Tendrils: Spotted finches feeding on these groundsel weed seedheads

Hello and welcome to Tendrils! This week I’ve spotted finches feeding on these groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) weed seedheads, just outside the garden, and it’s nice to know they eat something other than birdseed.

It’s Naked Gardening Day tomorrow, but rest assured, Tendrils will remain fully clothed! Last week we learned about the unusual measures French wine makers were using to avoid frost damage; this week it’s English vineyards in trouble. Far safer, given the nippy weather, to celebrate Fascination of Plants Day, which is May 18th this year. If you’re a scientist, science communicator, educator or just someone who feels passionate about plants, you can join ‘Botany Live’ from 18th – 21st May (Thursday – Sunday) and live-stream a short peek into your (fully clothed) life.

A paper published by researchers from the Natural History Museum has revealed the conservation benefits of museum-led citizen science, looking at four main types of citizen science activities: short-term events such as BioBlitzes, data entry for digitised collections, field research to answer a specific question, and ongoing monitoring of species abundance and distribution. The paper itself, Contributions to conservation outcomes by natural history museum-led citizen science: Examining evidence and next steps, is available open-access from Biological Conservation.

And speaking of citizen science, AstroPlant is ESA’s citizen science project aiming to use amateur scientists to collect as much data as possible on crops that show potential for astronauts in space, such as spinach, lettuce, herbs and strawberries. It’s in its early stages at the moment, but it sounds like we may all get the chance to nurture plants for human spaceflight at some point in the future….

Meanwhile, it seems that a natural sunscreen in the seeds makes Morning Glory an idea candidate for sending to Mars. And if you’re not British, and can’t work out why everyone is now sniggering, let me tell you about morning glory!

Researchers are breeding big, hairy tomatoes, in the hope that those hairs will give them natural pest resistance. Reminds me that tomatoes are considered carnivorous now, along with petunias (which I didn’t realise, until recently, are also in the Solonaceae family) and Shepherds Purse seeds. Carnivorous seeds, people. This is not Hollywood sci-fi, this is real life! (Murderous Plants: Victorian Gothic, Darwin and modern insights into vegetable carnivory.)

You may (or may not) now be relieved to hear that people eat carnivorous plants. (Now, I have trouble opening that link, because the BBC have chosen not to make it available to people in the UK. If you are similarly afflicted, search for a Web Proxy and read it via a third party in a different country, or use Google Translate, which does the same thing. Fight the power!) Hopefully it’s not the same carnivorous plants that are used as toilets by tree shrews. Or bats.

We’ll end Tendrils this week with some things you may find more appetising. An Urban Veg Patch has spotted Red Valerian at the allotment, a plant that Caro has only recently discovered is edible. It’s a new one on me, too. But everyone knows rhubarb, and we’ve got a trio of tasty treats for rhubarb season: rhubarb and angelica sorbet, rhubarb white chocolate muffins and Mexican rhubarb chocolate chunk brownies (the brownies are Mexican, not the rhubarb…).

If anyone wants me, I will be the one in a rhubarb coma. If I recover in time, there’ll be another spine-tingling edition of Tendrils next week!