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PLANTS IN THE NEWS: Horticulture Making Headlines

By Karen England, for Let’s Talk Plants! October 2022.

Remember newsstands? Like the phone booth, newsstands like this are now mostly a relic of our pre-digital past. WIX stock photo.

Horticulture Making Headlines

If you Google “plants in the news” as I did recently, I think you will be pleasantly surprised as I was at the amount of news you will find about plants in general and trees specifically. We are an organization with a penchant for trees; in fact, we wrote the book on it for our locality with the first printing in 2003 titled Ornamental Trees of San Diego, and - same book, the second printing in 2005 titled Ornamental Trees For Mediterranean Climates, both editions by Don Walker and Steve Brigham, and now the book is considered a classic and still very much in-demand.

We also publish an article monthly in our newsletter and have done so for decades called Trees, Please! co-authored by local tree experts Robin Rivet and Tim Clancy. If you missed reading any previous issues of our newsletter containing the bulk of their contributions, you can read the archives online by searching our website. Here’s a good place to start… Trees Please | SDHS Newsletter (

But. Back to the news…


The Washington Post reported on September 29, 2022, this -

HEADLINE: “In a first, U.S. appoints a diplomat for plants and animals”

The report goes on to say...

“…Monica Medina is taking on a new role as special envoy for biodiversity and water resources, the State Department announced Wednesday. She currently serves as the department’s assistant secretary for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs.”

Want to read the entire article? Here’s a link - In a first, U.S. appoints a diplomat for plants and animals (


How about this article by James R. Riordon, on April 27, 2022, for Science News –

HEADLINE: “Leonardo da Vinci’s rule for how trees branch was close, but wrong”

The gist of the article is

“Leonardo da Vinci was wrong about trees."

"The multitalented Renaissance genius wrote down his “rule of trees” over 500 years ago. It described the way he thought that trees branch. Though it was a brilliant insight that helped him to draw realistic landscapes, Leonardo’s rule breaks down for many types of trees. Now, a new branching rule — dubbed “Leonardo-like” — works for virtually any leafy tree, researchers report in a paper accepted April 13 in Physical Review…”

And, while you are reading the full article, check out the headline photo of a Live Oak accompanying the piece which is captioned “The branching structure of virtually every leafy tree — such as this southern live oak in Charleston, S.C., dubbed the Angel Oak — is dictated by the surface area of its limbs, a new study finds.”

The Middleton Oak, now estimated to be between 900 and 1000 years old, is the reigning elder of the many Live Oaks, Quercus virginiana, at Middleton Place, Charleston, South Carolina, known as "America's Oldest Landscaped Gardens." Photo by Karen England.

So, here's a fun fact from my trip in April 2022 to Charleston when I saw the Middleton Oak but not the Angel Oak pictured in Riordon’s article. The two Charleston trees have been vying for “oldest living thing in the U.S. east of the Mississippi” status for decades and I learned that scientists, botanists, and historians now understand the Angel Oak to be two or more trees that have grown together over the centuries making the tree that I saw even more unique as an ancient single plant.

But back to some real news . . .


So, what exactly is Da Vinci’s Rule of the Trees? On Tuesday, November 29, 2011, Brian Jacobsmeyer, contributor to Inside Science News Service wrote . . .

HEADLINE: Uncovering Da Vinci's Rule of the Trees

“As trees shed their foliage this fall, they reveal a mysterious, nearly universal growth pattern first observed by Leonardo da Vinci 500 years ago: a simple yet startling relationship that always holds between the size of a tree's trunk and sizes of its branches. A new paper has reignited the debate over why trees grow this way, asserting that they may be protecting themselves from wind damage."

"Leonardo's rule is an amazing thing," said Kate McCulloh of Oregon State University, a scientist specializing in plant physiology.

"Until recently, people really haven't tested it."

Read the full story here -


And finally, the largest plant on the planet has just been discovered!

HEADLINE: Scientists Discover Largest Plant on Earth – Estimated To Be at Least 4,500 Years Old

“Australian scientists believe they have discovered the world’s biggest plant – and they estimate it’s at least 4,500 years old.

The ancient and incredibly resilient seagrass stretching across 112 miles (180 km) was located by researchers from The University of Western Australia (UWA) and Flinders University.

The discovery of the single plant or ‘clone’ of the seagrass, Posidonia australis, in the shallow, sun-drenched waters of the World Heritage Area of Shark Bay in Western Australia is detailed in a new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society…”

Read the full article here posted by Flinders University June 17, 2022 -


Karen England modeling her new-do, grey Spanish Moss hair in South Carolina, April 2022.

Do you know of any plants in the news to share with the SDHS? Send an email to with “Plants in the News” in the subject line to have a news item included in an upcoming newsletter.

Do you want to contribute to the SDHS Let’s Talk Plants! newsletter? You can! Send an email requesting more information. There are several columns that need editors and/or writers.


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