Ants versus the Pitcher Plant.

Runner up, Ecology and Environmental Science category
Invincible ants by Thomas Endlein.
Pitcher plants are carnivorous, drawing nutrients from trapped and digested insects.
The species shown here (Nepenthes bicalcarata) secretes sweet nectar on the rim and fang-like structures, which are very slippery for most insects except for one specialised ant (Camponotus schmitzii).
The ants live in the curled hollow tendrils of the plant and manage to climb in and out of the pitcher without any difficulties to steal a bit of nectar, as shown here
Image Credit: Photograph by Thomas Endlein/PA
via Royal Society Publishing Photography competition 2017 – in pictures | Art and design | The Guardian

Images from ‘Hortus Malabaricus’ on Plant medicine, c. 1680.

Selected illustrations from the stunning Hortus Malabaricus (Garden of Malabar), an epic treatise dealing with the medicinal properties of the flora in the Indian state of Kerala.
Originally written in Latin, it was compiled over a period of nearly 30 years and published in Amsterdam between 1678 and 1693 in 12 volumes of about 500 pages each, with a total of 794 copper plate engravings.
The book was conceived by Hendrik van Rheede, who was the Governor of Dutch Malabar at the time, and he is said to have taken a keen personal interest in the compilation.
The work was edited by a team of nearly a hundred including physicians (such as Ranga Bhat, Vinayaka Pandit, Appu Bhat and Itti Achuden) professors of medicine and botany, amateur botanists (such as Arnold Seyn, Theodore Jansson of Almeloveen, Paul Hermann, Johannes Munnicks, Joannes Commelinus, Abraham a Poot), and technicians, illustrators and engravers, together with the collaboration of company officials, clergymen (D. John Caesarius and the Discalced Carmelite Mathaeus of St. Joseph’s Monastery at Varapuzha).
7561714328_67b7db25d8_oVan Rheede was also assisted by the King of Cochin and the ruling Zamorin of Calicut.
Prominent among the Indian contributors were three Gouda Saraswat Brahmins named Ranga Bhat, Vinayaka Pandit,Appu Bhat and Malayali physician, Itti Achuden, who was an Ezhava doctor of the Mouton Coast of Malabar.
The book has been translated into English and Malayalam by Dr. K. S. Manilal. (Wikipedia).
Click for more Images via Hortus Malabaricus (1678-1693) | The Public Domain Review.

The Botany of Gin.

What’s inside the Martini?
Juniper (Juniperus communis)
Perhaps the most widely imbibed conifer on the planet, this ancient plant dates to the Triassic period. Juniper berries are actually tiny cones with fleshy scales that take two to three years to ripen.
A single shrub can hold berries in all stages of ripeness, so they are harvested by spreading a tarp underneath and beating the plant with a stick to make the ripe cones fall off.
By law, a spirit must contain some juniper to be called gin.
Grains of Paradise (Aframomum melegueta)
A common gin ingredient, this West African ginger relative produces tiny, spicy seeds.
It has flavored spirits and beers for centuries, but it’s also a staple food of western lowland gorillas.
Zookeepers discovered that without this vital food source, captive gorillas developed heart disease.
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
This silvery Mediterranean herb is best known as a flavoring in absinthe, but it is also used to add a note of bitterness to most vermouths.
In fact, the word “vermouth” is derived from early forms of “wormwood”—and that name came from the belief that the plant could kill intestinal worms.
Olive (Olea europaea)
A relative of jasmine, lilac, and garden sage, olives have been cultivated in the Mediterranean for seven thousand years, and individual trees live to be hundreds of years old.
via The Botany of Booze: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks |

Wildflowers of Western Australia.

West Australian wildflowers at Coalseam Conservation Park, where the wildflower show has been the best in years.
Photo by ABC News: Chris Lewis


Wendy Payne is among hundreds who travel to see the wreath flower in Western Australia’s Mid West.
See more wildflowers via WA wildflowers at Coalseam Conservation Park – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

In Search of the Great American Beer.

When Todd Bates moved to a patch of land near Taos, New Mexico, in 1991, he had no grand visions of changing the American beer industry.
After pursuing a degree in applied math and biology in Ohio, followed by stints as a designer and builder, Bates, then a 28 year-old man with more background in woodworking than beer-brewing, had accepted a job running a quiet guest ranch in the New Mexico wilderness.
Tucked in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and settled by Pueblo people over a millennium ago, Taos is a place of older sensibilities, where Pueblo and Spanish culture mix and endure, so when Bates mentioned to a friend from an old Spanish family that he was suffering from digestive problems, his friend’s mother didn’t mince words.
“My friend’s mom looked at me and went, ‘Ah, you people! You move here and you don’t know how to take care of yourselves! Our grandparents and tíos and tías would go to the mountains and collect herbs and we’d never get sick. The only reason you go to a doctor is so that they can help you fit in a box.'”
So for the next summer, Bates learned how to collect medicinal herbs from the area residents—an array of more than a dozen different herbs used by Native Americans and descendants of Spanish settlers for medicinal purposes.
Throughout the summer, one of the crops that kept coming up again and again was something called lúpulo—the Spanish word for hop and an echo of “lupulin,” the plant’s active ingredient. But the hops they were collecting weren’t used for brewing beer.
But Bates, now 50 years old with a carefree lilt to his voice, was never fearful of venturing into new territories.

So he started brewing beer, crudely at first, with the wild hops he was harvesting. He had some previous experience with brewing beer—he’d been known to home brew a little during high school and college—so he was capable of making a simple, no-frills brew.
Even from his bare-bones recipes, Bates discovered that the beer he was brewing with the wild hops ended up being more flavorful and enjoyable than any commercially available beer he could find.
And that gave Todd Bates an idea.
Follow on reading via In Search of the Great American Beer | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian.

Workers harvesting Tea in Zhejiang Province.

According to a legend, tea was first discovered by the Chinese emperor Shennong in 2737 BC.
Today China is the world’s biggest tea producer, producing 2.43m tonnes last year.
The tea industry in China employs around 80 million people as both farmers and pickers, and in sales
Image Credit: Photograph by Roman Pilipey/EPA.  Seasonal workers harvest Longjing (Dragon Well) tea at a plantation in Meijiawu village, Zhejiang province
Source: All the tea in China – in pictures | Art and design | The Guardian