The following projects have taken place in the greenhouse:

Erica Georgaklis: Investigating the effects of climate and disturbance on the production, variation in growth, and chemistry of four species of medicinal plants from Southeast Asia. 

<em>Ocimum sanctum</em> Ocimum sanctumOcimum sanctum (holy basil or tulsi; Lamiaceae) and Centella asiatica (gotu kola; Apiaceae) are both widely used in Ayurvedic medicine and are grown mostly in the tropical climes of southern Asia including Sri Lanka, but are also suitable for summer growth in temperate areas. Momordica charantia (bitter melon; Cucurbitaceae) is used in south Asia and western Africa for food and medicine. The plant, usually grown in tropical climates, has been grown in places with similar climate in US zones, meaning that it potentially has a very large geographical distribution and climatic tolerance. Rheum palmatum (chinese rhubarb; Polygonaceae) is used extensively in Chinese medicine and generally flourishes in dry, arid, high altitude environments.

I grew these plants using both conditions that the plants are likely to experience in Maine and those conditions that are found in each plant’s place of origin. As my plants grew, I consistently measured growth rate of the leaves, stems, and height of the plant, as well as leaf counts. When the plants reach maturity, I plan to sampling each species in each condition and looking at their chemical concentrations through spectroscopy and anecdotal taste testing. 

Ian Medeiros: Evaluating the reproductive compatibility of Streptanthus Polygaloides (Brassicaceae) morphotypes

Ian Medeiros '16 at work in the greenhouse Ian Medeiros '16 at work in the greenhouseStreptanthus polygaloides is one of two nickel hyperaccumulators found in North America. Due to its unique status as the only Ni hyperaccumulator in its genus, S. polygaloides has enjoyed considerable attention throughout the history of California’s serpentine botany. In 1904 E.L. Greene suggested classifying it in its own monotypic genus, Microsemia, though this is not current practice. As demonstrated through field and herbarium studies, populations of S. polygaloides vary in floral characteristics and Ni accumulation levels; these unique populations may be localized in small areas, thus habitat protection is a major research and management goal of my research.

One of the remaining botanical questions about S. polygaloides concerns the evolutionary relationship between the species’ four allopatric floral morphotypes (with yellow, purple, yellow undulate, and yellow to purple sepals) which are distributed along an elevation gradient. It is unclear if these morphotypes represent reproductively isolated, thus genetically distinct, populations, or natural genetic variations found within the species. A study of the reproductive compatibility of these morphotypes is needed to determine whether their differences warrant taxonomic recognition.

Plants of all four types will be grown in the Conviron® climate-controlled chamber in the Turrets basement. Seeds will be sprouted at varying intervals to compensate for any differences in flowering time. To simulate the serpentine environment, soil from the Pine Hill research site on Little Deer Isle, Maine will be collected and used as an additive to the potting soil. We will cross pollinate flowers of each type, carefully isolating the unfertilized flowers so that ovules of each flower will be fertilized with the pollen of only one other flower of a known morphotype. A small number of crosses will also be performed within each morphotype as an experimental control.

Seeds from each successful cross (i.e. those not showing pre-zygotic incompatibilities) will be collected and, after a resting period and cold stratification to simulate natural conditions, will be planted to confirm the production of viable embryos, a demonstration of reproductive compatibility. These plants will be grown to maturity to examine the floral phenotypes of the hybrid crosses. The lack of success with any cross will also be noted, as a demonstration of post-zygotic reproductive incompatibility. 

Daniella de Guzman: Growing ethnobotanically important and intriguing plants for the garden and greenhouse

As a part/extension of themes discussed in our Ethnobotany class, Erica Georgakalis and Daniela De Guzman have grew okra, wing bean, bitter gourd, country spinach, amaranth, and a variety of culinary and medicinal herbs. They hoped with this project to both better utilize a rather under-utilized space, as well as have something to offer to the community. Many of these plants will be incorporated into peoples’ plots in the community garden, as well as some of them continuing their life in the greenhouse, where they can serve as an educational tool.