Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Answer: Why do beans and peas grow this way?

To tell the truth... 

this Challenge started with an interesting observation.  This is one of my bean plants, growing quite well up the bamboo pole last week.  

Eventually, it will make it to the top (12 feet, 4 meters), and maybe a bit beyond. 

Here's that same plant 1 week later with significant additional twining.  

As you can see, the "wrapping growth" has continued.  

Watching the beans growing like this leads me to ask a few Research Questions about how beans and peas do this.  

1. How do the plants find what to climb on?   I mean, they  don't have eyes, so... how do they find the closest support to climb up?  

I started this search with a very simple query: 

     [ how does a bean plant wrap around a support ] 

which gave me a "featured snippet" that looks like this: 

Featured snippets are in a special box at the top of your search results with a text description above the link. Most featured snippets only contain one listing, a fragment of the full page that best matches the question you've asked.  

If you click through to the landing page ("Why Vines Twine"), the snippet will be selected and highlighted for you, like this: 

In this case, the snippet is from Melinda Myers gardening site.  She's a well-known gardener, and the rest of this page gives us some helpful ideas about what's going on.  

Melinda points out that when a stem touches something, the cells on the opposite side of the stem from the touch grow longer.  This causes the curling effect we see. 

This page also mentions a few other ideas:  circumnutation, thigmotropism and tendril.  A quick..

     [ define circumnutation ] 

tells me that this is "...a movement of the growing portions of a plant to form spirals, irregular curves, or ellipses — compare nutation."   I'm never one to pass up a definition, so I look up "nutation" which is "the circular swaying movement of the tip of a growing shoot."

Swaying?  This word suggests that the plant is moving actively.  This makes me think that perhaps there's a video that would be worth watching.  

Over to YouTube with the search for: 

     [ circumnutation bean] 

and you'll find lots of time-lapse videos.  Here's one that shows several bean stems waving around in a circular motion until one tendril finally finds and latches onto a neighbor.  

As you can see, the bean stalk grows upward, waving in a circular pattern until it hits something.  One there's a contact, the wrapping behavior begins.  

Continuing in this vein:  

     [ define thigmotropism

We learn that thigmotropism is a directional growth movement which occurs as a growth response to a touch stimulus. Thigmotropism is typically found in twining plants and tendrils, however plant biologists have also found thigmotropic responses in flowering plants and fungi

We've also learned a new word:  tendril.  What's a tendril?  Read on... 

2. Speaking of which... What part of the plant does the searching for the nearest support? Is there a specific name for this?  

tendril, that word we just picked-up in our reading is a "slender threadlike appendage of a climbing plant, often growing in a spiral form, that stretches out and twines around any suitable support." 

A search on Google Scholar for [ tendril growth ] leads to a bunch of resources, many of which have a huge number of marvelous insights.  Some of these papers are a little difficult to read, but here's one I have to quote to you... 

 "Successful speciation in climbers is correlated with the development of specialized climbing strategies such as tendrils, i.e., filiform organs with the ability to twine around other structures through helical growth. Tendrils are derived from a variety of morphological structures, e.g., stems, leaves, and inflorescences, and are found in various plant families. In fact, tendrils are distributed throughout the angiosperm phylogeny, from magnoliids to asterids, making these structures a great model to study convergent evolution..." 
Sousa-Baena, M. S., Sinha, N. R., Hernandes-Lopes, J., & Lohmann, L. G. (2018). Convergent evolution and the diverse ontogenetic origins of tendrils in angiosperms. Frontiers in plant science, 9, 403.

In other words, tendrils are the parts of the plant that do the searching for something to hang onto.  What's more, they have evolved multiple times in many different kinds of plants.  Tendrils have come from all kinds of plant parts (stems, leaves, flowers, etc.), which suggests that they'd be great to study how different species of plants come to the same kind of solution for finding support (convergent evolution).  

As I read through these papers, I was mostly just skimming...  But I was able to find all the information I needed.  

3. How / when does the plant decide to start hunting for support?  My beans didn't seem to start immediately looking for a support, so how do they know when to search?  

This Challenge is really about understanding how a bean plant sends out a tendril.  As we learned in the above quote, tendrils can arise from many different parts of the plant (stems, leaves, flowers, etc.)... but what about just beans?  

I didn't really know how to start this search.  What kinds of query terms should one use here?  

