OBKA General Meeting the 17th of January 2017 by Dr. Matthew Jebb
January 17, 2017
The Director of the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin Dr Matthew Jebb gave a fascinating talk to a packed house at the January meeting of OBKA on Tuesday last. The title was The World through the eyes of a plant – and what a world we saw! We had beetles communing in the base of a magnolia flower, honeybees pollinating daisies, a magnificent bucket orchid which holds onto the bee to give it pollen before releasing it to the next plant. We learned that Brazil nuts only grow on isolated trees in the tropics. This means that they cannot be harvested as a large crop so are a very precious commodity. The only animal other than Man who can break into the Brazil nut pod is an agouti – a squirrel-like animal with very strong jaws. We compared the DNA of a grain of rice with that of a human. The rice has a more complicated system! Apples originate in a region in Kazakhstan and a city there, Almaty, means ‘Father of Apples’. Orchards grow along The Silk Route there from seeds spat from apples by passersby. The seeds of an apple when bitten give off a tiny amount of cyanide –which is probably why your granny told you not to eat the pips! Plants protect themselves with various toxins because they are immobile and cannot move from predators. The cannabis leaf has an ingredient which may induce memory loss – another reason your granny told you not to touch it! We saw a fabulous star shaped orchid (in bloom at the moment in the Botanic Gardens) which requires a moth with an extraordinarily long proboscis to pollinate. We saw ferns, grasses, flowers, trees and learned how they saw us! Dr Jebb, originally from Kilkenny, worked in Papua New Guinea and Thailand before joining the Botanic Gardens in 1994 as botanist and taxonomist. He became Director in 2010. His talk to us was so full of learning and experience but presented in such an entertaining way that we almost learned by osmosis! There was a lively question and answer session after the talk and again, the erudition of the speaker shining through. No one wanted the evening to end and there were plenty more questions, answers and opinions given at tea afterwards.
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