Variable: plant objects by Frédéric Malphettes

The French designer Frédéric Malphettes designs unusual objects for the greening of outdoor areas. The special feature, besides the clever design, is also the multiple applications.

The new products of the French designer include the plant module “Vétagére” and the climbing support “Anno”. The latter consists of a geometric structure of metal elements that are fastened to the wall or ceiling. The individual elements can be freely combined in terms of their structure. “Anno” can thus be used for greening walls or as a climbing support in flowerpots or as decorative room dividers.

The modular object “Vetagéré” also offers a variety of possibilities for use. Flowerpots of varying heights made of fibre reinforced concrete can be combined to form a greened shelving unit. Shelving of light oak serve as connecting elements. “Vétagére” can be used in both private and public spaces. The plant shelving unit has several different functions on the balcony and patio: it can act as a divider between interior and exterior, screen individual areas or simply serve as a variable green object.

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Plantable Objects: “Seed” by Taeg Nishimoto

There is a new way to make your home greener: Plant green on the wall! The Architect and Designer Taeg Nishimoto has invented “Seed” – objects to be hung on the wall incorporating small plants as the focus.

The container part of the soil for the plant is attached in the back, lifting the concrete tile of “Seed” about 2cm to 4.5cm from the wall, giving the presence of the tile floating in front of the wall. “Seed” comes in many variations of profile and surface texture. Each profile is taken from different river stones’ outline, which is a result of a long smoothing process the stones go through in water flow of the river.

“Seed” is made of fast drying cast concrete using the crumpled Tyvek as the mold. The Tyvek is first crumpled to create a particular crease pattern and stretched inside the cut out of the profile. The spontaneous crumpling pattern of paper is totally unpredictable, and yet it evokes certain geological formations we observe in the satellite images. Concrete mix is poured with about 5mm – 8mm thick while the center of the Tyvek is lifted to make a hole. Any plant that can fit inside the hole can be used, though various different kinds of succulents are great for it.

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Air Bonsai: Levitating Magnetic Miniature Plants

Air Bonsai and you grow your own floating plant.

A Japanese company takes the ancient art of Bonsai into the 21st century. Air Bonsai consists of a plant vessel (aka “little star”) made of moss or lava stone and a porcelain base (aka “energy base”). Built-in magnets allow the “little star” to float and rotate 2 centimeters above the “energy base”. The plant vessel can hold a maximum weight of 300 grams allowing for a variety of plant types from a traditional “Matsu” pine to a flowering “Sakura”.

Just as with classic bonsai, the planting of this special construction, probably also requires careful handling and attentiveness. Since the magnets are quite sensitive, a certain balance is needed until it finally gets floating.

Producer Hikaru Hoshi hopes the Air Bonsai becomes a catalyst to promote the traditional Japanese art form of bonsai to the modern generation through its unique presentation. Hikaru believes the recipient of an Air Bonsai could feel the “kokoro” (heart) of Japanese culture and the deep appreciation of nature.

Considering that the Kickstarter campaign has already collected the multiple of the funding goal, the Air Bonsai should be available at the end of the year.

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Power to the Plants

Researchers have discovered a method of integrating electric circuits into living plants.

The Rosa floribunda, also known as garden rose, is one of the most popular flowers in the world. Its delicate beauty not only enhances every place it is planted in, it is also a guarantee to bring a smile to any face when gifted. A rose never needed some kind of usability because it is just fine as it is. “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”, as it was said by Gertrude Stein.

Nevertheless, scientists from the Linköping University in Sweden have experimented with this particular flower and found a technique that may change the way we look at and use plants in the future. For the first time ever, the biologists have successfully merged the inner structures of flowers with electronics. This could open up new ways of interacting with and utilizing plants.

Just like any other organic life form, plants use chemical signals to regulate their body functions and their growth. Their structures of transmitting energy and information can be compared to the workings of electronic circuits. Mechanical wires that are used to let electricity flow from one point to another work analogous to the vascular system of a plant’s roots, stem and leaves.

The scientists were able to integrate an artificial structure into plants that makes it possible to transmit electric signals. They did this by feeding their garden rose a soluble polymer, a chain of molecules that is able to conduct electricity. The rose took up this polymer just like it would take up the colour in dyed water. With help of its own ions, the plant then created a sort of wire system within its body.

The discovery of this method makes it possible to work with plants like they were electronic devices. Sensors could be built into them, giving us information about its physiology in great detail. It would also be possible to optimize plants other than with genetics and to harvest the energy created by photosynthesis. Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose is an electric generator?

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Plants Defend Their Territories With Toxic Substances

For the first time a molecular mechanism for the “warfare” among plants has been revealed.

Plants that are in in competition with each other produce chemicals in order to defend themselves and to reach a good position to the sun. An international team of researchers, among them scientists from the Max-Planck-Institute for developmental biology in Tübingen, Germany, have now shown that some substances used in the fight against plant competitors specifically target the genetic material of neighbouring plants in order to stop their growth.

Limited resources dictate the plant’s daily struggle for light, water and nutrients. It is not enough to just gain those, the plant also has to defend its territory against others. This is done with the help of allelochemicals. The process where plants inhibit growth and development of rivals is called allelopathy and has been known for a while.

These substances are discharged through liquids in the roots into the soil, where they are being decomposed by microbes. Neighbouring plants take up the metabolic products and are thus being hindered in growth. A number of these allelochemicals have already been identified. The new research however, shows exactly how they work in the cells of the targeted plant. The work of Sascha Venturelli, Claude Becker and their colleagues shows for the first time a molecular mechanism for this chemical territorial behavior of plants.

The study deals with a specific class of allelochemicals, the cyclic hydroxamic acids DIBOA and DIMBOA, emitted for example by certain grasses via the roots. Their metabolites are known for being very toxic for neighbouring plants. The research team showed with biochemical and structural analyses and physiological experiments that these substances work within the cells by changing the activity of targeted genes. The toxins inhibit the activity of so called histone deacetylases. These enzymes bind to histones, a group of proteins that form the genetic material together with DNA. Acetyl side chains are then being removed, which leads to a compaction of the DNA and reduced genetic activity.

The examined allelochemicals are not only a key factor when it comes to colonisations through invasive plants, they also promise help with human illnesses. They have been shown to be effective against cancer. Histone deacetylases are already being used in some cancer medications and this class of active ingredients is further being researched with clinical trials. This is a great example for the advantages of plant research for medical progress.

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