Skip to main content

The Scoop

Gardening news, notes and trivia for this week.

Weed Science Goes Hollywood
This week in Hollywood, the movie Avatar received a number of Oscar nominations. Although the story takes place in an imaginary world, the film's producers kept the "science" in science fiction by enlisting the help of Jodie Holt, a Fellow of the Weed Science Society of America and Chair of the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at the University of California at Riverside. In the movie, Sigourney Weaver plays a field botanist. Originally Holt was contacted to educate the actress about the profession, including how she should approach a plant to take samples. However, Holt ended up also helping to create the story's setting, a lush moon.

Using information from producer James Cameron about his imaginary moon’s environment, Holt suggested how its plants would have adapted. In the absence of a strong gravitational pull, for example, she explained that some plants would grow to gigantic heights and that roots wouldn’t always point down.

“Originally he wanted the plants to have a nervous system,” she said. “But I thought that was too far-fetched and suggested signal transduction instead. It’s a type of cell to cell communication that is being actively studied today, and it seemed credible to me that 150 years into the future, at the time the film is set, we would know a lot more about it.”

Many of the “nastier” plant characteristics Holt envisioned are directly informed by her background in weed science and botany, including exploding seed pods, caustic oils and resins, the ability to trap and digest small animals and more.

Holt also contributed to a companion book to the movie, Avatar: An Activist Survival Guide. In it she describes the imaginary plants, complete with common and Latin names. She also echoes the current-day concerns weed scientists have when plants are transported from their natural environment to someplace new. She writes that even seemingly benign species have the capacity to become weedy invaders that can “profoundly impact native biodiversity and permanently alter natural ecosystems.”

Source: The Weed Science Society of America

Registration Deadline for America in Bloom
To participate in this year's America in Bloom contest, you must register your city or town by February 28, 2010. This contest, put on by the nonprofit America in Bloom organization, encourages citizens to work together to beautify their communities. For the full details, including registration info, visit America in

More Movie News
With the start of the spring lawn and garden season just weeks away in many areas, a critically acclaimed yet controversial documentary film is touring North America, questioning many of the products currently used to make lawns green and weed free. It's called A Chemical Reaction.

Presented by the SafeLawns Foundation and natural products manufacturer Seventh Generation, A Chemical Reaction centers around the first town in North America to ban the applications of pesticides such as weed ’n feed and Roundup. When Hudson, Quebec won its case against TruGreen/ChemLawn in 2001 in the Canadian Supreme Court, hundreds of other Canadian communities then enacted their own pesticide bans.

As a result of the Hudson case, Home Depot voluntarily rem