So, I started with this fairly straightforward query: 

     [ origin of tendril growth ] 

The first result is a fairly technical article "Convergent Evolution and the Diverse Ontogenetic Origins of Tendrils in Angiosperms" which gives us a new word that might be useful: ontogenetic (which means "the origination and development of an organism from the time of fertilization of the egg to adult" -- that is, the ways in which an organism grows and changes over its lifetime).  

In particular we want to know the "ontogenetic development of tendrils" to learn how/when/where a tendril starts to grow.  

This long (and technical) article is full of great insights, although you have to be willing to read through the thicket of prose.  In particular, we're interested in how beans grow tendrils.  In order to search inside the paper, you have to know that my runner bean is called Phaseolus coccineus, a member of the legume family, Fabaceae.  When I do my Control-F for Fabaceae and look for tendril near that word, I find this remarkable sentence (slightly simplified to focus on the beans' strategies): 

The orders with larger numbers of tendrilling strategies are Fabales and Asterales  In the ... Fabaceae ... evolved tendrils, comprising three different strategies: (i) whole leaves modified into tendrils (found in the Fabaceae exclusively); (ii) terminal leaflets modified into tendrils; and (iii) shoots modified into tendrils... 

This is illustrated in a diagram in the paper (modified here for clarity):  

This is a tendril springing from the base of a leaf, a kind of generic bean tendril growth pattern.  And, as seen in the Phaseolus vulgaris in my garden

Here the arrow points to a tendril that is wrapping around the support string (at the very top of the photo), while the stalk on the right holds a large leaf (just out of the photo).  

Obviously, this tendril doesn't happen until at least the second node on the stem has formed. THEN it starts growing.  And, of course, each climbing plant is a bit different, some starts twining at the very beginning of their brief lives, some emit tendrils late, and some emit tendrils only when the occasion calls for it.  For instance, Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum in California) can grow as either a shrub or a vine depending on the amount of sunshine it gets and the availability of support structures to climb.  A small poison oak plant will become a vine, with plenty of tendrils, if it's raised in a darker place (say, in the shade of larger plants) vs. a brighter location.  Of course, if it's in the shade of other plants, it will grow up along those plants to make the poison oak vine so be-hated by hikers on Californian trails. 


4. What do you call this behavior?  (Note: there’s a specific term for a lot of these concepts, in particular, the movement of a plant wrapping around something for support.) 

My query: 

     [ plant tendrils searching for support ] 

quickly leads me to yet another term I hadn't seen before, circumnutation, a term that  I learned describes the apex of a stem or other growing part of a plant as it bends or moves around in an irregular circular or elliptical path.

Of course I had to do a search for: 

     [ circumnutation ] 

which leads to some more wonderful videos of plants waving their stalks around--circumnuating--in a circular pattern, searching for a support.  Here's another great one--you can see the stalk circling around until it hits the vertical support, when it begins its twining motion.  

It's worth nothing that not all supports are equally useful.  A support that's too large (say, a tree trunk) might not be able to support a twining plant like a bean or a pea.  To successfully attach a vine to a giant support (or a wall) requires another mechanism... adhesive roots or tendrils.  (See the paper Moving with Climbing Plants from Charles Darwin's time into the 21st Century for more details.) 

5. And... who coined that specific term?  (Can you find the coiner and where it was coined?)  


     [ circumnutation coined ] 

But Surprise, Surprise!  This quickly tells us that Charles Darwin coined this term in his book, The Power of Movement in Plants (Darwin, 1880), a publication which really kicked off the entire sub-area of studying how plants move.  

Search Lessons 

A few very clear lessons here:  

1.  Asking simple questions often leads to valuable results!  We were able to start off with a  [ how does a bean plant wrap around a support ]  and quickly extract information that told us a LOT about how plants twine their way up a support.  

2. Look specifically for terms you don't know, and then look them up.  I've said it before, but learning the definitions of unusual terms is a great way to get into a domain.  It's a superpower that you can have!  

3. Simple queries still work really well, especially when you have a specific question in mind.  

Hope you enjoyed this SearchResearch Challenge... I certainly learned about how and why plants twine and climb.  

Quick note:  Sorry this took so long to get to you.  I didn't PLAN for this to take an extra week.  It's just that these days of COVID and public strife end up pushing SRS to a slower work schedule.  I'll try to keep up!  Hope you're doing well during these trying days.  

Search on! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

SearchResearch Challenge (6/10/20): Why do beans and peas grow this way?

I'm growing some beans... 

... in my garden, and I'm slightly amazed at how they grow.  If you've somehow never seen the way a bean or a pea plant grows, it's truly remarkable.  You put them in the ground, and after not very long, they look like this: 

As you can see, the vine is climbing up the bamboo by wrapping itself around the pole.  Eventually, it will climb  to the top (12 feet, 4 meters), and maybe a bit beyond. 

