Wild flower with air conditioning system and wood made in lab

How is it that the flowers of the Carlina corymbosa thistle growing in the southern Spanish mountain range of Sierra de Cazorla are, on average, about 3 °C cooler than the air surrounding them? The greatest cooling – sometimes up to 10°C – occurs in the hottest part of the day. According to scientists, something about the thistle flower’s shape and structure allows it to cool itself so effectively. The water evaporating from the thistle takes with it heat, which, due to the physical form of the flower, is not replaced by the sun’s heat. According to Carlos Herrera from the Spanish National Research Council in Seville, this phenomenon can be called the “botijo effect” because “it is based on the same principle as botijo” – a traditional Spanish pot made of porous clay.

Imagine a future where trees no longer need to be cut down to produce wood products. This is the vision of Foray Bioscience, nestled on the MIT campus in Cambridge. They are pioneering a method to grow wood cells in the lab, aiming to transform them into perfumes, cosmetics, oils, beams, and boards. The process begins with extracting living cells from plant leaves, such as black poplar. These leaves are nurtured in a liquid broth until the cells multiply. The cells are then transferred to a gel infused with two plant hormones, auxin and cytokinin, guiding them into growing wood-like structures. This innovative approach offers a sustainable alternative to traditional wood production and holds promise for seed production and forest restoration, offering a beacon of hope for our planet’s forests.

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