Fascinated by plants

Dr Julie Hofer with Anthurium andraenum one of the fascinating plants in the Botany Garden at Aberystwyth University.

Dr Julie Hofer with Anthurium andraenum one of the fascinating plants in the Botany Garden at Aberystwyth University.

10 May 2013

Events that celebrate plants will take place all over the globe on the 18th of May thanks to this initiative led by the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO). In Aberystwyth staff from Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) will be leading the event.

The aim of the day is to fascinate and enthuse everyone about plants and the importance of plant science for agriculture, forestry, horticulture, food, paper, timber, chemicals, energy, and pharmaceuticals. The role of plants in environmental conservation is also a key message.

There will be interactive exhibits at Aberystwyth Arts Centre and the University Botany Garden glasshouse will be open from 10.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. Visitors can take a guided tour or wander through the glasshouse themselves.

Dr Julie Hofer, Research Scientist at IBERS and organiser of the event said, “Plants are fundamental to our existence, providing us with air we can breathe and food we can eat. I don’t just mean fruit and veg; I mean almost everything we eat. We wouldn’t have beef or lamb without grass and clover; there would be no chips without potatoes, no bread without cereals. Very few food sources exist without the help of plants.

“It doesn’t stop there. Fuels, medicines, building materials, fibres and paper are made from plants and they deliver services such as flood control, as well as enhancing our recreational spaces. They are unbelievably important”.

There are about 250,000 species of flowering plants on earth including some that are truly weird and wonderful. In the Botany Garden you can see, and sometimes smell, a gigantic arum lily that gives off a scent like rotting flesh, attracting flies to act as pollinators.

You will also find carnivorous plants that feed on insects, the largest flowering herb (a banana), plants that mimic freshly laid butterfly eggs, sensitive mimosa that recoils when touched, not to mention some of our favourite plants, cocoa and coffee.

Dr Hofer added, “Plants are fascinating. We want to share the amazing world of plants with a wider audience, and engage in discussions about how plant sciences are helping to address global challenges, from food security to energy “We hope that Fascination of Plants Day will inspire people to appreciate the importance of plants and to understand the relationship between plants and a healthy population.”

Planned exhibits at Aberystwyth Arts Centre include the evolution of cereals and their weeds - including the story of psychotoxins in history and culture. Artist Becky Knight will be on hand to encourage visitors to take part in painting with plant pigments. Another display will extract DNA from plants and discuss how genes encoded by DNA are selected in plant breeding.  

No booking is required just call by the Aberystwyth Arts Centre or the University Botany Garden any time between 10.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. on Saturday 18th May 2013. The Botany Garden is situated directly opposite the main entrance of Penglais campus. Parking is very limited at the Botany Garden, so please walk, cycle, use the bus, or park near the Arts Centre.