Of course, I have questions, in particular, I'm fascinated by the way the beans are growing up the poles.  They're curling around the pole in the most amazing way.  Here's a closeup of the tip of a bean plant wrapping around a support string:  

This leads me to ask a few Research Questions about how beans and peas do this.  Can you help me figure out what's going on here? 

1. How do the plants find what to climb on?   I mean, they  don't have eyes, so... how do they find the closest support to climb up?  

2. Speaking of which... What part of the plant does the searching for the nearest support? Is there a specific name for this?  

3. How / when does the plant decide to start hunting for support?  My beans didn't seem to start immediately looking for a support, so how do they know when to search?  

4. What do you call this behavior?  (Note: there’s a specific term for a lot of these concepts.. in particular, the movement of a plant wrapping around something for support.) 

5. And... who coined that specific term?  (Can you find the coiner and where it was coined?)  

This should be a fun set of Challenges for you.  It's also great to be thinking about spring, renewal, growth and looking into the future with some optimism.  

Be sure to let us know HOW you found your answers!  (We all want to learn from your discovery process.)  

Search on! 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Answer: Anthems?

We'll always remember Bruddah Iz, Israel Kamakawiwo?ole,  for singing what has effectively become a touchstone of ukulele performance... 

Bruddah  IZ,  from the Google Doodle in his honor

His version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow is as popular as Aloha 'Oe  

Although many people think of Aloha 'Oe as the anthem of Hawai'i, that status is actually given to... another song.  (See below!)  

1.  Do all 50 US states have a state anthem?  If not, which ones don't?  And why? (If you're not in the US, what states in your country have anthems?  Do the states of Mexico or Canada all have similar songs?)  

The simplest way to answer this question is to search for: 

     [ list of US state anthems ] 

which brings up a couple of lists ( and the Wikipedia list of states' anthems.  When you look at these two lists, you'll quickly notice that many states have more than one anthem!  Or, to be precise, there's a state anthem (that is, a song officially recognized by the state's legislature as the "official" state song), and often there's a state song (which is also recognized by the legislature as having some special status).  

So, the anthem is the one special song that the state recognizes as it's official song, often played a ceremonial events.    

A quick scan of these two lists tells us that there are some surprises here!  Arkansas has a designated anthem, but also two state songs and a historic state song.  New Hampshire has TWO official songs, and 8 recognized songs.  So on and so on.  Who knew that states could have more than one anthem/song?   

Much to my surprise, the state anthem of California is I Love You California (by Alfred Frankenstein!) a song that I don't know (and I suspect most Californians don't know either). An anthem might be in name only... you might not recognize the tune.  

The only state to NOT have a state anthem is New Jersey.  The 50States site points out that "New Jersey’s Unofficial State Song is “I’m From New Jersey,” passed both Legislative Houses in 1972. However it was not signed into law by the Governor."  


Happily, the Wikipedia list of anthems also tells us the anthems for each of the US territories, including Puerto Rico's "La Borinque?a" and the Northern Marianas Islands song, "Gi Talo Gi Halom Tasi."  

Which leads us to our next SRS Research Question... 

2.  As you know, such songs are usually in the local language.  France has La Marseillaise in French, Germany  has Deutschlandlied, etc.  Are there any US state anthems that are NOT in English?  

Looking at the list, it's easy to spot the anthems that aren't in English, including Hawai'i's Hawai?i Pono?ī (Hawaiian), New Mexico's Spanish language state song, "Así Es Nuevo Méjico," as well as Puerto Rico's La Borinque?a (Spanish), the Northern Marianas Islands song, Gi Talo Gi Halom Tasi, which comes in English, Chamorro, and Carolinian, American Samoa's Amerika Samoa (Samoan), and Guam's Stand ye Guamanians (Chamorro and English).   

And noticing that leads naturally into our next RQ.... 

3. Speaking of languages in anthems, are there any anthems that have more than one language in them?  Where?  Why?  

Observation: I should have been more specific in this Challenge--I meant national anthems.  We've already seen a few state anthems that are multilingual.

My search was: 

     [ national anthems with multiple languages ] 

Some countries have an official multilingual policy, and as such, have multiple languages for their anthem. Canada springs to mind (O Canada / ? Canada), with both English and French versions on an equal footing.  

