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Exploring Plants Above and Underground
January 8, 2021

There’s a lot we can tell about plants by looking at them. We can see their leaves, stems and overall structure. But we can’t see what the roots look like under the ground, like root depth or structure. This Soil Science Society of America’s (SSSA) recent Soils Matter Blog explores how scientists can use above-ground traits such as bloom time and height to predict what plants look like underground.

Blogger Marie Johnston explains, “We also wanted to know if plants that bloomed at the same time in the season (flowering phenology) would have similar characteristics, and if plants with a similar shape (crown morphology) would share characteristics. Information about the species when grouped this way might be useful in picking one plant or another for a city planting.”

Johnston and her team inventoried which prairie plants were used in city plantings and chose 16 species and grew each species separately. When species reach the end of their flowering phase, the plant is usually done growing new leaves. So, when this happened, the research team cut down each individual specie, and removed the roots from the soil. To learn more about their findings, read the entire blog post here.

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