Claude dePamphilis, professor of biology, will present "Ancient Flowers: The Search for Earth's First Flowering Plants" at 12:30 p.m. on April 17 at Schlow Centre Region Library as the fourth of six Research Unplugged events this semester. Research Unplugged brings together Penn State researchers and the State College community for lively public discussions.
Research Unplugged, the Penn State series that brings together a broad range of University researchers and the State College community for lively public discussions, begins its spring season on March 20 at the Schlow Centre Region Library.
Unlocking the genetic secrets of Earth's most ancient living lineage of flowering plants -- the original source of genes for all economically important flowering crops -- is the goal of a new $7.3 million research project led by Claude W. dePamphilis, professor of biology at Penn State. The 4-year Amborella Genome Project, funded by the National Science Foundation, involves scientists at five universities who will share the complex task of discovering the genetic structure of a rare plant species named Amborella, which has been found only on the island of New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific Ocean.
"We can see that flowering plants go back about 150 or 160 million years, but our oldest fossil is only about 120 or 130. If we could get a really great well-preserved fossil about 150 million years old, the prediction is that we would see a dicot."
-Claude dePamphilis, professor of biology
In the 1930s, American artist Georgia O'Keefe wrote: "What is my experience of the flower if it is not color?" O'Keefe is best known for her vibrantly colorful close-ups of petals and stamens on large canvases.
People love flowers for their array of colors, textures, shapes and fragrances. But is pleasing the human eye the purpose of nature's floral design?
"Nobody but me will ever grow these in their backyard, notes Joel McNeal, a graduate student in biology at Penn State. He is referring to a kind of Dodder, in this case, Cuscuta rostrata, a parasitic plant that sprouts orangey yellow vines with small bunches of white flowers resembling popcorn.