The Reasons Behind That Pleasant Fresh-Cut Grass Smell Aren't So Pleasant
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Mmmm, the smell of freshly cut grass. Like gasoline, cut grass is one of those odd, pungent smells that grows on people, probably because it's linked to warm weather and, hopefully, happy memories of being outside. But it turns out, the cause of the smell isn't nearly as pleasant. The scent is actually a sign of the plant in distress, and it's the side effect of some serious chemical reactions.
You Can Make a Fruit Tree Produce Multiple Types Of Fruit
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The Tree of 40 Fruit is a series of unusual fruit trees by artist Sam Van Aken that each grow multiple types of fruit—40, to be exact. As spellbinding as its multicolored springtime blooms and summer fruits are, Van Aken used no special lab equipment or cutting-edge technology to create the tree. He just used a simple process that's been relied upon by farmers for ages.
The Reason Why Pure Vanilla Is So Expensive
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Vanilla is one of the most expensive spices in the world, second only to saffron. It makes sense: like saffron, vanilla comes from a flower, and that flower is infamously difficult to pollinate. Pollination is key: it's what creates the prized vanilla bean, after all. But pollination can only happen when there's a flower, and the vanilla orchid flowers only once a year. Even then, it has proved impossible to pollinate with any automation; instead, the farmer must pollinate each one manually by placing pollen on the end of a sliver of wood and placing it carefully within the flower. (This method, interestingly enough, was discovered by a 12-year-old slave from the Bourbon Islands named Edmond Albius in 1841, and is still the only one used today).
The Poison Garden Is Full Of Plants That Can Kill You
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"These Plants Can Kill." That's the skull-and-crossbones-bearing message that greets you when you walk into The Poison Garden, a carefully secluded section of England's popular Alnwick Garden. It was conceived in the mid 1990s by Duchess of Northumberland Jane Percy, who became fascinated by Italy's Medici poison garden and adopted the idea as a way to set Alnwick Garden apart. While choosing the plants that would live in her lethal nursery, Percy strove to make each one tell a story. She intermingled exotic plants with the poisonous ones visitors see every day—laurel hedge and belladonna, for example. A beautiful yellow flower known as Brugmansia, or angel's trumpet, ignites an LSD-like trip before it brings on a painless death. The seeds of the leafy plant Ricinus communis are used to make castor oil, but also contains the deadly toxin ricin. As part of an educational mission, the garden is also home to the plants of several legal and illicit drugs, including tobacco, marijuana, and the coca plant, which is used to make cocaine. To enter the garden, visitors must walk down a long tunnel, and they're forbidden from smelling or touching any of the plants. Explore the world of poisonous plants in the videos below.
Urushiol: What Poison Ivy and Mangos Have In Common
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Whether its on ourselves or on camping companions, most of us are familiar with the red, itchy rash caused by touching poison ivy. The culprit behind that rash is a chemical called urushiol, which lurks not only on the plant's leaves, but also in its stems, roots, flowers, and berries. What you may not know is that this same chemical is also contained in the skin of the mango fruit, plus the bark and leaves of the mango tree. If you get a reaction from poison ivy or its cousins, poison oak and poison sumac, you may find yourself with an itchy, blistering, swollen lip after eating mango straight off the peel. Luckily, the fruit itself doesn't contain urushiol, so if you slice the fruit from the skin beforehand you'll most likely steer clear of any reactions. Interestingly, cashew shells also contain urushiol, but because they're sold shelled and processed at high enough temperatures to destroy the chemical, they're unlikely to cause problems.