What is going on with invasive knapweed? OR How I spent my PhD

Over the course of my PhD work (published here, and most recently here), I have found evidence for evolved differences in phenotype (in other words, in their morphology, development, phenology, stress responses) between native and invasive populations of diffuse knapweed. Why is that interesting? Well the invasive populations didn’t even exist until barely 100 years ago. And something about them has let them succeed and spread over vast areas of their new habitat. Perhaps what has made them so successful can be revealed by comparing the invasive diffuse knapweed populations to their closest relatives, the native diffuse knapweed populations.

Knapweed in the greenhouse, 2009.

Knapweed in the greenhouse, 2009.

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How have we never talked about knapweed before???

Surely I’m not the only one that thinks of their study organism in terms of fictional criminal geniuses?

Wow, sorry folks, I’ve been slacking, and that whole PhD thing is a sorry excuse! Let me tell you a little natural history about a plant called diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa), the  Dr. Moriarty to my Sherlock Holmes.

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Super secret project: Revealed!

plague-of-species-headerHello gentle reader! It’s been ages, I know. But I’ve been scheming schemes. I’ve been working on a little secret project with game designer Elizabeth Steward. We are designing a game about invasive species (with a dollop of evolution, and a smattering of economics)! It’s still in the works, but perhaps you would like to check out what we have so far? PLAGUE OF SPECIES!!! Every time I start thinking about this, I get almost too excited for intelligent speech. So that could be a problem.

Students of Ethnobotany: Mr. Potato-head’s beautiful but deadly cousin

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Angel’s Trumpet. Image from Wikimedia Commons by berichard.

This ultimate edition of Students of Ethnobotany comes from Carina I., and teaches us that you can’t necessarily trust a plant just because it’s beautiful and comes from a good family.

Imagine this… you see a nice looking flower in a nearby garden, you take a whiff and BAM! Free will and the ability to reason are knocked right out of you! Sounds like a tale out of a science fiction story, doesn’t it?

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Students of Ethnobotany: Feed me, Seymour!

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Feed me Seymour! Audrey2. Image from Wikimedia Commons by KaiMartin.

This man-eating penultimate edition of Students of Ethnobotany comes from the fascinated Yvette Beesley.

When I was in my teens my parent were large supporters of the Arts and took me to this play called “The Little Shop of Horrors”. It was amazing, with a singing and dancing plant called Audrey2 that needed blood to survive.

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Students of Ethnobotany: Diviner’s Sage

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Salvia divinorum. Image from Wikipedia by Eric Hunt.

This divine edition of Students of Ethnobotany comes from the sage Riel Eden.

If you are a member of today’s younger generation, you probably have heard of Diviner’s Sage, more commonly known as Salvia divinorum. Although this plant is usually just referred to as Salvia, Salvia is the name of the entire genus of plants. The specific hallucinogenic plant is Salvia divinorum. I was interested in this plant because of the hype I heard around it when I was growing up. The common tag lines being ‘a plant related to marijuana, that is also legal’ or ‘an LSD that is legal.’ I wanted to investigate this plant and see if all those phrases were true.

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