Switzerland, with its four primary languages (German, French, Italian, Romansh) has different lyrics for each.  However, the official anthem, Swiss Psalm, (apparently) almost nobody in Switzerland can sing the song or knows the lyrics... 

Finland's anthem has both Finnish and Swedish lyrics, recognizing that the borders between Finland and Sweden have shifted back and forth over time and the cultures have blended together into their anthem, Maamme

Also as a product of multinational history, Belgium has a multilingual anthem, La Braban?onne (a French title that's usually left untranslated), that has verses in French, Dutch, and German. 
One of New Zealand's two national anthems is commonly sung with the first verse in Māori, Aotearoa, and the second in English ("God Defend New Zealand"). The tune is the same but the lyrics have different meanings. 

South Africa's national anthem is unusual--it has two different songs mashed together with five of the country's eleven official languages being used, in which each language gets a stanza.The South African national anthem is often referred to by "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika," but this isn't its official title.  It is simply National anthem of South Africa  (Video with lyrics in each language. Lyrics with identified languages, Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans, English.)  

Many countries with multiple languages have versions in local languages (e.g., India), but the official anthem remains in only one language.  

4. Which country has the oldest national anthem?  

As SRS Regular Reader Arthur Weiss pointed out, "so... what do you mean by oldest?" 

He's right.  

Do I mean the lyrics?  The tune?  The earliest official adoption date?  

To tell the truth, I hadn't thought about that distinction--great catch Arthur!  

The query: 

     [ oldest national anthem ] 

... takes us immediately to a number of resources that bring up exactly this point.  

The MilitaryMusic site points out that the oldest official national anthem is Het Wilhelmus, the Dutch national anthem, written between 1568 and 1572.  (Oddly, the lyrics sound as though it were written from an individual's perspective--there's a line in the anthem "the King of Spain I have always honored." Really?  What's that all about?  Sounds like more SRS is needed here.)  Thing is, this anthem wasn't officially adopted until 1932.  So, the music and lyrics are quite old, but the "official date" is relatively late.  

What I WAS thinking of when I posed this Challenge is the Japanese anthem, Kimigayo, (video with lyrics) which has its lyrics taken from a Heian period (794–1185) poem.  

However... it was not set to music until 1880. 

Meanwhile, "God Save the Queen," the national anthem of the United Kingdom and one of the two national anthems of New Zealand, was first officially performed in 1745 under the title "God Save the King."  (And the last word of the title alternates from King to Queen, depending.) 

Meanwhile... Spain's national anthem, the Marcha Real (The Royal March), dates from 1770. 

(I remind you that "The Star Spangled Banner" dates from 1814, adopted officially in 1889; not a contender in this discussion.)  

So, the tricky thing here is what does "oldest" mean?  Adoption date?  Lyrics date?  In common use date?  There are different answers to each of these questions!  

I'm going to give awards to each of the categories: 

Oldest Anthem Lyrics:  Kimigayo 
Oldest Anthem + Lyrics:  Het Wilhemus 
Oldest Official Anthem:  God Save the King

Sometimes answers are more complicated than the question might suggest.  

5. While I couldn't find a video of Bruddah Iz singing the Hawaiian state song, it's pretty easy to find him singing the one song that closes nearly every concert in Hawai'i.  What song is that?  (Can you find a recording of IZ singing it?)  

My query was: 

    [ song at end of concert in Hawaii ] 

Remarkably, it led to this result--Hawai'i Aloha 

Hawaii Aloha

When I wrote the Challenge, I didn't know that the result would give us the Bruddah Iz performance quite so easily! 

As you can see, everyone really does know all the words.  Sing along if you'd like.  


Search Lessons 

1.  Be clear about your Research Questions (RQ)!  I was a bit sloppy in my question about "oldest" anthem.  When I wrote the question, I hadn't thought about the difference between lyrics date and all of the other senses of "oldest."  

2. Remember the "list of..." pattern.  Although Wikipedia has "List of..." for all kinds of remarkable things, the Internet is full of lists.  Keep in mind while useful, you want to double check any of the items you find on the list.  As with all things you find, they might be out-of-date, incomplete, or just wrong.  Double check to make sure that the list items are what they say they are!  

3. Expect the unusual.  When I wrote the Challenge, I really didn't expect the complexities of "oldest" nor the strangeness of "official state anthem."  Of special note to teachers:  These kinds of issues seem to always come up when you write a question (say, for a test).  When pursuing a Research Question like this, expect the unexpected.  There might be hidden depths and interesting issues at play, as we saw here. 

Hope you enjoyed this. Next week... a new Challenge! 

Search On!