthy of investigation,” he says. “It felt … » More …

Summer 2008

Letters – Summer 2008

The lonely flower

Your most interesting article about “The Orphan Flower” intrigued me. What a lovely and unique flower and leaf. Thank you for sharing its appearance with us.

I may say also, that having discovered Washington State Magazine in my today’s mail, I spent the entire afternoon enjoying each article. What an exciting place is Washington State University. Receiving this publication is always stimulating and certainly makes me proud of the work being done there. Please extend my congratulations to each one making this a better place in which to live.

Marley Austin Jesseph ’47
Bloomington, Indiana

School in the woods

I read … » More …

Summer 2008

"A joyous sight to see"

The next time you visit the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, take a good look around. This is the only Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) facility in the nation that is home to a botanical garden, and the garden is due primarily to the efforts of one man.

The basic facts are easy to find. Carl English (’29 Botany) came to the site in 1931. In 1967 the Corps gave him its highest award for a civilian employee. Carl retired in 1974 and died two years later. In 1978 the site was designated a national historic district, due in no small part … » More …