Beyond our gardens, our salads or simply looking at trees.. what do we really know about plants? On Saturday, May 19, dozens of scientists at Michigan State University will share knowledge that goes way past having a green thumb.
On a partly sunny day, Bjoern Hamberger, Michigan State University assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology took me inside one of the greenhouses that line Wilson Road on campus.
It’s bright inside and loud fans are constantly running to keep hundreds of plants from baking under the heat. In the corner, sits a tall plant with pointy leaves that resemble a palm.
"The mature seeds it does hold of a key molecule that will turn into a cancer," said Hamberger. "Just topical treatment with this molecule twice has a very high chance of curing that condition right away."
On the next row over was a smaller, green, leafy plant called the Coleus.
"This is a variety that accumulates in its roots a drug that is approved for treatment of heart failure and glaucoma," said Hamberger.
In the next building over in a lab on the third floor, plant biochemist Sean Johnson looks at a flower from the Coleus plant under the microscope. Up close, it looks like a purple and green blanket with large hairs that look similar to eyelashes and there are small orange globes everywhere.
"Those orange things there are insecticides that kill insects that try to eat the plant and the hairs there are physical barriers," said Johnson. "Once you look at it with a microscope it looks much much different than looking at it normally."
That’s the idea behind MSU’s second Fascination of Plants Day on Saturday, May 19. Nearly 50 MSU scientists like Doctoral research associate Anne Sophie-Bohrer will be more than happy to share their knowledge with the public.
"They can talk specifically to someone about plant nutrition," said Sophie-Bohrer. "They can talk specifically to someone about GMO’s and DNA in plants. They can talk about fungi and pathogens. Even if your knowledge of plants is limited to see what you see growing in your backyard, you’re more than welcome to come and ask any questions that you have."
Post-doctoral research associate Aparajita Banerjee said the Fascination of Plants Day will be interactive.
"They are putting up different activities or demonstrations during the event so they can share what so that they can share what they’re doing and share the knowledge with the public," said Banerjee.
Professor Hamberger said they want you to learn about plants and the research underway at MSU that could change our world.
"It is globally one of those top universities working on plants and we should be one of those talking about why we’re fascinated by it," said Hamberger.